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State rates Youngstown Community School ‘excellent’

Published: Wed, March 6, 2013 @ 12:01 a.m.


Sister Mary Dunn, principal of Youngstown Community School, gives a congratulatory hug to Demar Brown after the student performed well on a test.




Only one Mahoning Valley charter school earned an “excellent” designation on the 2011-12 state report card.

It marks the second time Youngstown Community School merited the mark. The first time was on the 2009-10 report card. The school was designated “effective” for 2010-11.

“I commend our teachers,” said Sister Mary Dunn, school principal.

The teachers work with professional development and work together as a team to instruct students. Math and literacy coaches, in place about three years, also contribute to the school’s success, helping teachers.

The school enrolls 322 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, all from the city.

Students must apply for acceptance, and most continue through all grades of the school.

Besides the report-card designation, the school learned late last month that it had been named a School of Promise by the Ohio Department of Education.

“Youngstown Community School proves every day that failure is not an option,” Michael Sawyers, acting superintendent of public instruction with ODE, wrote in a letter to Sister Mary.

Youngstown Community School is one of 163 Ohio schools selected as a School of Promise.

“Strategies by you and your staff to close the mathematics and reading achievement gap for students who represent a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are working, and we hope you will share them with other Ohio schools,” Sawyers wrote.

One of those strategies is the expectation that students follow the rules and do their work.

“It’s tough love,” Sister Mary said. “We know all children can succeed.”

They may not all achieve at the same level, but they all can succeed, she said.

Even as students move between classrooms, the hallways are quiet and students stand up and greet adults who enter their classrooms.

Homework is required daily as well as each weekend, and students are expected to follow the rules.

“And they’re held accountable for homework,” added Dee Pitko, a physical-education teacher at the school.

Pitko also credits her colleagues for the school’s success.

“The teachers and the kids do a marvelous job,” she said. “They care. They really care.”


1BigJim2234(57 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Check all other local and State Charter Schools scores - and see how they did before you start assuming things.

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2Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Students must apply for acceptance,
This says it all . The rest about the city schools and teachers Union is BS and just shows how uninformed some of the comments are .

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3JME(801 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Freeatlast, aren't you one of the liberal whiners who say Charter schools don't work?

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4JME(801 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

....whether they had to apply or not, formerdemliberal's comment is exactly correct.

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5JME(801 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Freeatlast, you apparently are one of those full of BS. The only requirement is that a student must live in Youngtown.

One of your typical comments trying to distort the truth - students are not hand-picked based on their background! Your effort to make it appear that this school picks the best students failed!


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6snoopyo63(1 comment)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

The comment, "Students must apply for acceptance" is incorrect!! We accept all Youngstown city students as long as there is room in a grade. We have 48 students in each grade K-6. The students are chosen through a lottery (random), once classes are full they get put on a waiting list for any additional openings.We are required to follow all state regulations for education. In closing, we work very hard for the success of our students!

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7walter_sobchak(2173 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

@formerdemliberal: You are partly correct. While the students may come from the same geographical area with its problems of drugs, violence, apathy, etc. I would challenge you on their family backgrounds. The mere fact that the parent(s) chose to enroll these kids in this school says it all. They are involved in their child's education and upbringing. Unfortunately, this leaves the Youngstownn schools with children who, while most likely eager to learn, have no support structure out of the classroom. Whether the teachers are unionized ot not really doesn't have much effect on THIS situation. That being said, if I was a dedicated educational professional that has the education and skills needed to properly teach young people, why would I want or need a union to survive? The union only serves to protect the incompetent and lazy at the expense of the competent and motivated. I would certainly never want to be in a union.

In the final analysis, Sister Mary Dunn, with her tough love, is still gettin' it done! Great job, Sister.

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8Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Most of these schools do not work .
Only the ones that pick and choose who gets in and who gets to stay in .
Let the public schools do that and see what happens.
You can not have two sets of rules and expect the same outcome .

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9peacelover(805 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I would put more stock in what Education Voter says since he/she has walked the walk, and most of you other posters haven't.

The fact that these students in the article are successful in school is because obviously they have parents who care and are involved in their education.. If these kind of students are removed from the city schools, what is left? My husband is a retired Yo. city school teacher and you wouldn't believe the stories he could tell about the home life of many of his students. Parents absent from the home, drunk, high, in jail, etc. etc.Several of his girl students per year were pregnant. Many of the kids didn't even bother to show up for class or when they did, they showed up eating potato chips and pop for breakfast. I challenge any of you who say unionized city school teachers are lazy and incompetent to spend just one day teaching these kind of kids. You will be in for a big eye opener.

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10RTS1416(117 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Free at last, why can't you be happy that the children and school are doing well? They have to apply? No, they have to register just like you have to be registered to attend public school, you don't just walk in and sit down...I'm here! The school gets to decide who stays in? This is also no different than public school, suspensions, expulsions are also forms of deciding who stays in, right?

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11Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I think you are just looking for a fight . I did not say I was not happy the kids where doing good. I am very glad that something is working at some of these schools. But it is not fair to have one set of rules for one and a different set for the other . Just to use one that is doing good to put down the hard working teachers at the public schools just show how uninformed you are. So trying to have a conversation with you is useless and a waste of my time .

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12RTS1416(117 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I never "put down" any teacher at any school, my post never even mentioned teachers. I pointed out that your statements about having two sets of rules was not entirely true. If you read back through your own comments you will see who "puts people down"

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13DwightK(1370 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Youngstown city schools fail because parents fail their children. Students who show up unprepared or those who do not have a support system at home will not succeed.

This charter school is doing well and the staff should be commended but I wager they see much more support at home for their students than the public schools.

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14DSquared(1488 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Boy, the liberal school teachers union sure doesn't like that competition thing, do they?

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15pp2522(1 comment)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I am a teacher at Youngstown Community School. After reading the comments on this board,I have a few of my own.

First, in no way, shape, or form should the Youngstown City teachers be blamed for the test scores. They, alone, have no control over those results. When I was in high school, I was a frequent visitor to one of the city's junior high school where discipline and learning was poor. As a college student, I revisited that same school. By then 2 gentlemen had taken over as principle and vice principle and things had CHANGED!!! Along with their strict code of conduct that was enforced by both them and the teachers with forced parental involvement that school had turned around. So it can be done if ALL involved work together for the good of the children.

Secondly, there have been very few children that have been asked to leave our school (expelled). We work with our problem students and try to get them to become responsible, respectful, and accountable for their actions. As a matter of fact, we have children entering our school throughout the year--some right before the tests which is quite challenging because these children need to learn our procedures and most need to "catch up" in their schoolwork.

And finally, the article is not meant to downgrade any other school systems. It simply is a success story.

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16notsosilentobserver10(3 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Just to address a few of the things from previous comments....
What happens if a student doesn't do home work, is a class disruptor, misses 80 to 100 days of school a year?
Just like should be in place in every school system, there are procedures set in place to address these concerns. As a teacher at YCS, I know how many students do not complete homework. As required, they receive it daily, and it encourages responsibility, and not all students or their parents see the value in that. It is a constant battle, but it’s something that we as a staff and with the support of admin will not back down from. Demographics are not used as an excuse, even though we know the role they play in our students’ daily lives. There are challenges that need addressed and YCS does that, versus other school systems that I have been in that (per admin/BOE procedures) simply pass the students through the system instead of getting to the root of the problem. Yes, YCS has some support systems as a smaller school that are not necessarily available in larger districts with constricted budgets. We are grateful for having those supports, and I’m not sure why we are scrutinized for taking advantage of what is available to our school. In no way do I blame any other school systems for something that they can’t control funding wise. However, simply passing student through that are challenges is a disservice to the students in the long run and those issues need to be addressed by admin, BOEs, and the state. Our state wonders why students graduating are not college and career ready. It’s a flaw in the system, not something that should be reflected as teachers’ lack of ability.
Class disruptors....Exactly as someone previously stated we have the same type of kids with the same poor environment. Those class disruptors are not just asked to leave. There are behavior plans and policies in place to address those. Believe me, we want to rip our hair out some days because of behavior issues just like anyone else in a city system. In case you don’t know what a charter school is...it’s not a private school that can choose their students based on academics and behaviors. No, it’s a PUBLIC school that has the same legal mandates as any other state public school. Expelling without going through the proper channels is not an option. The only difference is that when expulsion procedures begin, parents have realized they can try to enroll their child in another school before that expulsion is on a permanent record. I understand that not the case for a child already in a standard public school, and understand where that could be misconstrued. That’s the nature of the system, and an hardship that unfortunately oftentimes goes back to a standard public school. However, it happens among the charter schools as well. A behavior issue being expelled (or paperwork began), and are quickly enrolled in another charter school to be dealt with. We are not completely exempt from that systematic flaw.

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17notsosilentobserver10(3 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Truancy...If there is a child missing that much school, no matter where they are in the state of Ohio, it should legal be reported by administration. A child has never been asked to leave based on attendance. The legal channels are followed to a “T” BEFORE attendance becomes an issue. If that a problem in any school, it needs reported and addressed by the proper authorities in a timely fashion. I really don’t have much to say about this. Why would a school sytem not report a case that severe to be handled in a legal manner. It’s no longer a primary academic issue. What concerns me most about this situation the child’s well being. Who is caring for the child at that time?
The mere fact that the parents chose to enroll these kids in this school says it all. They are involved in their child's education and upbringing.
Is a parent that abuses their child and sends them to school with cuts and bruises (not typical of rough play) truly invested in their education? Is the parent is so strung out on drugs and has older siblings raising the younger ones involved in their upbringing? Is the parent that has never once returned a note, phone call, or request for conference about their child’s work (or lack thereof), involved in their child’s education? I know those are only 3 examples, I could easily spout off several more, but I think my point is clear. Yes, the parent (or guardian) initially filled out the application for the school, but that is no different than enrolling in any other public school.

In the case of the student from this school, I never saw any sign of proficiency in his daily work. ......Apparently there was nothing Youngstown City Schools could do to find a better placement for this student, so he was allowed to disrupt my class. At that point, I took my excellent work record and walked out.
Clearly this student posed problems at his former school. Unfortunately, his parents took advantage of the fact that they did have another school to enroll him in and it happened to be your class. I fully understand your frusration here. My only question is, are you blaming YCS for this behavior? Clearly YCS dealt with it in the procedures that were laid out. Did the city schools start the procedures and documentation for suspensions or possible expulsion? And, I have a hard time believing that that ONE student would complete destroy an excellent work record. As an employee of city schools, surely you’ve seen or dealt with cases just as severe. Maybe it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I can understand that. Absolutely take the stories with a grain of salt. Anything in the media or of a political nature needs questioned. We teach our students that every day. Reliable resources, biased reports, data being used to support any opinion, ect should be scrutinized. This is a sad reality.

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18notsosilentobserver10(3 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

As a final note, YCS is not the utopia that was portrayed in this article. Of course, there are flaws in every school system and YCS has plenty of them. Those issues are continuously being battled and addressed. We work through those frustrations one day at a time, the same as anyone else. That being said, the staff over comes our daily obstacles and persevere for the students. We work hard to get where we are now. We have the advantage of being a small school where the staff becomes close knit and communication is easier in that regard. Society can’t attribute low test scores of city schools to one single factor. The things we deal with on a small scale are dealt with in those systems at a much larger scale with less support available to them. It’s a flaw, and one that I hope the state will come to realize. Education is transforming at a rapid pace and teaching is becoming more challenging as these changes occur. Public, charter, and private school teachers should be communicating and sharing in successes and learning from struggles. Not blaming or pointing fingers at each other for the stress and competition the state has placed on us with these test scores. I think we are begining to forget why we went into teaching in the first place: for the kids. If that is no longer your primary focus when you walk into that building every day, then why are you still standing in the front of that room?

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19uselesseater(229 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

We throw an olive branch to one charter school for doing what us educated and heavily burdened tax payers expect all schools to do?

Save the rescue hero mentality and keep the rhetoric about the massive failings of ALL INNER CITY SCHOOLS NATIONWIDE.

Public education is a total success. It is meeting the intended goals. The goals?
- Demoralizing young and vibrant minds.
- Increasing dehumanizing competition (sports, grades and access to teachers exclusive attention).
- Teaching repetitive tasks (mechanized assembly line type drudgery).
- Labeling free thinkers and non traditional learners as problematic and damning them with poor grades
- Boring children to the point that they despise education.

Go figure out where the very long term wealthy are sending their children. It isn't to public schools, even in the desirable communities. It isn't to religious schools. Nor is it to charter schools. No, their children are in PRIVATE SCHOOLS.

Public education has since its inception been a tool of mass corruption and brain washing of young minds. Go back and read about the history of public education. It comes from Prussia, a part of Germany that became infamously East Germany.

Historically, literacy at least in Massachusetts has never been as high as it was pre-forced public education. Estimated at 98% prior to public education and an attained high of 91% during the Kennedy years. Massachusetts matters since public education in the US originated there.

In 1852 public education became mandatory in Massachusetts and 80% of the public objected. Children was rounded up and dragged to school by an armed militia in one rebelling community. Public education was battered and beaten back until around 1900 when it became commonplace in the United States.

One of the architects behind public education was a signer of the Constitution, Doctor Benjamin Rush. Rush has many offensive education quotes, such as:
"[useful citizens are made from children who] have never known or felt their own wills till they were ... twenty years of age"


"Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property."

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20uselesseater(229 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

New York City, that great portal for immigrants, media center and financial heart of the United States is probably the best example of the public education racketeering. Mayor Bloomberg, a man worth billions recently bragged about the schools and the investments in NYC education. NYC's school budget is $24 BILLION a year at current and has ballooned from $14 BILLION a year in 2005.

Those dollars and 13 years of students time should buy educated students who at minimum after graduating should have English reading literacy, right? WRONG.

"80 percent of those who graduate from city high schools arrived at City University’s community college system without having mastered the skills to do college-level work.... They had to re-learn basic skills — reading, writing and math — first before they could begin college courses."

[source: Officials: Most NYC High School Grads Need Remedial Help Before Entering CUNY Community Colleges
Basic Skills Like Reading, Writing And Math Need To Be Re-Learned
DATE: March 7, 2013
http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/03/0... ]

In light of NYC's inability to educate 18 year olds after 13 years of highly repetitive remedial learning, I bring to you, John Taylor Gatto. He is a former teacher in NYC's schools and was recognized as a Teacher of the Year during his time in the District. He is an author who has penned several books on the failed social experimentation of compulsory public education.

see: http://johntaylorgatto.com/

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21uselesseater(229 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago


"Graduates of public schools in Massachusetts have the highest test results in the world"

From where is that factoid taken from?

"You blame NYC schools for the idiocy of some of its ghettoized students?"

80% of the students entering the City's community college lack basic fundamental know how that should have been accomplished by 3rd or 4th grade.

My question for you as an educator is why do your fellow teacher continue to pretend education of the basics (reading, writing and basic math) take 13 years? Why do the taxpayers have to continue paying for education instructors (teachers) who cannot teach these students? Why should we fund districts that employ backwards and anti-learning techniques? We'll get back to that later.

Basic reading proficiency where a reader can read and expand on there own takes typically 30 contact hours. After that point, the student has the basic literacy and is able to self learn and expand on their own.

Math? 40 contact hours for the entire basic math spectrum. To cover the more advanced stuff (geometry, trigonometry, calculus) another 10 contact hours. That number comes from Daniel A. Greenberg, a founder of the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts and a former Cornell physics professor.

Sudbury Valley is another different teaching method school.

"At the Sudbury Valley School, students individually decide what to do with their time, and learn as an aside to their personal efforts, interactions and ordinary experience, rather than through classes or a standard curriculum."

"The furnishings of the school as much as one would expect in a home; comfortable chairs, couches, books lining the walls. There are no traditional classrooms and no traditional classes; instead children are free to explore any subject or talk to any staff member about an interest, as part of educating themselves."

The students at Sudbury roam freely and learn through life and from each other as well as the staff. Students gravitate towards what interests them instead of drowning in what bores them at that time.

Math + reading combined contact hours... and we are at 70 hours... Even if writing takes 200 hours where are we? 300 hours tops with lots of extra time wasted.

How many hours does a US student linger sleep eyed in the classroom a year? 900 - 1,000 hours. That means from Grade 1 - 12, we are talking about 9,800 - 12,000 hours of instruction. Add to that the time spent sitting in kindergarten and the hours accumulated in the ever expanding "pre-school".

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22uselesseater(229 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

All these hours for reading, writing and math mainly. Math is a regular course from grade 1-11 for most. 180+ hours each year. Writing and reading start separate, but combine into English class that goes well into grade 11 or 12 depending. 180+ hours each year for reading and writing combined. 360 hours for say 11 years for math and English combined. Or in excess of 33% of every school day for all those years. Big question is where is the 66% of the students time we haven't accounted for spent? Some science (which often seems to be accompanied by horrificly low test outcomes and low to no literacy) exists. Social studies/history (or should we call it mis-history)... Still teaching Columbus discovered America eons after many groups floated over here and long established encampments and moved on?

Sadly, the NYC City University outcome of 80% of graduates admitted being functionally illiterate is just the tip of the public education iceberg that is melting.

In 1998, a study conducted by the National Institute for Literacy concluded that 47 percent of adults in Detroit were considered functionally illiterate. While 36 percent in New York City; 37 percent in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Chicago; and 38 percent in Cleveland were also deemed also illiterate. All of these places are VERY Democratic, very pro union and very pro-public education.

If we look at school funding, which is very broken, we see unperforming schools are net-recipients of funds stolen via taxation from hardworking productive citizens. This is to say simply, those failing Districts are given disproportionate money taken from taxpayers who do not live within the District. The well behaved, middle class pays for their own typically suburban and/or rural Districts then pays more to go to failed city Districts.

Two prime examples of Districts disproportionately receiving funds from State level in excess to "reward" their continued education failures are Youngstown City Schools and Farrell School District in the Shenango Valley. Both Districts are "ghettoized" as you described (i.e. low per capita income, many single mother households, lack of nuclear family, high criminality within the towns, visual urban blight and abandonment and disprorportionately high property taxes compared to fair market long arm sale prices).

Just about every factor that makes the area ghettoized is supported by programs and other entitlements that again, the middle class that live elsewhere must work to provide for these folks to take as an entitlement (welfare, food subsidies, Section 8, etc.).

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23uselesseater(229 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

The criminality in these places is born out of lack of mental stimulation and mislearning via failed competitive schooling methods and constant subjection to false images conveyed via programming methods (mainly television, movies and "music") -- all of which glorify disinegration of natural bonds and relationships, glorify violence non stop and constantly run the competition illusion through sports and worship of phsycical good accumulation. Odd isn't it that the places where these programmers are and broadcast from are the cities where the illiterate masses appear to be the new product for export --- to the schools, to the juvenile justice and finally to the prisons. Quite a factory system that continues to grow and burden the productive taxpayers.

My point is, if we wanted to fix anything in the cities, we'd stop doing what doesn't work. That is unless the intended outcome and results continue to be a success like I initially proposed. That applies to schools as much as it does land use and development. The socio-economics of a Districts students do not dictate their future. Sure, there are impedements and hazards borne from living in these accutately poor and sad areas. But, in the passing decades as growing numbers of us have continued to pound away at the problems, like public schools, we've gained traction and legislative support for charter schools. The outcomes from the charter schools isn't all rosey, but it's premature with many to declare anything either way. There are sucesses and there are horror stories.

Rightly public schools complain that alternative schools do not have to meet the standardized testing methods. I sympathize there, but standardized testing isn't the worlds best indicator of literacy and education attainment. Standardized testing actually works less well for non-whites. Standardized testing is a wrong counting ruler at best and not a proper measure. Public schools should be fighting the federal government and perhaps the state, as education ought to be a local or at most regional matter. Federal Department of Education didn't exist until 1978. We did fine without it and education cost much less and we had far fewer school related problems and tax burden to justifiably complain about.

Teachers should be complaining loudly about ill-intentioned ideas like the No Child Left Behind mandate and throwing boatloads of money at educating highly disabled children who cannot achieve baseline literacy. The slow to learn, the challenging disciplinary group and the highly disabled shouldn't be mainlined unless they have one-on-one shadow friend helping them overcome what they can and when and where they want to come learn along with everyone else. Teachers need to be empowered to teach in other ways and not to master the test or perform the longest repetitive motion simulating a mechanized line robot.

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24uselesseater(229 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Literacy is achieved only when a flame is developed in the mind of a child and gently helped here and there to continue that process. Forced compulsory anything creates hatred. Taking years of someones life with such a forced boredom insures that students are tired of "learning" and will not for the most part learn any more. Once they leave the high school, they are for the most part done, with exception the very limited further education only for the intended purpose of yielding a "job". As we see in NYC even after all the indoctrination these poor, dehumanized children still can't exhibit basic literacy. Is that by design? Absent the influx and legalization of illegal workers from elsewhere filling the low paying 70%+ of the entire economy (the service industry) who else will toil day and night for minimum wage? Industry and finance needs the lowly barely literate worker who cannot think independently.

God forbid some bright caring teachers declared reality and the intentional stupidification to their students. "Look kid, find your interest. What motivates you? What could you enjoy doing for 8 hours a day for free?" Yes, how dare we teach them to find themselves and where their strengths are. Far easier to throw your hands up and shout GHETTO. Real easy to arbitrarily go through a career as an educator like a person in a coma. Afterall, you get your private pension, your fancy healthcare, new doodads to muck around with, summers off, etc. Heck, if the District stinks academically, they probably don't even mandate you live within it's boundaries, so you aren't subjected to the outcomes long term (poverty, reduced property values, economic degradation). It sure is easier today to shut up and go ahead to get ahead.

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25uselesseater(229 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago


""Within the United States, Massachusetts is again the leader, with 43 percent
of 8th-grade students performing at the NAEP proficient level in reading."

You consider that a success? Do the math. 43% is a severely failing grade. That's less than half of the 8th grade students in Massachusetts are "proficient" in reading. Our top performing state is achieving 43% reading literacy, that sure is an expensive failure by educators nationwide.

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26uselesseater(229 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

No doubt @Education_Voter, numbers often need accompanied by clear dictionary terms and formulas on how things were calculated.

There is no way literacy is anywhere near 100% in any country and especially not in the US. I can't envision US literacy being more than 75% achieving a 5th grade level of literacy in any subject matter.

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27kurtw(1278 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Mark Twain said: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics".

Education_Voter gives everyone a practical demonstration of that principle with the statistical smokescreen she puts up to try to hide the fact that American Public Schools are light years behind other countries in Math and Science Achievement. Why is that?

American kids across the board- inner-city, suburb, etc- have just as much innate potential as kids in Japan, Finland and Germany and- given the proper support- they should perform as well. Why don't they?

For an answer, maybe we should ask the people we pay to do the job (and very well at that)- the members of the countries most powerful Labor Union: the National Education Association.

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28kurtw(1278 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

GM was put into bankruptcy by its Union and Public Education is in roughly the same boat. When you pay people to do nothing and subsidize incompetence (try getting rid of a flunkey teacher), you can't, really, expect anything but failure- and failure, on a grand scale, is what we have in Public Education today- and who suffers most? The kids with blighted futures because they weren't taught the life skills needed to succeed.

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