Patterico's Pontifications


Obama’s K-12 Education Plan

Filed under: Education,Obama — DRJ @ 5:41 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

President Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, have a plan to fix K-12 education — more school:

“Does Obama want every kid to do these things? School until dinnertime? Summer school? And what about the idea that kids today are overscheduled and need more time to play?

Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school.

“Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here,” Duncan told the AP. “I want to just level the playing field.”

While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it’s not true they all spend more time in school.

Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).”

The article suggests this may be aimed at poorer kids:

“Summer is a crucial time for kids, especially poorer kids, because poverty is linked to problems that interfere with learning, such as hunger and less involvement by their parents.

That makes poor children almost totally dependent on their learning experience at school, said Karl Alexander, a sociology professor at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, home of the National Center for Summer Learning.

Disadvantaged kids, on the whole, make no progress in the summer, Alexander said. Some studies suggest they actually fall back. Wealthier kids have parents who read to them, have strong language skills and go to great lengths to give them learning opportunities such as computers, summer camp, vacations, music lessons, or playing on sports teams.”

Who needs parents when you have government?

“Aside from improving academic performance, Education Secretary Duncan has a vision of schools as the heart of the community. Duncan, who was Chicago’s schools chief, grew up studying alongside poor kids on the city’s South Side as part of the tutoring program his mother still runs.

“Those hours from 3 o’clock to 7 o’clock are times of high anxiety for parents,” Duncan said. “They want their children safe. Families are working one and two and three jobs now to make ends meet and to keep food on the table.”

Never let a crisis go to waste.


UPDATEDavid Frum gets this one right:

“If President Obama wishes to play school superintendent, here’s an issue that will make much more of a difference to the academic performance of America’s schoolchildren: heed the scientific research about teenagers’ sleep patterns and reverse the crazy trend towards an earlier and earlier start of the school day. The adolescent brain is not operating at 7:20 am, much less at the 6 am wakeup call for 7:20 arrival. It’s not enough for the kids to do their homework. They also have to remember to bring it back to school the following day!”

20 Responses to “Obama’s K-12 Education Plan”

  1. That’s what is so frustrating.
    I agree that the idea is to help the working parent, but it punishes the parents that just want to parent.
    Also, the idea that taking the kids away more would result in Asia-like test scores completely misses the point. Doing well in school is an Asian family priority.

    Students in Singapore and Hong Kong spend an outrageous amount of time with tutors after school is over. And many students in Hong Kong flock to the international schools- including the premier school, which is based on the American education system.

    MayBee (4a75f2)

  2. In this, there is the assumption that education in America is as valued as it is in other countries, while also ignoring the fact that discipline issues in public school are completely out of control in the United States and that a great portion of time by the teacher is spent doing damage control and trying to maintain safety let alone focusing on lessons. And this would be especially in those poorer, urban schools.

    Unless the heart of the issues contributing to the disintegration are honestly confronted: breakdown of the family, first and foremost, then anything else tried will be little more than a band-aid. And free babysitting…

    Dana (863a65)

  3. My wife taught in Japanese elementary schools in the late 70’s to late 80’s. At that time they went to school almost 220 days a year but it has been lowered since then. Some things they did differently that mattered in the education of the student wre:
    1. Class sizes averaged 45 students per class and teachers managed to survive
    2. Teachers were expected to meet each student’s parents in their home at the beginning of the school year
    3. Students were required to clean classrooms and hallways as part of their daily routine
    4. Testing to enter High School and College was required
    5. Kids had much more homework than their American counterparts
    6. Schools met on Saturday for a half day
    7. Except for high school baseball sports was mostly intramural with much less value placed on athletic prowess

    It is not the number of days but the involvement of parents in forcing their kids to complete the homework and focus on education as the priority that makes the difference in the end.

    My daughter has been teaching English in Japanese schools for the past three years. She notes that many kids are now coming from one parent homes and the kids are not as dedicated as they were when my wife was teaching.

    On a humorous note when I was finishing up my Bachelors at the University of Maryland in Okinawa I was in my last two classes. One of those was business math which I had put off because I was not that great at math. I looked at the book and went into a panic thinking I wouldn’t possibly pass and obtain a degree. My wife, ever practical, looked at the book and said “This is easy, I had this in 7th grade!”

    voiceofreason2 (1fd4ed)

  4. Good points and story, VOR2, and I hope you reminded your wife that seventh grade can be pretty hard!

    DRJ (b008f8)

  5. It is not the number of days but the involvement of parents in forcing their kids to complete the homework and focus on education as the priority that makes the difference in the end.

    Great comment at #3. I too believe parent involvement makes or breaks a child’s success in school. I know that in our school district, schools desperately attempt to provide training, access, programs, outreaches, etc. on a consistent basis to get parents involved in their children’s education but unfortunately, it is only a low percentage that appear interested. Turnout is consistently from the same parents in the same socio-economic range, and generally don’t need the additional encouragement. Rather they see it as their responsibility to begin with.

    Perhaps in America more than in Japan, parents have willingly abdicated their parenting privileges and responsibilities to the state…which is always eager to get ’em while they’re young.

    Dana (863a65)

  6. My wife taught K-1st grade in east LA in 1962-65. She would drop me off at medical school on her way to school, which was about six blocks away. Most of the kids were Hispanic. There was no ESL. When the kids went to clinic, they translated for parents. By late 1st grade the kids were fluent in English. She did not speak Spanish. She had to be careful at parents’ night what she said about the kids because, if she told the parents that the kid was goofing off, the kid would come to school the next day black and blue.

    No teachers’ unions. Her principle was on the interviewing committee for new hires and would recruit new teachers based on his interviews. In fairness, many of the teachers were wives of medical students and doctors in training and those were the days when women had fewer career choices. Still, they enjoyed work and got total support for the principle.

    About 15 years ago, my now ex-wife went back to teaching when she got laid off in a bank merger. She had a life-time credential so all she had to do was take the CBEST. Things were totally different. The teachers were not interested in the kids and made fun of them in the break room. They did not seem very interested in their career. At one point, she told a second grade teacher that she was doing a great job with reading readiness. The woman burst into tears. No one had ever told her she was doing a good job.

    When she got a new bank job, she left in spite of the principle trying to keep her. Until she moved to Orange County 10 years ago, she used to see him in the market and he would always come over.

    It’s not just the parents.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  7. Seems my trackback and ping got stuck in traffic. :(

    [Haven’t seen it in moderation or spam, sorry. –Stashiu]

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  8. From my article:

    I have been all over this bovine byproduct for some time now. Let me be clear for the leftists who occasion this site, Obama, liberals, the NEA (education version), the AFT have no interest in real education. Many teachers who are in those unions I listed are, indeed interested in real education, but the unions themselves are not. The Head Cheeses at the public skools are not interested in real education but rather their own egos and liberal indoctrination.

    It is a fact private Christian schools outscore public schools. It is also a fact home-school outscores private school. But liberals fight both private Christian schools and home-schools all the way to the courts and beyond. Some liberals will even get on blogsites that show this proof and loudly proclaim that Republicans (as if Republicans meant conservatives, despite all the evidence to the contrary).

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  9. Oh, COL (dunno navy rank) Stash, I’d love for you to read remarks SPC Laura made over on my explosive-comment article on CSPT. Starting from there and moving on, I think she did a lot of people proud.

    And, stash, feel free to delete this completely thread-jacked comment once you read it.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  10. […] by John Hichcock on 2009/09/27 DRJ wrote an article on Patterico’s Pontifications, entitled Obama’s K-12 Education Plan that everyone should read. I have been all over this bovine byproduct for some time now. Let me be […]

    ObamaNation On Education « Truth Before Dishonor (5c299c)

  11. Comment by John Hitchcock — 9/27/2009 @ 7:29 pm

    I’ll go on over and check it out John, thanks. I wasn’t Navy btw, I was Army and retired as a Major. No need to delete brief off-topic comments, it happens all the time.

    Your pingback showed I see. 😉

    Stashiu3 (8cadeb)

  12. Here is a list of issues that will make a difference in student achievement, unlike Obama’s stupid proposal:

    Increased parental involvement

    That’s it. That’s the entire list. Poor performing schools have less, a lot less. High performing schools a lot more.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  13. Ok, Obama want’s Japanese schools, then let’s make everyone TEST INTO high schools.

    Can’t pass the test? Too bad, have fun working the AM/PM.

    That’ll go over like a brick here.

    Techie (482700)

  14. *mutters about just one more reason to home-school*

    At this rate I’ll just finish my teaching degree and offer to tutor any other home schooling families that need a hand.

    Foxfier (97deae)

  15. My ex-wife has told me if she were doing it again now, she would home school. She was a big advocate of public schools. After our divorce, I sent the kids to private school for the next 30 years. She was not kidding. She is now, at the age of 69, working full time for FDIC closing down insolvent banks. When she was closing a bank in Atlanta, they flew her home every weekend.

    Teachers are not the same.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  16. Foxfier: You go, girl. And my offer still stands to ship my ancient home school textbooks to you. 😉

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  17. If they haven’t been lead-tested, they’re probably illegal, John…..

    Foxfier (97deae)

  18. As perspective, I was a local school council chair while Duncan was head of Chicago schools. My most significant objection to Duncan’s plans were that he focused on expanding magnet schools, where the city’s elite could steer their children at no cost for an excellent education while he absolutely ignored the schools that had high dropout rates and high rates of criminal behavior. He secured his position through the most corrupt mayor in the nation to maintain this very focus. The democrats in Chicago love to talk about great things they do for the less privileged, but the reality is no one does nearly as well in any situation as their friends ($ talks).

    Sonny99 (67c586)

  19. There is one standard feature of inner-city poor neighborhoods that commonly escapes attention.

    Who needs parents when you have government?

    I would be a bit more specific.

    Who needs fathers when you have government?

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  20. […] education plan suggests we need more federalism I was reading DRJ’s post over at Patterico about Obama’s new education plan, and was met with yet another reason with […]

    Obama’s education plan suggests we need more federalism « The Skeptical Michigander (5c299c)

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