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Cellar Scribblings / Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Last post by serious crayons on Today at 07:57:15 pm »
I know there is a perpetual conflict over funding. The claim, which I'm sure is true, is that wealthy districts (higher tax bases) receive proportionately more money from the state than they need, while poorer districts, like Philadelphia, don't receive as much as they need.

I wonder if that means not that wealthier districts receive more, but that poorer districts, with smaller property tax bases need more help? I mean surely only a pretty evil state would shower more money on richer districts. Here, I believe state funding is paid out equally to all districts on a per-pupil basis. But, I was thinking later, residents of districts do occasionally vote on referendums that would raise their property taxes to pay for school programs or equipment, and of course wealthier districts are more likely to be on board with that. On the other hand, poorer districts may qualify for special programs.

In that chart I looked at earlier, almost all districts in MN spend $10-$15,000 per student. But wealthier districts (median incomes over $100K) are at the lower end of that range, whereas really poor districts (incomes more like  $35,000K) sometimes get far more per pupil, sometimes even over $20,000. I think those are probably primarily Indian reservations that receive extra assistance.

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As for schools themselves, I've never got the concept of "middle school." Obviously, it works, because it's been around for, what, 40 years now? "In my day," school was elementary school (grades kindergarten--6), junior high school (7--9), and high school (10--12). I was 14 when I started 9th grade, and 17 when I started 12th grade. I've always wondered at the wisdom of having 14-year-olds going to school with 17-year-olds (because of levels of maturity, and because teenagers can be just plain awful people), but, as I said, clearly it works.

Incidentally, my junior high school is now a middle school. I graduated (actually, correct grammar is "was graduated") from high school 45 years ago next month.

I actually think "junior high" might have been the anomaly invented for boomers. I've read novels about early 1900s kids going to four-year high schools. I do remember walking my older son to his first day of middle school -- 6th grade - thinking he seemed like a young kid while there were 8th graders with tree-trunk legs and facial hair. My son was fine because he's not easily intimidated but I can see it being a problem for some kids. However, I think the school kept the ages pretty separate.

My junior high is also now a middle school and I also graduated 45 years ago. However, I'm not buying "was graduated" because I've hardly ever heard anyone use that form in speech or even in writing in those 45 years. Besides, the agency of graduation -- and thus the verb -- seems to belong more to the student than the school. Language has moved on.  ;D

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Cellar Scribblings / Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Last post by Jeff Wrangler on Today at 12:54:32 pm »
Since I've never had a dog in the race (i.e., no kids), I've paid next to no attention to school issues. I just pay my taxes. I'm not even completely sure I understand funding. I know I pay taxes to support the local schools. School districts also receive money from the state; I have no idea where that money comes from. I know there is a perpetual conflict over funding. The claim, which I'm sure is true, is that wealthy districts (higher tax bases) receive proportionately more money from the state than they need, while poorer districts, like Philadelphia, don't receive as much as they need.

As for schools themselves, I've never got the concept of "middle school." Obviously, it works, because it's been around for, what, 40 years now? "In my day," school was elementary school (grades kindergarten--6), junior high school (7--9), and high school (10--12). I was 14 when I started 9th grade, and 17 when I started 12th grade. I've always wondered at the wisdom of having 14-year-olds going to school with 17-year-olds (because of levels of maturity, and because teenagers can be just plain awful people), but, as I said, clearly it works.

Incidentally, my junior high school is now a middle school. I graduated (actually, correct grammar is "was graduated") from high school 45 years ago next month.
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Cellar Scribblings / Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Last post by serious crayons on Today at 11:59:25 am »
Sorry to take over your blog, Chuck! Feel free to jump in at any time I would imagine there are differences in the education system in New Jersey -- and, for Jeff, Pennsylvania.

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Cellar Scribblings / Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Last post by serious crayons on Today at 11:57:37 am »
I'm totally with you on this. 3.5 years into their school career is too early for the decision. I would at least prolong the collective school years to 6 years, before dividing the children.

So at that point would they be about 11? Kids here start kindergarten (thanks, German language!) generally at five, so 3.5 seems shockingly early but 11 still seems like an early age to set children on their life's destiny.

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In my parents generation it was still the norm to go to the lowest school level.
In my generation, it was more diverse. Some children went to lower level, most children went to middle level and only a few went to the highest level. In my memory, it was pretty much fair back then.

The closest thing we have to this are programs for students who are especially good at certain subjects, and programs for kids who need extra help. However, when there are school budget cuts, the programs for higher-performing kids are the first to go, because it's assumed they'll be OK on their own.

But those divisions are not mandated and not necessarily permanent. And there's nothing to stop a kid who, for example, suddenly starts liking reading and becomes good in English to be moved up to an higher-level class.

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Children do switch between school levels, that is not uncommon (both up and down). But kids who stay in lower level school rarely run big companies and they can not become scientists.

Here, theoretically, a kid who was terrible in elementary school and high school could go to college, study really hard and become a scientist. It doesn't happen a lot because there are other obstacles -- including the kid's own abilities -- but if it did happen it wouldn't be especially shocking.

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Compared to the US school system I still prefer ours.
Even when our system is unfair, I think it is less so than the US system. Funding for schools is totally independent form districts. Higher level schools in poorer neighborhoods are just as good as the ones in wealthier areas. BTW the division between wealthy and poor areas is by far not as huge as in the US. I've seen neighborhoods I can only call slums in the US, but never in Germany.

Income inequality is definitely higher here than in at least most European countries. But I have to correct my earlier comments -- I'm not sure how school funding works. I just looked at a chart comparing school districts in Minnesota and there's little correlation between district income and school spending per pupil. In fact, some of the highest per-pupil spending is in low-income districts; I'm guessing it's because they get more state or federal assistance. And the public school districts considered "the best" are all in wealthier areas, but have relatively low per-pupil spending.

So I'm guessing that the quality of a school district is based largely on test scores. And test scores in wealthier areas are generally higher for all kinds of sociological reasons.

I should also add that any Minnesota student can go to any school they want in any district they want, but again that might not be the case in other states.

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Universities don't care where you graduated, there are no schools with a better reputation.

Colleges here probably are more like the low, medium and high models except on a continuum.

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Another reason I prefer our schools is the common level of education. I think it's higher over here.
One example: when my daughter was on students exchange in the US and visited a high school, she had to write a test along with the American students, on her second day of school. Hers was the second best test of all. On day two, in a language not her own. :o

That I can't answer. Here's a list (from a U.S. publication) of best education systems per country. The United States is #1 and Germany is (ahem  :laugh:) #3. But their criteria seem pretty vague and may not correspond to what you've heard from your daughter and others about how challenging schools are.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/best-countries-for-education

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Each and every teenager who comes back from an exchange reports that high school in the US is a piece of cake, compared to our schools. A US high-school graduation is compared to a middle-school graduation over here.

I have no basis for comparison. Do you remember any specific things you've heard teenagers say were easy compared to what they'd get in Germany?

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Another factor for more fairness is the high level of support systems in Germany. In Kindergarten, years from children getting grades, the teachers have a keen eye on the kids and have many, many teacher-parents talks when something seems off about a child. There are lots of support and aid systems, and they're free.

I don't think that's different here. I met with teachers many, many times (way too many in my older son's case due to his behavioral issues). All parents meet with teachers at least twice a year but can meet whenever either parents or teachers want to. Students who are struggling or individually disabled get individualized plans, but to the extent possible students are "mainstreamed" in the same classes. It's all free.

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Cellar Scribblings / Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Last post by Penthesilea on Today at 05:36:18 am »

Not to criticize another country's culture, but doesn't that risk reinforcing inequality or depriving potentially talented kids of a chance to develop? 3.5 years into grade school seems pretty young -- are they like 8 or so at that time? Even if by getting good grades they can change tracks, it seems like even labeling a kid as qualifying for one of the lower levels might induce a sense of failure, making some feel there's no point in trying harder to move up.



Go ahead an criticize, I'm doing the same with lots of things in the US, too. :laugh:

I'm totally with you on this. 3.5 years into their school career is too early for the decision. I would at least prolong the collective school years to 6 years, before dividing the children.

Historically, there have been two kinds of school: Volksschule and Gymnasium (lowest and highest level). Almost all children went to Volksschule, which was 8 years by then, and started working age 14. Only children of the rich went to the higher level. Middle school was added later, to open up more chances for children.

In my parents generation it was still the norm to go to the lowest school level.
In my generation, it was more diverse. Some children went to lower level, most children went to middle level and only a few went to the highest level. In my memory, it was pretty much fair back then.

Nowadays, the lowest level has become that much of a stigma that children don't have good prospects anymore if they attend this level. The flaws and injustices of the system became so apparent that politics try to abolish lower level schools altogether and instead middle and lower level schools are merged into one. In different federal states there are different approaches and different names for it, but the idea is the same.


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Do kids who stay in lower-level schools ever go on to high level careers? Do lower school kids ever run big companies or become scientists or political leaders or whatever?

Children do switch between school levels, that is not uncommon (both up and down). But kids who stay in lower level school rarely run big companies and they can not become scientists.

By the way, there is another school form in Germany, I only forgot about it: Gesamtschule, which pretty much corresponds to US high school. Every child can go there. Later on, different subjects can be taken on different levels, and your graduation level depends on how long you stay on that school and a certain number of higher level subjects.


Compared to the US school system I still prefer ours.
Even when our system is unfair, I think it is less so than the US system. Funding for schools is totally independent form districts. Higher level schools in poorer neighborhoods are just as good as the ones in wealthier areas. BTW the division between wealthy and poor areas is by far not as huge as in the US. I've seen neighborhoods I can only call slums in the US, but never in Germany.
Universities don't care where you graduated, there are no schools with a better reputation.


Another reason I prefer our schools is the common level of education. I think it's higher over here.
One example: when my daughter was on students exchange in the US and visited a high school, she had to write a test along with the American students, on her second day of school. Hers was the second best test of all. On day two, in a language not her own. :o

Each and every teenager who comes back from an exchange reports that high school in the US is a piece of cake, compared to our schools. A US high-school graduation is compared to a middle-school graduation over here.

Another factor for more fairness is the high level of support systems in Germany. In Kindergarten, years from children getting grades, the teachers have a keen eye on the kids and have many, many teacher-parents talks when something seems off about a child. There are lots of support and aid systems, and they're free.





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Cellar Scribblings / Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Last post by serious crayons on Yesterday at 02:26:38 pm »
Last week I wrote about a housing development being built in P_, a boring suburb. I mean, it's considered nice enough as suburbs go but there's nothing intrinsically great about it. The houses in the development will sell for $1-$2 million. I was so surprised I actually asked the developer, "No offense, but who pays $2 million to live in P_?" The answer was that part of P_ is located in a wealthy, well-regarded school district.

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Cellar Scribblings / Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Last post by serious crayons on Yesterday at 02:22:58 pm »
My memory may be confused, but I think they do something similar in France.

I'm pretty sure they do in Switzerland, also, as I have a friend whose husband grew up in Switzerland and their daughter has duo citizenship. They've considered moving to Switzerland, but that's one reason they haven't.

Maybe -- and I'm just winging it here -- European countries are more likely to do that because they have historically had a more visible class system, and people are willing to acknowledge there's such a thing as class?

Whereas here, we pretend there's no such thing as class, even though in a million ways we practice and amplify class differences. My go-to example (so I've probably mentioned it here, perhaps multiple times) is that when my sons graduated from high school i could scrape together the $450 apiece for ACTs tutoring, raising their scores by about 4 points out of a possible 36, theoretically increasing their college opportunities. Obviously there are some families who couldn't afford the $450, and some families who would have been paying for tutoring throughout the year.

So there are three classes that might equate to the three school levels in Germany. American poor kids have fewer opportunities to get into better colleges, which in turn increase earning power, reinforcing the system.

Wealth is a factor even among students at public high schools, because well-regarded schools generally serve wealthier families and are presumably better regarded by college admissions offices. In high schools, "good" Best" is generally based on standardized testing grades, and the reason wealthier schools are better regarded is that richer kids tend to get better grades, for reasons I'm sure you can imagine. So that, too, just reinforces itself over generations.

But nothing to see here, folks! We're all created equal in this country and any given poor kid has just as much future socioeconomic opportunity as any given rich kid. Which, in theory, is true.

Chrissi, I'm curious, do the German school levels reflect the average income of the families? i mean, I assume they're not designated that way, but someone must pay attention to how the wealth of kids in the three levels compare.

Sorry to write such a tome.  :-X


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Cellar Scribblings / Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Last post by Jeff Wrangler on Yesterday at 11:32:30 am »
Not to criticize another country's culture, but doesn't that risk reinforcing inequality or depriving potentially talented kids of a chance to develop?

My memory may be confused, but I think they do something similar in France.
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For example travelling/traveling. In my book it's just wrong to leave out the second l ;) ;D

Americans themselves often don't realize that canceled has only one L. Or that " should go outside of , and . That'as in the sentence below.

Ennis said he worried about "people on the pavement."

Logically, it doesn't make sense, but that's the American way!  :laugh:

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Cellar Scribblings / Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Last post by serious crayons on Yesterday at 10:29:32 am »

Yes. If you want to study you have to make your Abitur, which is the graduation from Gymnasium, the higher school level.

The first four years of elementary school is the same for all children. After that they are divided into a lower, a middle and a higher school. Lower school is 5 more years = 9 years of school altogether, middle school is 6 more years (=10 years) and the higher school is nine more years = 13 years altogether.
After 3.5 years of elementary school, each child gets a recommendation for their further school career. In some federal states it's easy to ignore the rec and put your child into whatever school you think might be appropriate, but in some federal states the rec is more or less binding and difficult to go round.

But children can go one school level up later on, when their grades are really good. Or have a try at the next higher level after graduating the previous level.


Not to criticize another country's culture, but doesn't that risk reinforcing inequality or depriving potentially talented kids of a chance to develop? 3.5 years into grade school seems pretty young -- are they like 8 or so at that time? Even if by getting good grades they can change tracks, it seems like even labeling a kid as qualifying for one of the lower levels might induce a sense of failure, making some feel there's no point in trying harder to move up.

Do kids who stay in lower-level schools ever go on to high level careers? Do lower school kids ever run big companies or become scientists or political leaders or whatever?

Mind you, the U.S. education is extremely flawed and unequal -- we just pretend it isn't and make the inequalities less obvious. IF we were to set children on one of three levels of school in their elementary years you can be sure it would be racially and socioeconomically unbalanced. As it is, I often read of some successful Black person being told there was no point in trying to do such and such. School funding is inequitable, wealthy families can afford tutors and college coaches so they get into more elite schools.

So now getting into an elite school *seems* more equal than it used to be. I'm sure overt racism is far less a factor at the admissions level.. And students don't need to be rich to pay expensive tuitions; if they're good enough to get accepted but their parents aren't wealthy they can qualify for financial aid.  But wealth -- via legacy admissions (the student's parents went to that school), learning opportunities in younger years, families that live in higher-income communities with more money to spend for better public schools ... all of those and more contribute to inequality that's still there but less visible.

Which is why I get annoyed whenever I read a profile of a successful middle-aged person that makes a point of mentioning they went to Harvard or whatever -- as if that proves they were destined for greatness at 18.



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