for K-12 education.
We'll operate with a few basic presumptions:
Let's further agree that the best educational outcomes consistent with reasonable amounts of money spent are the goal. That is, School is not a "social experiment", a means by which we perform what amount to scientific experiments on children - a barbaric practice that, were it to be put this way and understood, virtually everyone would recoil from in horror.
What would we design?
Do you know?
Are you aware that this study has already been done?
But it has. The largest longitudinal validation attempt on so-called new math, whole language and other similar "new" educational paradigms was undertaken from 1968 to 1976. Continuing study and follow-up was performed until 1995.
What did it find?
Models that emphasized basic skills succeeded better than other models in helping children gain these skills. Groups of children in Basic Skills models performed significantly better on measures of academic skills than did non-Follow Through groups. Abt evaluators concluded that a Basic Skills model would be preferable if an educator was concerned with teaching skills such as spelling, math computation, language, and word knowledge. Note that the Abt report refers to the superiority of a model type. However, it is not inclusion in a category that leads to educational effectiveness, but the particular instructional materials and procedures used. The Direct Instruction model had an unequivocally higher average effect on scores in the basic skills domain than did any other model.
Direct Instruction is what we used to call "Nuns in a Classroom." It is the old-school model, practiced in this nation until the radicals overtook our educational system and destroyed it from within, that produced superior results. It is the system of teaching a core concept, such as multiplication tables, sentence diagramming or parts of speech and language, then drilling them until competence is established. Once that has occurred you build on the base you have just constructed, again, drilling and testing until competence is established.
Direct Instruction (DI), devised by Siegfried Engelmann in the early 1960's as he taught his own children, is defined by the researcher James Baumann: "The teacher, in a face to face, reasonably formal manner, tells, shows, models, demonstrates and teaches the skill to be learned. The key word is teacher, for it is the teacher who is in command."
Note that "self-esteem" is not on the list of goals - that is a consequence of mastery of the subject matter, not a goal in and of itself.
So first, we kill all this "FeelGoodism" BS and return to actual direct instruction. The study has been done and the facts are in - if you can't demonstrate, by similar longitudinal study, that your proposed "replacement" is at least as effective as Direct Instruction, and it is at least as cost-effective, you lose. That's all there is to it.
Now on to that cost issue.
Let's presume that we will have 25 children per classroom. Let's further presume that we want to pay the teacher a reasonable middle-class salary, which means that we want to provide them a salary that is, on-balance, somewhat-better (say, 20%?) than the median household income. That is, since median household income is about $50,000 a year, we're going to pay teachers $60,000 - all in, benefits included. Note that this is one level above the middle quintile - without argument "solidly middle-class."
This apportions $2,400 per student for teacher expense.
We will then look for a place to hold the class. If each student requires a 5x5' space for his desk, chair, and person while in class we have 625 square feet. We will further presume that the teacher requires 15 x 30' space for their desk, the chalkboard and similar instructional space. We're up to 1,100 square feet for each classroom.
At a reasonable commercial rental rate of $20/square foot, for which one can easily acquire said commercial space anywhere in the country, we have a classroom expense (annually) of $21,500, or $860 per pupil. (Anyone who says you can't is full of it - I rented 8,300 square feet for well under this in a Class "A" office building - 2 Prudential Plaza - in the mid 1990s on the 26th floor - all-in, taxes and common-area maintenance included, in one of the highest-cost areas of the country - downtown Chicago. You don't need "Class A" office space for a classroom - something "one step down" from there in commercial real estate is more than adequate.)
We also need instructional materials. For each classroom we will allocate $500 per pupil. This is more than sufficient to buy a new textbook every year (although that would be ridiculously wasteful, since said books have a service life of three to five years in most districts.) After textbooks and other per-pupil expendables (but not including the things that students are expected to provide on their own, such as pencils, paper, etc) are tallied we should easily be able to achieve these numbers.
This totals to $3,760 per kid.
A school with 500 students in it (20 classrooms worth) will have a base budget of $1.88 million.
Since schools do need some sort of oversight, we'll allocate 10% for administrative overhead. This will provide us with another $180,000, with which we can pay a Principal (at 25% more than a teacher, or $75,000 for the year) and leave us with another $105,000 for all the other overhead and administrative functions.
This brings our total budget to $4,136 per pupil.
For those who say this is impossible, I assure you it is not. If a school cannot provide the space that is dedicated to education for this price, then the school is a money pit and is robbing the taxpayers, since it is trivially easy to find commercial space suitable for a classroom for that cost.
If a school cannot employ teachers for $60,000 all-in, including benefit expense, when they work nine months out of the year, they all need to be fired and replaced with those who will work for those terms. $60,000 is a solid middle-class household income, and this is for a single person in the household. There are 2,000 hours in a standard man-year of labor, but a teacher works for 180 instructional days on average, and 20 more when students are not in the classroom. That is, the average teacher works 1,600 hours, so that $60,000 salary is a private-sector equivalent $75,000. If teachers think that's underpaid, I'm willing to bet that if I set up such a school it will have a line out the door of qualified instructors who wish to apply at that salary.
So what's left?
Nothing. Oh sure, there are no Nintendo WIIs in the gym, there is no fancy-schmancy media lab, there are no smart boards in the classrooms. What there are, however, is a comfortable set of desks, a direct instructional model and, I'm willing to bet, students that consistently outperform the current socialistic system - at anywhere from a half to a quarter of the price.
Incidentally, this is before all the "fundraisers", "endorsements" ("Jack's Gym" and similar) and other items. Those who want a football team (and there are a lot of people who do) can pay for it. Want to play Soccer? My kid does - PAL is $65, which I just paid for this fall's season, plus the cleats of course (the shirt and shorts are included in the $65.) Intramural baseball and similar are available as well, all self-sustained and played on municipal fields operated by the city (and which the leagues lease at a modest cost.) My daughter is in Chorus this year, and they fundraise like crazy so as to avoid assessing the kids. It works - either pay or sell cookie dough. Either model works for me - but the kids and parents who want it cover the check. Those who don't, don't.
If you're a teacher or other "educator" and tell me this can't be done, I'll take you on. You sign over to a company I set up the total amount you get from the state for each kid, I'll run the place as noted above, and I get to keep the excess funds (that's called "profit", which is my motive to do it.) I have only one condition - I get written into law protection against unionization, just as you have your unions, I'm going to be free from them. And I get to set my own school policies with regard to instruction, qualification to teach and discipline, consistent with state law (that is, the staff cannot assault the students, obviously.) This is part of the experiment - the place runs exactly as above with no interference - including interference by organized labor and other socialist bull****.
If, five years hence, I don't beat the pants off your school district's academic achievement on balance, as determined by nationalized standard testing (E.g. ACT or SAT scores for High Schoolers - not state-specific ones that a school can teach to) I'll give all the profit I earned doing it back to the state and you can declare victory. If I can't outperform you I don't deserve a nickel for my five years of labor, and I won't keep it. We'll write into the contract.
But if I do beat your academic achievement, you, and every one of the employees in your school, is fired, the district buildings and land are sold off to private interests, the money that is no longer going to be wasted is returned to the taxpayers in the county, and your pension funds and all other forms of deferred cost that you and your cronies stole from the taxpayers for your sub-standard and ridiculously overpriced underperformance are returned to the people as unearned plunder.
What say you educators?
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