This is a preliminary abstract from the study. It will be updated as the study progresses and the full study will be published on-line when it is complete. Comments are solicited.
The objective of this study is to gain a better understanding of the public elementary and secondary educational process in the United States, in the State of Missouri and in the St. Louis area in particular. This includes defining the inputs or driving factors, the process itself and the desired outcomes. I would also like to determine the overall effectiveness of this process. At each geo political level, I would like to identify specific problems that exist and how best to solve them.
This study will include Elementary and Secondary grades plus pre school and possibly some overlap with post secondary. It will only address publicly funded education. It will include the US at the national level, and attempt to analyze any problems that are indicated. (other nations may be documented for comparison purposes but will not be analyzed). It will do the same in Missouri at the state level. It will do the same in St. Louis at the community or school district level. The four failing school districts in the St. Louis area will be used as sample problems for analysis and possibly for solution.
I consider Education to be a part of the sphere of Knowledge Development within Cultural Evolution. It is a process that is evolving. At the national level it is an area of socio/economic concern and as such, is increasingly subject to public policy primarily because our socio/economic environment is increasingly impacted by evolving technology which in turn requires significantly more education than that required by earlier civilizations. For instance, before the 19th century we were primarily an agricultural society where most of the work was either manual labor or craft skills which could be passed from father to son by example. Relatively little formal education was required. With the Industrial Revolution which started about half way through the 19th century, the complexity of the productive environment started to increase at a faster but still linear rate and educational requirements increased along with it. This increased the need for formal education of a larger segment of the population and eventually lead to the public funding of E&S education as well as a mandated attendance requirement. During the first half of the 20th century the rate of increase in technological complexity became exponential and some feel that leaving E&S education to evolve at its normal linear pace is having a detrimental effect on our socio/economic well being.
At the same time, our population has been increasing at an increasing rate and our cultural base is shifting. Subcultures have developed which do not value education at the level of the majority. The lack of academic performance within some of these subcultures is lowering the perceived value of our entire education system. This perception is inaccurate. However, there are some aspects of the system that need to be adjusted. Specifically, the emphasis on college prep needs to be toned down a bit and more attention paid to the development of craft skills as an alternative path within secondary education. Perhaps with a series of links to Community Colleges, Trade Unions and Employers.
In the overlap between the Social, and Knowledge spheres of the cultural evolutionary process, there is a widening mismatch. The erosion of social capital within relatively small cultural groups needs to identified, quantified and analyzed and its negative effect upon the E&S education of those groups needs to be eliminated.
4.1 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. It is also necessary for the continued improvement of our democratic society. According to the published statistics, some districts, even some entire states are not providing this necessary education.
4.2 FUNCTIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Within the education process there are three distinct sub-processes or functions; learning, teaching and financing.
In General, each individual is responsible for the learning sub-process throughout his or her life time. It is extremely important to recognize this responsibility and to acknowledge that learning in today’s environment requires an active participation on the part of the student. A passive attitude won’t cut it!
In regard to the teaching sub-process, Parents, siblings, peers, mentors, teachers and to some extent , the entire community share this responsibility. The division of responsibility between these various groups tends to vary with time and circumstances. During early childhood, the primary teaching responsibility rests with the parents. They have the responsibility to provide basic survival skills and prepare their children to participate in the formal education process. These responsibilities should be more clearly defined and more widely understood!
Over time the teaching responsibility shifts to include other family members, peers, and mentors. Again these responsibilities are not clearly defined, or understood and very often are neglected.
Eventually, the Public Elementary and Secondary Education process with its professional teachers and their supporting organizations share in the responsibility. In theory, this does not reduce the responsibility of the rest of the community but it often has that effect.
The financial responsibility for the Public Elementary and Secondary Education process is shared by the entire tax paying community within the related school district(s).
Government has the responsibility to encourage, provide strategic direction and facilitate the efforts of the individual, the parents and the professional teachers and their supporting organizations. In this regard, as part of the strategic direction, government should provide guidelines as to the content and complexity of what is to be taught. These guidelines should be based upon our democracy’s need for an informed and responsible citizenry as well as current and anticipated skill needs of the nation’s work force. There is also a need to develop the aesthetic senses but that is more properly left to the discretion of the school districts.
Public school districts, their boards and staff assume the primary teaching responsibility at the grade school and high school level. (Note: There is currently some pressure to extend this to include pre-school) However the parents and siblings etc. have a continuing responsibility and supportive role to play during this period primarily in helping to carry out the efforts of the school district, its administrators and teachers. Again these supportive responsibilities should be more clearly defined and more widely understood.
In home schooling situations, parents retain the teaching responsibility ordinarily delegated to the professional teachers and their supporting organizations.
State government – (in Missouri, the State Dept. Of Elementary and Secondary Education) also has a supportive role to play at this stage primarily in directing and guiding the activities of the school districts, setting standards for curricula, attendance, achievement etc. and monitoring and reporting actual performance vs. standards.
The Federal government – (The Department of Education) should provide strategic direction to the states. In this regard, since we are talking about a 12 – 14 year lead time, the task of forecasting the nation’s educational requirements 12 years out could be daunting, if not impossible or impractical. Therefore, the strategic direction they provide should focus on core or basic skills during grade school and become increasingly career centered during high school.
The E&S Process is diagramed below
Public E&S Education should continue to be funded 70% through local taxes, 20% State and 10% Federal.
Private E&S Education should continue to be funded only with private funds even though private schools may support the achievement of the government’s strategic objectives.
If national and state interests indicate a need for program changes or improvements in E&S programs, the necessary funding should be increased in the proportions indicated above.
4.3 Relevant Statistics https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=805
4.3.1 National – In the United States, 89% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree. This is higher than the OECD world average of 75%. This is slightly truer of women than men. In the U.S. 88% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 90% of women. In terms of the quality of the educational system, the average US student scored 494 in reading literacy, math and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a bit lower than the OECD world average of 497. Is there a comparable measure including such things as history, art, civics etc. ???
The Federal Government should provide guidance to the states in regard to these standards. Performance to the standards should be monitored and broadly reported. NOTE: I did not say enforced, simply monitored and reported.
4.3.2 Missouri State Level The states should provide standards that must be met by the school districts and collect and web publish related statistics, monitor these stats against the standards and initiate remedial action where necessary. Within those clearly defined strategic concerns, the state level agency should retain the authority to set standards for accreditation. However, in large districts the accreditation should be by school within district.
They should include standards or norms on funding per student which in turn could affect local taxes. In the St. Louis area there is currently a debate in regard to the options available to students who attend school in a district which has lost accreditation. This goes back to the basic anomaly mentioned previously. There is a wide discrepancy in student performance from district to district. IMHO this is caused by many factors including the level of funding, teacher qualifications, and cultural (student motivation, and student peer pressures). The relative importance of these factors varies from district to district, school to school, family to family and student to student and within these entities, it varies over time. However, there is one common denominator that I have witnessed which seems to be the determining factor in St. Louis Public School’s poor performance. That is the culture which predominates in some neighborhoods and in their schools. Until that culture changes, individuals may be helped by the various proposed programs but while a few are saved, hundreds will be corrupted by the “counter culture” so there will be no solution to the problem.
Bringing about the required cultural change will be difficult and time consuming for a variety of reasons including; determining the cultural changes most likely to result in desired behavioral changes, reaching a consensus in this regard, actually making the changes in the attitudes of the target population, measuring the impact of the changes etc.
Should the Federal government go beyond the strategic level in regard to Elementary and secondary education? (beyond, indicating priorities, setting goals or challenges, etc.) Should they participate directly in the tactical business of implementing specific programs or perhaps funding specific programs to be implemented by the states? Actually the Federal government is already well into the tactical end of education. Should it be required to pull back? IMHO the Federal Govt. might sponsor administrative changes but not get involved in implementing or enforcing them. (They would be scared to death of cultural change because it is “politically incorrect”).
During the 2016 Presidential campaign, there was some pressure to extend Public Education to include post secondary education.