May 7·edited May 7

Our kids' elementary school recently started doing cumulative testing throughout the year. Basically every week they have a test that goes back and tests on material covered earlier. I'd say maybe 80% new material, 20% old material, but that's a pretty big test. Parents hate it, partly because they just hate having a significant test each weak, partly because they don't have a way to help the kids prepare, and partly because kids are doing poorly on them.

In the parents defense, I think a lot of the tests are poorly constructed and have poor questions. (I think but do not know that they are mostly taking questions from prior state tests that students did poorly on, with no understanding of whether that's because it's a poorly phrased question or whether it was really a harder question intended to distinguish between top tier students.)

But the school administrators I think have been somewhat shocked by how little interest the parents have in what information their children have retained versus making sure their kids have good grades. In elementary school. Not even grades that will show up on a college application.

Again, in the parents defense, there has been grade inflation for so long it's hard for 3rd or 4th grader that's formerly a straight A student to understand suddenly routinely get B's and C's or worse on tests each week. And it'd be less frustrating if the people doing the testing understood something about constructing tests (if almost all of the class is failing because of the current material and not the past material, that's almost certainly a reflection of the teacher and/or the test, not the children). But the parents weren't really even interested in trying to continue tweaking the process. They were just worried about getting bad grades and the need to study for a test each week interfering with travel sports practices.

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Back when I was teaching econ in college I used to do a similar thing, with exams having a few older concepts (usually key ones related to the current concepts) and frequently with verbatim questions from the home work. The final of course had all the content from the course, with many verbatim questions that had been in both the homework and exams.

The results were... well they made me feel better about failing some students. Maybe 10-15% of students would miss a question on the homework (which we then went over in class) then miss the same question on a mid-term (which we then went over in class again) and then miss it on the final. Not even the same questions, so it wasn't that one or two were just worded poorly (those got weeded out or rephrased if they were widely missed and weren't supposed to be exceptionally difficult).

All that to say, there is retention, and then there is never bothering to learn the material in the first place, and it is really difficult to tell the difference from outside. Although I would note that the students who repeatedly failed to answer the same bloody multiple choice question correctly three times in a row were not the students who habitually hung out in my office during office hours.

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Is your kids school doing these new tests that somehow adjusts the test live to the student as they take the test? There is this new form of testing and my friend was like well how does this work in having a comparative grading system if every student didn't have the same test.

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They have some software programs that do that but it's never used for a grade to my knowledge other than sometimes just doing a certain amount of time or lessons is a grade.

Our school district is super concentrated on test scores because the demographics are close to a tipping point. They pretty significantly outperform what you would expect with the socioeconomic status/demographics of the student body, but of course that still looks worse than nearby schools with a more affluent student mix, and there is a pretty big concern among the smart administrators that if the ration of good parents to mediocre or bad parents gets any worse, they will lose all their good parents. So the test scores being good are a big tool for retaining good families. If the state could release test scores broken down by demographics, it probably wouldn't be an issue at all.

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May 9·edited May 9

Of course affluent students would outperform, I in no way think we should hunt for equal outcomes because it is ludicrous and the only way to do it would be to literally have the state parent the children in the less affluent households or intentionally hold back kids in better households.

Instead of thinking of nameless children out there, try bringing it home to your own household or if you don't have kids imagine you did.

I do not drink often, party often, or act irresponsibly. I sacrifice personal wants to live in a good place to raise children. I save money, I help them with their homework, I am involved in their lives. I want my children to have the best possible future. There will only be so many spots open at Harvard. Do you actually want me to be so altruistic as to hope every other child does just as well as my child.

Or if the potential opportunity for all children will be equalized what motivation does a parent have to sacrifice to make their children's lives better, why should they move away from bars and nightclub life to a home with a yard and things for their kids if the state is going to work directly against them.

And generationally, if my great grand parents were broke as can be but worked hard, so my grand parents would be less broke and they worked their butts off so my parents did better, then my parents never flew us anywhere, we took camping trips we saved money and we spent time together.

Now I can give to my kids an even greater opportunity.

Do you think there is something wrong with this?

The attempt to achieve equality of outcomes means as parents we should just all operate like reptiles. Give birth to the kids and hand them over to the state as a future resource.

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??? Was this a response to my post?

I wasn't implying that affluent students wouldn't generally outperform less affluent students or that they somehow shouldn't. My point was that most of a schools performance is dictated by how affluent their student body is and the aptitude of their students more so than how well the school does at instructing the students it gets. Since the demographics of our school district are less affluent than some of those nearby, of course it looks like it does poorly compared to them on test scores. If you look at the students from affluent families, the students from the local school do as well as any other public school. Admittance into selective schools, tons of scholarships, all that. But if you look at the lists of "top" schools, there are three within spitting distance that do a good bit better on tests because they just have a much more affluent student mix.

The state won't release test scores by demographics, which would give parents a better idea of how children like theirs perform in different schools. They don't even routinely collect info on the socioeconomic status of the students and they certainly aren't going to track and publicize test scores by race. It's politically fraught, to say the least, for schools to go around and tell parents they don't need to seek another school because smart and affluent students from good backgrounds do great. So schools with a more challenging student mix have to outperform to keep a lot of parents thinking the school is good.

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Besides the very important item of logistics is the gaming of the system by students, teachers, staff and associated bureaucracy because of the money involved. Look at what goes on now at county school systems. They are cash cows for special interests of which teacher's unions are just part of the scene.

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I'm of the mind, and experience, that a great deal of education is actually about learning the art and practice of learning. Albeit that certain learnt things such as literacy and numeracy are sequentially starting points for being able to learn a whole lot of more advanced things and thus constitute a special class of learnt stuff. And there are similarly crucial things that sit sequentially along certain pathways through education and these are probably the things that end up being retained. Something like cost and value theories in economics or fundamental laws in physics. So, if we could get educators to relax about the non retention maybe they'd come to the party. However, I think the main issue for many of them would be that they want to be remunerated for selling as many bums on seats not for outcomes so explicitly.

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Spaced repetition systems e.g. Anki or Mnemosyne linked to micropayments, maybe; $1 per correct answer of curriculum cards.

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May 7·edited May 7

How about we just force them to learn for 8 years until they can read, do basic math and could for instance run a register at Target. At this point they are prepared for roughly 30 million jobs out there.

Then after that we allow the free market to fund them. If lawyers want more lawyers, there is a system for that, start a law school and make a profit. If they need "high school" education parents will pay for private schools and since they can see the money they are paying they will have a higher demand to for their kids to get a measurable benefit from the schooling.

I have two firm beliefs.

1. There should be no such thing as a non profit status. I think the tax code should be changed so that there is no obligation for a company to make a profit ever as there is inferred by the IRS, but at the same time there is no reason to have an explicit reason to have a tax code for non profits.

-Non profits should not be able to dodge sales tax, I can't think of any good reason for this, I could argue that no one should be able to dodge sales tax, I own a company and yes a reseller generally doesn't get charged sales tax for something they are going to resell if they fill out the proper forms. This doesn't actually make any sense. If the reseller was charged sales tax as they did buy it and they collected sales tax you could just argue that both sales tax percentages could be lower and that creating these tax exempt statuses only ads unnecessary complication to the system.

-Non profits should definitely pay property taxes. Property taxes generally represent close to 26% of all state/local taxes collected. If non profits and people who work for non profits believe taxes are being spent well, they should have no objections to paying property taxes on their property.

-State, Federal, Local agencies - I believe the state and federal constitution should be changed to force ALL properties to pay property taxes

People say this would be the government paying themselves but that is not even close to being true. For instance if the state through the University of Michigan buys a restaurant in Ann Arbor, and then intends to run it as a restaurant, why should that property be removed from the local city tax roles simply because the state now owns the property.

The property was 6,000 sqft 3 - 2000 sqft floors that previously housed a local inexpensive italian restaurant.

The restaurant has been owned by the same family for 70 years, because the building has not changed hands it is taxed quite low because of the CAP on property valuation increases. So the Tax burden of the existing owner was $29,900 a year.

University of Michigan bought the property for $4.5 million dollars and no for profit company could possibly compete with that because of the property tax change that would hit a for profit company.

In Ann Arbor the property tax valuation if 50% of market value times 66.68 mills.

So if another company wanted to buy the property they would have an additional $150,030 per year property tax bill that U of M wouldn't have.

This has numerous negative side effects.

1. Property taxes that were being paid at $30K a year will no longer be paid at all as U of M does not pay taxes, since the city will need the same amount of city services it is apparent that other properties will have to bear an increased property tax burden.

2. Non Profits or Untaxable agencies, State, Federal, Local will artificially increase the cost of all property. I say this because generally very high property taxes will serve to decrease the appetite for real estate buyers as they obviously look at that cost when purchasing and often will lower their bids to reflect the high property taxes.

Consider this intellectual exercise

You are about to buy a building to run a business. You have a budget of X number of dollars a month you are willing to pay to run said business from the property. That monthly number has to include cost of insurance, cost of property taxes, cost of interest and cost of the mortgage itself. Generally a business looks at property over 10 years as that is more common for commercial property loans.

So when any commercial business looked at this restaurant they would look at property tax rates.

At $4,500,000 the company is looking at $52,928 a month financed at current rate plus an additional $12,502.50 a month in property taxes. Meaning any for profit company is paying a 23% premium over the university. A commercial company will also weight that premium even heavier than simply 23% because that increase carries on forever. Consider over 30 years if both parties simply paid in cash as U of M did. The commercial company pays a 100% premium on the property, they pay 9 million for it in price and property taxes, where as U of M only pays 4.5 million.

This means the price of that property which will set other prices was likely inflated over what the commercial market would pay for it.

U of M Regents both buys and sells property buy the way.

Consider I gave you the option to run a property investment company and I told you, one company had to invest in property and pay property taxes and the other company can invest in property and never pay any property taxes. Do you think one of those two companies would be able to operate very differently than the other?

So I believe we can solve a GREAT DEAL of problems buy simply changing these tax rules.

1. voting will make more sense as all voters and their employers are subjected to mostly the same taxes.

2. Schools might start spending their money more logically instead of just abandoning perfectly good buildings to build new buildings at 5 times the commercial rate they would consider their property tax burden and revisit the idea that remodeling or renovating is a great way to reduce property tax. This is why in commercial markets they frequently renovate old buildings over building new, despite government claims that this is more expensive.

3. Universities can't go out and have such enormous impacts on voters and vendors so as to buy votes

It isn't a panacea, but it is certainly a start of one. It would also greatly help your argued panacea of deregulate building.

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If students were periodically tested on knowledge learned earlier, and required to review what they had forgotten, it's likely that retention would be significantly higher.

We can't expect miracles, of course, but I do think that this would make an appreciable difference.

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I think it should be kept in mind that money isn't the only way to incentivize students, and often may not even be the strongest incentive. Rewarding well performing students with social status like awards should be considered too, although you may not want to shame poorly performing students too much, since generally it leaves a bad taste in people's mouths to shame people for innate characteristics. And educational performance is at least partially innate.

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I seem (at age 70) to have retained a great deal of my (excellent) high school education (I made As at the time).

Does that make some kind of nerd? I WAS rather a nerd at the time, although I didn't want to be.

I'm not a teacher, but I do have kids who were in school recently. They made mostly As.

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Yes, although it does seem like high school education was significantly higher quality back in the mid 20th century than it has been for the last 30-40 years or so. Standards were much higher it seems, with less "social promotion" and other reasons for not needing to actually learn.

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