Daniel Powell

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Why isn't REAL reform taking place in our education systems? Education is broken, but do any of the current reforms really change anything?

Of the 34 developed countries in the OECD, the United States ranks in the bottom one-third in math and science scores and graduation rate. Our nation isn’t catching up, either, it’s falling further behind. At least 11 countries are making academic gains at double and even triple the rate of American students. Despite nearly 30 years of reform efforts, little has changed. None of the proposed reforms by President Obama (listed on the White House page for education reform) fundamentally change the educational system.

“…overall, the United States has the same teachers, in the same roles, with the same level of knowledge, teaching in the same schools, with the school day organized the same way, with much the same set of tracked courses, with the same materials, and much the same level of parental support.” –Jal Mehta, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

In making this comment, Mehta urges us to look at educational reforms that will upend the current system. Education reform is needed, we all agree. If we’re going to change education in America, then we need to be serious about making real changes that fundamentally reshape our educational institutions. I challenge educators in America to join the conversation, and to propose profound changes to the system that will disrupt the status quo and challenge traditional education.

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    R H

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    Jul 20 2013: As I'm sure you're aware, test scores from other countries can be very deceptive. How 'inclusive' is the population? What are the cultural and language elements? Who is tested? etc. My understanding is that if you take the esl/bilingual, special ed, free-lunch and below the poverty-line kids out of the American scores, Americans rank among the tops in the world. Plus, most high-level American universities have a majority of American students, and these are the same universities that parents from foreign nations are desperately trying to get their kids into - along with some famous English schools like Oxford and Cambridge. Although public schools are an easy target, and every arm-chair teacher has an opinion on how to run the playbook, there may be more to the story than test scores and researchers who may have limited practical experience running public schools.
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      Jul 20 2013: So, no other nation has bilingual, poor, special ed. children that they seek to educate? Damn, how did America get so unlucky.
      And there is a lot more to the story. Corrupt school boards supporting self serving administrators who pad the programs to insure they can support their 6 figure salary while 25% of their productivity never get finished... to put it in industrial terms. When half of the young adults finish high school with barely enough education to maintain a job at McDonalds.... we got problems.
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        R H

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        Jul 25 2013: Ah, you hit my pet peeve - school boards. The only board of directors with no experienced required. Community members (and their little fiefdoms) with control of over half the tax receipts. Maybe, using your 'industrial' reference, we should have our children 'apply for available positions' in school, submitting a resume, and compete for desks. Then we may be able to have the 'resulting accountable output' at a level acceptable to those who measure success via test scores from around the world.
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    Lejan .

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    Jul 19 2013: Maybe because of this:

    Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!
    652.180 views on Youtube

    Funny Fat People Dancing
    4.887.008 views on Youtube

    And the fact, that we are allowing to spent our tax money to bail out Banksters & Co., etc. instead of educating our next generations in the best ways possible ...

    Do you see the given priorities?
  • Jul 19 2013: eventually the term Reform will dissolve. Replacement may be the one we eventually look for. No one really seems to ask what the purpose of education is. Models emerge from purpose. I'm assuming your perceived Purpose of education is to get a killer Job? A killer Service Job......or perhaps a sweet cubicle.

    A noble topic....education reform. But, we've pulled punches for a wee bit too long.....on ALL parties (including students)
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    Jul 19 2013: There are too many distractions these days; these distractions are enemies of learning.
    The love of pleasure and the entitlement mentality of a mass of this generation of learners would suck efficiency out of any and every reform.

    It is the people; NOT the system.
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      Jul 19 2013: So how do we eliminate distraction? How do we motivate the people to change?

      Are you contending that there is no solution to this problem?
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    Jul 19 2013: Hi Daniel,

    You are on the mark with this one - good stuff man!

    Ignore most the posters below .. they have not been teachers and have had no contact with education and expect a life where all that is someone else's problem .. and use it to transfer wealth from others to themselves through their children.

    Harsh words, but that's what is happening.

    I just got this from RSA - the latest thing from Robinson .. seems he was listening to the TED community after his old ted talk .. who needs attribution when you have credibility huh?

    f. f. f fashion.

    Well fashion is not good enough for my kid .. don't dream it be it.

    Robinson is paraphrasing what I, and others were saying 2 years ago .. it's not certain, but it looks like it's "all over Red Rover" for the capitalist perversion called "education".

    And you know what .. talk talk talk is no more than the gruntings of pigs and the tweeting of birds .. if you haven't done it, your words are noise - and it is money .. grist for the masters.

    No one seems to be doing anything these days - it looks like a harvest to me - get in eat them - they will not see what's coming. Our children are ready to get it all .. unless we stop them.

    The most abundant commodity on Planet earth right now is surplus human flesh .. and human time . .. what a glut.

    The singularity is not heaven - it is burn-out.

    Make sure you set your children free to do what must be done.

    (damn .. robinson is such a tart .. well .. let's keep working his arms and legs till the sheep get the path - he can have the money)
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      Jul 19 2013: At most two below are not, or have not been, teachers.

      The article Daniel links below is by Jai Mehta for the think tank The American Enterprise Institute. That think tank leans toward more capitalist rather than less capitalist policies and was the major source of policy advisors to the Bush Administration.

      In any case, around here and in other places where people are trying to learn and consider different perspectives on questions, I find it is usually worthwhile to consider what a variety of posters have to say.
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        Jul 20 2013: Yes, but I'm beyond excuses and politeness now.

        The tenor of the thing exceeds excuses.

        Listening to rationales is a bygone luxury .. an entropy drain.

        Now is the time for absolute violence and unrestrained chaos in the most negative expression possible.

        Holliday is over.
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      Jul 19 2013: Mitch,

      I really enjoyed watching the video of Sir Ken Robinson, and particularly his point about defining the purposes behind education. I would also like my children to have the opportunity to be economically independent, and hopefully our education system will be one tool, among others, that I will use to help me provide that ability to them.
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        Jul 20 2013: Dan,

        I have been practicing Ken's suggested technique for 6 years now .. it works.

        It works so spectacularly well, that everything before looks Neanderthal.

        Turns out that for thousand of years humans have been ready to be excellent .. so now I'm onto the question of what happened?
        Who, and why, have we been retarded by/for .. and who needs to be lined up against walls and shot - with no delay.
  • Jul 18 2013: I think we are looking outward for a solution when the answer is inward, and has to start with the child/parent interaction. When we look to hold the education system or government to accountable for poor performing children, we are trying to redirect blame that we should be accepting.

    We as parents need to provide the schools with well behaved, healthy, and well balanced children that are eager to learn. This is accomplished by teaching good social behavior, good work habits, healthy living, and positive living at home, by example, by mentoring, and with copious amounts of love and understanding. We need to provide learning experiences, age appropriate activity learning experiences, social skills training on lessons like politeness, respect, and the importance of doing what is right for yourself and for other people.

    When I hear about how poorly the US is doing relative to other countries, I think about some of the problems we have in homes with divorce, bankruptcy, criminal behavior, various illnesses, and, here is a big one,parents that are either unable or unwilling to spend time with their children. Is it more important to have both parents work, and your kids in day care, or to have one parent involved in your child's life at all times? There seems to be a lot of preference for money and lifestyle vs staying at home an teaching your kids some of these important life lessons.

    Public education is an opportunity for your child to learn new things that a set of educational experts have determined to be worth learning over time. The teachers have been taught how to teach, the cities have put resources in place for learning to occur.

    Like most other things in life, you will only get out of education what you are willing to put in with disciplined work and study. The children should understand this, and parents should re-enforce this lesson at home, then step up to do their part in the education of their child.
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      Jul 18 2013: Robert,

      While I agree with you on many points, I like to think that every child deserves a chance to a great education. Under your theory, if the parents don't care, the child should be left without a chance to receive an education, and in turn, an opportunity to be successful. Why wouldn't we want to do better, if it's well within our capabilities? If this is the stance we take as a nation, then we could be left in the dust as other countries take over in various technological fields. This problem could escalate to the point that even well prepared children cannot receive an education worthy of an advanced, technically driven, globalized economy.

      I do concede, however, that community and familial involvement is a key ingredient to education reform. Jal Mehta, who I quoted in my response below, writes about expanding the school system by increasing the communities’ role in educating children. Partnering with nonprofits and governmental programs designed to provide prekindergarten, after-school programs, summer environments, health clinics, etc. He cites the success of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a program that supports inner-city youth from birth through college. These types of support programs providing support to both parents and children are essential to successful first-world educational systems.
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        Jul 18 2013: Indeed both research and anecdotal evidence suggest the value of these auxiliary programs that support student learning both outside of school hours and sometimes during as well as the benefits of helping families help their children.

        I am surprised at the description of in-school computer use as focusing on display of worksheets as I have actually never seen it used for that but have for a long time seen computers used for what he describes as direct access to a world of online information.

        And my experience is with ordinary urban schools rather than affluent suburban ones.
      • Jul 19 2013: We both agree a child a child deserves a chance for a great education. Understand that I like your question, and the opportunity to respond.

        I don't really have a theory, but I do believe that percentage wise, the number of students that would benefit from a higher level of parental involvement may be significant enough to raise the US from the bottom third to the top third in math and science. I think the contribution of diligent hard work to both of these subjects is very high, and that while improving the learning techniques will help, it will not solve the real problem.

        A child whose parents do not care, still has the opportunity to learn the lessons not taught at home some other way, either at school or some other place. Nothing I said precludes this from happening. I believe the students taught these lessons at home will have a decisive advantage in ANY learning program at school, and since the academic environment is competitive, they may outperform the other students.

        Trying to improve the education system is an expectation that I have for the teaching profession. I trust them to expand our capabilities through research, the NEA, etc. and I trust the elected leaders to fund the efforts appropriately.

        Having parents involved as volunteer science lab presenters, computer learning volunteers, and field trips to places where interesting technological things are happening is something stay at home parents can do to help the entire group. Outside activities such as Scouts and 4-H are other learning opportunities, but once again fueled by parental volunteers. Modifying the tax code to close the income disparity gap between one income and two income families with children may be something we can do as a nation to help promote increase parental involvement in educating their children.

        Doing well in math and science is important, succeeding in life is essential. Parents actively involved in a child's education will help both occur.
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          Jul 19 2013: Robert,

          These are more great points, and I'm pleased that you posted. I was lacking knowledge of programs like the NEA, and am now much more educated. Your idea about modifying tax code is very interested. I wonder if there are any similar proposed initiatives that exist or may be already in action.
  • Jul 22 2013: I'm afraid I don't have time to read all 87 comments so far, but the emphasis seems to be on finding better ways to teach children, with the emphasis still on teaching rather than learning. I now believe the real revolution will come from shifting this perspective and giving children the freedom to educate themselves (providing adult facilitation and assistance, but making the learning completely self-directed).

    Peter Gray's new book, Free to Learn, is an excellent book that explains why this is the most effective approach: http://www.amazon.com/Free-Learn-Unleashing-Instinct-Self-Reliant/dp/0465025994/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374504135&sr=8-1&keywords=free+to+learn

    His website also has a lot of information: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn. See "The Education Revolution comments section for great examples of what people are doing already).

    This organization also has great resources: http://www.educationrevolution.org
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      Jul 23 2013: Why do you say the emphasis is on teaching rather than learning? Whose emphasis? Would you say something like core standards of what children should understand and be able to do is a learning-based or a teaching-based emphasis?
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        Jul 23 2013: There are a few basic skills that all young adults should acquire. I still maintain that teaching is selling. Children as buyers have their ideas, needs, and desire that they are looking to satisfy.
        If a child desires to be a carpenter, he has no interest in Pythagoras's theory, but he will learn how to use a carpenter's square which is needed to cut the triangles to form stairs and trusses, he will learn how to read contracts, the math to do estimates and learn to read blueprints for takeoffs... He could learn extensive math and never open an arithmetic book. My problem has been that supposedly highly educated and skilled educators rather fall into the idea of one education fits all promoted by the Feds for the money rather then provide young people with the education they would need to be successful adults.
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          Jul 23 2013: I am absolutely with you, Mike, that children's learning needs are different and that one-size-fits-all models are not best practice in advancing student learning.

          My question to Laura was a different one. When choices of how to set up the learning environment are to be guided by what children should come to understand or be able to do rather than how teachers should teach, normally that would be considered a focus on what kids learn (not teacher-based but learning-based). When you aim for certain learning outcomes rather than specifying how services should be delivered, that would normally not be considered a teacher-based emphasis.

          As another example, if a principal evaluates a teacher on what she seems to do in class, that is teacher-based. If a principal looks, rather, at what her students are doing and what they show they understand and are able to do, that is student-based. The latter is much more common now, I believe.

          I think the charge that the emphasis is teacher-based rather than learning-based may be somewhat behind the times, at least in my experience.
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        Jul 23 2013: I only have a minor in education, so, I am not the expert to directly address a model of effective instruction except to say that I see raw material going into K and I expect a fully functional young adult coming out at 12. I am not one to say that every child should go to college, those who want to should. Young people should not go to college because it is expected of them nor they are made to feel compelled to attend. .
        One extreme problem, a major manufacturer in our city has to train high school graduates on how to work. Many quit after a few days because they have to arrive on time and work for the day. That is the output of our public school system..
        The saddest story I've heard is that students who are not superior and have not indicated that they would like to go to college are most often shunted to the rear of the room and pretty much ignored, College bound students seem to bring great honor on a school , others are barely tolerated if not outright ignored and many just drop out.... nearly one of four children going into K never graduate from 12 and another fourth graduate are functionally illiterate. Need proof? Go to McDonalds and ask any worker who finished school and ask what was their experiences.
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          Jul 23 2013: It is interesting that in Texas, by your report "College bound students seem to bring great honor on a school, others are barely tolerated if not outright ignored..." I am much more accustomed to seeing by far the most energy and resources focused on the struggling student.

          This must be different in different states.
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        Jul 24 2013: If the student is handicapped or special needs... Energy and resources are focused.
        But, just a young student who maybe average, is interested in cars and is not planning on college...
        or a young man who is from a poorer family who works nights and weekends with his family landscaping business... and the list goes on...
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          Jul 24 2013: I wasn't referring to special needs. It must be different in different states.
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    Jul 22 2013: We are seeing reforms ... however, they are directed at Command and Control by the federal government. Those who are seeking change remind me of the "Hard to drain the water while the gators are biting at you." Each year there are new and shifting demands and requirements accompanied with decreasing budgets.

    Our administrators and teachers are doing well staying afloat while the amount of chain around their necks is being increased.

    Do current reforms really change anything? Yes. They centralize the power in Washington over the states.

    The problem as I see it is that some are fighting a war for education .... while the war is about power and control. Perhaps we should understand the problem better in order to level the battlefield.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Jul 22 2013: You point is well taken. The Feds dangle funds to entice the public school managers who sell their educational souls for green and their students suffer so.

      I have heard of school systems telling the Feds to go Fed themselves... those districts don't do fancy but the kids get schooled and isn't that what it should be all about.
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      Jul 22 2013: I guess the question is, then, do you think the reforms will help anything?

      My argument is that the current reforms will do nothing to change the fact that our children are increasingly under-educated to succeed in a globally technical marketplace, and soon we will see the U.S. falling significantly behind innovative and technologically well-adapted countries across the globe.

      I believe we should largely decentralize education and put it in the hands of well placed, well-paid, effective educators in a more locally regulated fashion (e.g. Finland). I also stress the importance of removing our dependence on standardized testing to format our curriculum, which creates a teaching method that 'teaches to the test' and eliminates the more logical 'thoughtful teaching' methods that gears more towards intuitive, resourceful thinking for the students.

      Are we heading in the wrong direction with our reforms?
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        Jul 22 2013: Absolutely. Arne Duncan has made no bones about it .... he wants to socialize education completely under government control ... he has stated that the fed should write all texts, devise all syllabus, write and grade all tests, which would also include teachers guides with daily assignments. Based on the current fed push to teach only CORE and STEM to the exclusion of any arts, trades, or crafts we are destined to repeat a "Dark Age".

        I repeat that the concern is Command and Control at the federal level and remove the states from the equation. This is a direct result of big government, Keynesian economics, and a direct route to socialism / communism.

        The promise of transparency, open government, accountability, etc ... has either been forgotten or ignored. We are more divided politically, racially and in all other ways than I have ever seen in my 70 years.

        The issue here is not education .... it is politics. As long as we are told it is about education the march to ultimate federal power will continue while we are looking at the classroom. The war will be over without our knowledge or a shot fired (figuratively).

        Sorry about the soap box. Thank you for your reply. I wish you well. Bob.
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        Jul 22 2013: The tide fifteen or twenty years ago was moving toward decentralization, with districts talking about building-based decision-making with the principal like a CEO, organizing his building with teachers to meet the needs of students.

        To the degree that building capacities allowed it, families could choose among schools, as things like test scores and program descriptions were provided in a centralized location online so families could compare and choose. Places at over-subscribed schools would be assigned by lottery, with some factors possibly weighing in ahead of lottery, like sibling preference..

        What has happened since? A few things. With recession and tighter budgets, districts have sometimes narrowed the range of choice to reduce the costs of school bus services to take kids across town, encouraging kids to attend their neighborhood schools. Further moving the system in this direction are the families who want their kids to walk to the neighborhood school but whose kids could not go there because students who lived farther away had chosen the school and the school was at capacity. You can't just expand and contract schools willy-nilly.

        Another quite different factor was that giving teachers the freedom to serve their students as they thought best meant that some classrooms, the ones with better teachers, for example, would have quite different outcomes for students than those with weaker teachers. To many district decision-makers, the most important goal is for all students to have the SAME outcomes rather than for some to do much better than others.

        This goal is perhaps the central factor leading to standardization of curriculum and centralized enforcement of that. What used to be called "differentiated instruction," which is to say choosing pedagogies tailored to the best pace and style of learning of individual students, is out of vogue in practice, though I doubt school administrations would necessarily admit to this.

        Look up Eric Hanushek's work.
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        Jul 22 2013: I think your points are well taken. And most of the current reforms will only make matters worse. To put in in the simplest terms, Every child is an unique individual, Every young adult has a need for common knowledge and that knowledge that will give him/her the ability to excel in what ever their endeavors .Public schools here were founded on the basis that new citizens of the USA need a knowledge of their new government and a few related skills that would come in handy. Our system evolved to local schools that would conceivably has students meet the local needs for skills.... Young people in Nebraska learned about cattle ranching, those in Boston learned about fishing.. The system seem to work well for awhile, where did it go wrong?
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    Jul 20 2013: I was on a school board for a year, and because of my career choice and multiple relocations, my children attended over a dozen different public schools, a number of which were considered excellent. I was also an adult instructor and managed an adult education and training program for 7 years. So, I had to "deal" with young adults who all had graduated high school and that was one of the more challenging jobs I held.
    So, what did I learn...
    Schools waste money. On page too many of the school budget, I saw No 2 pencils purchased at $2.50 per dozen from a school supply company when a local store were selling at $0.67 per dozen. I asked why. It seems the school supply company deliverers. ????
    Too many young high school graduates coming into the adult training program could not read and comprehend our text instructions that were crafted 8th grade level English. ?????
    I don't blame teachers, there are some great, some bad, most are good at their jobs. Students are just what they are, all different: socially, culturally, ethically, intellectually, physically, and every other way you can describe.
    It's about management. They hired the teachers, set the curriculum (with way to much governmental input) and prescribe how relevant information can be fed into those little minds that can be come functional knowledge.
    It shouldn't be that hard unless the managers get to involved in empire building, building alliances with other entities whose basic motivations are money and power..
    Then educating children is really hard....

    PS. I got the "you are not an educator look" when I was on the school board, but I know BS when I step in it without a PhD in Education.
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    • Aug 1 2013: Deepak Behl you are selling a doomsday-cult here. Brahma Kumaris, is an Indian spiritualist cult, which is passing itself off as a university; the so called "Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University" (BKWSU). Please note the BKWSU is not officially recognised as a university nor qualified to call itself one in any country and is just a cover name.The Brahma Kumarism are a strictly "End of the World" religion based on mediumistic teachings from a “spirit entity” adherents believe is the God of all religions speaking to humanity exclusively through their psychic mediums only. They do not follow or promote Hinduism, nor do they teach “ancient” Raja Yoga as they claim. Instead they use the language of such traditions, the New Age and personal growth movements with hidden meanings in order to to attract and acquire new adherents and are noted for the secrecy which they hide their true teachings and historical revision from newcomers in order to gradually encult them. Increasingly, they are also using the appearance of coaches and therapists, and a living value program for schools. It is attempting to use false representation in order to gain influence in society. Central to Brahma Kumari beliefs is that 7,000,000,000 plus human beings must die during an imminent and desirable ‘End of the World’ which they called “Destruction” and will inspire, in order that 900,000 of their faithful followers will inherit a heaven on earth around 2036. They encourage adherents to believe that a high status can be achieved after it by donating money, property, free labor and unquestioning mental submission to their leadership, who will rule the world as Emperors and Empresses. Whilst making numerous failed predictions of the End of the World going back to WWII, 1950, 1976, mid-1980s, the religion has continued to amass great wealth. These failures have been hidden from newcomers and re-written whilst the organization increasingly seeks funding. Please sell your religion elsewhere.
  • Jul 20 2013: You have the union of the bureaucracy (politicians, admin, local board of ed, teachers), unions, and industry supplying the educational system who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. If you get someone doing some reform, the trio will get together to stop it by voting out the people who are supporting the change and voting in people that will pull money and fire the people making the changes.

    In most cases, they do not let people in that would support change in the 1st place.
  • Jul 20 2013: First of all you must ask the question, does it matter what so-called maths and science scores other countries achieve? Why does it matter? Is it important to learn in the way that these test scores expect and demand? Is this sort of achievement what science and maths is really all about or are these kind of tests what is asked for in order for the students to satisfy an employer rather than the essence of maths and science?

    This question also asks an additional question: when young children want to learn, they are full of passion for it, then what happens in high school? After recovering from the hormones of puberty and the socialisation process you get "back on track" by following the expected route. learning your subjects and being taught in that dead way. Compare this to a Montessori or Steiner school which is a rich environment in comparison to the other ways of teaching that most students encounter.
  • Jul 19 2013: Your problem isn't limited to a complex interconnected legislation, bureaucracy, politics, unions and economics (if you can call such a broad field of issues limited...). Its also cultural.
    A successful educational system needs strong cultural support and tradition. Unfortunately, a tradition can be even harder to set up than a physical infrastructure.

    While I haven't been to the US in some years, my own country has the same problem with its educational system on the grade school level (the academies at least, are fine thankfully, largely due to different cultural norms).
    You can see it in the culture--most people see and view teaching schools as an undesirable position. Teachers aren't given much respect, and the pay reflects it. As a reason, quality people stay away from teaching, perpetuating the stereotype.
    Once you start hearing the expression "those who can't, teach", you know you've got a problem, especially with mathematics and hard science, where those truly proficient will usually prefer to find other sources of employment. (less of a problem with history or literature, were you're usually stuck teaching anyway).

    The problem doesn't end with the teachers though. If the children aren't pressured to study properly by the society around them, sometimes even the best teachers in the world won't help. In the US for example, the people being idolized aren't doctors, engineers or scientists. They're reality TV stars, celebrities, and billionaires. This is the natural result of communications technology + lowest common denominator I know, but its harmful non the less.

    So to sum things up, the problem is deeply rooted in the culture as well as the infrastructure and the politics around it.
    Anyone trying to fix the problem truly has their work cut out for them. I'm not saying its not worth doing, on the contrary. I can only guarantee one thing, and that it will be a long, grueling process.
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      Jul 19 2013: Nadav,

      Thank you for the reflection. Do you have any ideas on how to change this problem?
      • Jul 20 2013: Honestly, not in all but the most general sense.
        I'm not an educator myself (a lot due to the reasons I've mentioned above actually), and diagnosing the problem is easier then solving it. Especially when any cultural change has to ironically enough, come from the very educational system you need it to fix.

        You can build a ship in three years, but building a tradition takes three hundred...

        It doesn't help that this being a deep, and very complex issue, its hard to get specifics into an election campaign.
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    Jul 19 2013: I think the main problem is that we cannot agree which of the alternatives to choose from or start to agree upon to implement...
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      Jul 19 2013: Christophe,

      I agree!

      The big problem is that the solution is going to involve a complex web of programs, funding, legislation, restructuring and training. There is not solution that includes a one step plan, and each individual piece of the process could be debated. We need to tackle this problem first, to get SOMETHING started so that we can begin this long process. I wonder if anyone has any good recommendations??
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      Jul 19 2013: "Political consensus to educate all children together in a common school system" seems to be where Finland started. If we all could agree on that it may be possible to start the movement! What are your thoughts?
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        Jul 20 2013: I don't know.
        As children have different interests and capacities and ways of learning... maybe we need to take that into account, although a kid's interest is strongly dependent on the interests of parents and later peers...

        We organised a TEDx Salon around education, and there were a lot of teachers there. I think that they want to have some extra space to try things out.
        Some complained that administration and testing got too much of them, as the rules require a lot of paperwork when it comes to inspection. I suggested leaving the paperwork out and film the classroom instead. As such, the inspection can see how effective they teach and they didn't have to fill out the paperwork. No that they really liked to be filmed, or that our laws allow for it, but I can't imagine that there are no solutions to decrease the overhead time of a teacher while not needing extra investments.

        Giving a broader freedom of teaching and rewarding the good ones (now they all get the same wage) might be a step in the right direction.

        And a constant evaluation of the content we wish to learn... maybe we need to ask "what would I want my children to learn or know?"

        As for movements: they also exist already. Maybe trying to connect the different movements and initiatives together to generate strength in number might be a good next step.
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          Jul 20 2013: I appreciate your participation as someone who has gotten into this at some depth, including looking at what is really happening to improve education on the ground. Indeed there is no scarcity of movements in action in this terrain! There are huge numbers of people, both within schools and involved in auxiliary services and associated programs, working tirelessly to try to provide all children with a quality education focused on critical thinking and the tools of independent learning.

          It is not static.
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    Jul 19 2013: Daniel,
    I have been beating this drum for years. The failing our our general public school systems is appalling. I lay the problem to school management and intervention by the federal government using tax funds to sway educational policy. I look at the historical education policies. Founding fathers encouraged free public education to insure the people had the where with all to sustain the new constitutional republic they founded. And yes, progressive policies of the early 1900s became the new gospel of academia and found it's way into public education. What has been lost is most young high school graduates have no idea how they are governed and sadly don't seem to care.
    I also hold that we need to help young people find their place in society. Not every young adult needs to to to advance education programs.... the country is up to it's armpits in lawyers and you have a hard time to find a plumber.
    So, we have not teachers, but facilitators giving out workbooks on the state exams to insure the funding stream stays solvent. We have a federal department of education with a national policy that all children are created equal, with the average IQ, the average size and weight, the average nutritional requirements, are the average goal of going to the average college as all children have equal rights to be average. With all the mismanagement of local schools and the mindset of federal bureaucrats, I am surprised that we are doing as well as we are.
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      Jul 19 2013: I would say that we are doing as well as we are because of the desire of the students to learn. I believe that there IS a desire to learn, but we are not tapping into it correctly. It's the ability to tap into that desire that the very best teachers possess. Studying this process and focusing it is ultimately important. Bill Gates is doing much to improve our understanding of what it takes to be a great educator. I'm getting off topic here.

      I agree that the standardized testing is failing our school system in many ways, and I believe that it would help our schools if we redesigned this system or eliminated it altogether. Finland has a great, and successful method of standardized testing that I think we should emulate here.

      What do you propose?
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        Jul 19 2013: It is not about testing. Its about management.
        So, how to fix it. Any public school system above the individual schools and principals should be removed and a new minimal management group be installed. The new managers would be responsible for limited logistics and personnel support. Security, transportation,food service and non instruction services would be contracted out or eliminated. Principals would be responsible for their schools and the teachers. Teachers would establish the specific teaching syllabus from a very general guide line of curriculum.
        Or the alternative.... any idea better then what is now happening...
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          Jul 19 2013: This is a great idea Mike! Is there a platform already written out to implement something like this? What's the first step?
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        Jul 20 2013: There is nothing new in my proposal, it is basically how Finland does it.
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    Jul 19 2013: here is my take. because education is a public issue. if an issue is public, a solution has to be nation wide. to reform education, you need the majority of politicians agree on it, and most teachers agree on it, and most parents agree on it.

    for politicians to agree on it, the reform must be popular. otherwise they would lose votes.

    for parents to agree on it, they would have to watch less oprah and reality shows, and educate themselves on the issue.

    for teachers to agree on it, they would have to be willing to take the extra effort of learning stuff and changing stuff.

    what is the chance that all these will come together at any point in time? let me assert that it is nil.

    the solution is of course to make education private. in that case, you don't have a nation wide agreement. all you need is 30 parents and 5 teachers to make a decision. if they are successful, others will follow them.
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      Jul 19 2013: So, then, do we eliminate public education altogether? Do we give parents vouchers for their children to attend private schools?

      Is there a proposal out there already to take action in a way that you agree with? Do you have your own ideas about how this could be accomplished?
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        Jul 19 2013: voucher is one idea. i'm a little bit more extreme, and i suggest that we don't need the government in education at all, in any way. there should be no public schools at all, and people can buy the education to their children on the market. there could be funds and there could be free schools maintained by churches, corporations or other organizations.
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          Jul 19 2013: Do you believe that this solution would provide for every child to receive an education with the opportunity to become economically independent? My problem with your proposition is that only the rich parents would have the capability to provide their children with a great education. How do you solve the issue of equal opportunity?
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        Jul 19 2013: no. just like today's system does not provide that. today, millions are failing every year, they dropped out of school, or attending but not learning anything useful.

        food is distributed in similar manner. yet, nobody complains that rich people get better food. this is how things are. there is no mass starvation, so there is no reason to take over the food market, and invade liberty in such a violent way. we accept the fact that people have different opportunities. the best way to deal with it is to let them work on it.

        the same principle should apply to education. the fact that some people are poor, and struggling is not enough reason to "publicize" education. if you care about the poor, provide them free education, and leave others alone.
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      Jul 19 2013: Right, lets have more Yale's and Harvard's and start even earlier at private kindergarten, private preschools and private elementary schools so that we can ensure that those who can afford those private school fees, stay undisturbed as long as possible from those who can't, such as the mob, the poor, the stupid ... :o) It'll be soon enough to face that crowd anyway, the moment you haven't found a way around but to hire them, being on the side of 'job creators' ...

      Who cares for talent as long as your wallet is big enough?

      This would be the end of education, not its beginning!
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        Jul 19 2013: you are saying that a major percentage of the population could not afford schooling?
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        Jul 19 2013: i think that you don't say things because you actually believe in them. you are just having fun. that is what i think.
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          Jul 19 2013: Then, you are mistaken. But I see that there is a chance, that my humor could be misunderstood at times. In my longer comment above, the humor used was irony to contradict the sadness about what it contains.

          So let me ask you again, do you think I was 'saying that a major percentage of the population could not afford schooling' or not?
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        Jul 19 2013: yes i think. because today, the school system does not serve a significant portion of the population, and they happen to be the poor ones. so unless you expect a larger portion getting no or unsatisfactory education in a free system, your comment does not make sense.
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          Jul 19 2013: You are partly right with your assumption, because, taking Europe for example, the school system does serve a significant portion of the population AND is free of charge, yet despite its debatable quality, it is not 'educating' the people for their own good, talents and interests, but for the purpose to 'function' within, lets call it, 'the system'.

          So when the purpose of education is not focused on a very individual, it changes into 'branding', into producing 'tools', aka 'workers', which we produce in the given, conveyer belt like 'school industry' today.

          From your former comments I remember you as a 'Neo Liberal' minded person, who blames, in a reflex and right after Canada, the government even when the weather turns bad. So by pretending to have read all the same smart books about economy you appear to have consumed, I figured, that it was logically from this perspective to get the education system privatized. All in all not that difficult, so even I was able to manage that.

          But sometimes reality dares to deviate from beautifully constructed 'business models' and it does not help to insist on the lines written. So taken the fact, that more and more families of the so called 'middle class' are struggling already to earn enough to get through a month, paying additional fees for private schools for their children, didn't appear a good solution to me.

          By doing a bit of math and some averaging in annual income of one teacher, just one, it would cost 130 Euro per month for a family for one child out of a class of 30 students.

          So for 5 teachers, which would count for most STEM + language + one art, it adds up to 650 Euro/month for just one child and this just for the teachers, without any cost of any infrastructure, materials, books, etc.

          So for an average middle class German family with two kids this 1300 + Euro/month is simply not affordable ... and 30 students in one class is doing the rest to education anyway...

          So whats your calculation?
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        Jul 19 2013: here is my calculation. in hungary, a teacher gets approximately the average wage. a teacher instructs 30 children at a time. so if we assume 8 hours school time (which is more than we have today), 1/30 of an average salary would be the monthly fee for a child. that is easily affordable for the absolute majority, only the poorest would have any problems. this does not mean, of course, that they would have no schooling. they would have to look for even cheaper alternatives. finally, the ones that can not afford any education whatsoever, are the ones that has problem with food or heating, that live practically outside of society.

        this effect is compounded by the fact that the government spends (wastes) a whole lot more on education. we have large bureaucratic systems, centrally decided reorganizations. so if we get rid all of this, reduce taxes by the same amount, suddenly a lot more parents can afford schooling for their children without help. remember, the government does not create, just redistributes.

        on the other hand, what we have today is a school system that is literally just a storage facility for about 5-10% of the population. they benefit of it in no way at all. another large part gets enough knowledge to be a useful droid in a factory or office. they spend 12 years of their lives to get to that level. this could be achieved in much less time, or with the same effort much more could be achieved.

        as i see it, almost everyone would win, a few people would remain where they are, and i'm not even sure anyone would lose, but if yes, negligible numbers. i don't see rational reasons on the side of public education.

        let me add that it was never a goal to be useful or beneficial. public education is a control mechanism. the coward and ignorant majority simply wants the misconceptions they grew up with not to be challenged. they just don't want new things.
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          Jul 19 2013: Here are the official numbers:

          Average annual gross salaries of full time fully qualified teachers in public schools in Euro (before tax):


          Pre-primary: 7.839 / no data
          Primary: 8.789 / 46.819*
          Lower secondary: 8.789 / 52.137*
          Upper secondary: 10.106 / 57.669*

          * average of min/max salary


          Example calculation for one Upper secondary teacher:

          Hungary/ Germany
          Upper secondary: 10.106 / 57.669* per year
          842 / 4.805 per month

          For 5 teacher: 4.210 / 24.028 per month (no infrastructure)

          Divided by 30
          families: 140 / 800 per month per family

          2 children: 280 / 1.600 per month per family with 2 kids

          Average family
          income: 872/ 3.600 per month / before tax

          - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

          private school cost
          percentage: 32% / 44% of family income per month

          Max. income tax
          rate **: 16% / 45%

          Average Gross annual Earnings in the business economy (full-time employees) 2011 in Euros:

          Hungary / Germany

          10.467* / 43.300*

          * before tax



          So you are saying, that with reduced taxation we go better in your system?

          How do you explain then, that only the cost of the teachers would already be higher per month per families with two kids, than the given MAXIMUM income tax-rate in both our countries, of which we both know they do not apply to middle class families with kids?

          Run the numbers yourself to get to know what nonsense you are proposing here!
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        Jul 19 2013: what is your profession? let me guess that it does not involve math. you don't multiply with the number of teachers, unless you multiply the number of children too. i deliberately left this out, because it changes nothing, only makes things more convoluted.
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          Jul 19 2013: I don't know about Hungary, but in Germany the gross salaries only reflect a fraction of the true cost of an employee, and we are not running our schools without buildings, maintenance, school dinner, kitchen personnel, health insurance, pension programs, etc., etc.

          Do a better estimation on how cheap your idea is going to be if mine isn't precise enough for your likings, but you won't find anything in your favour.
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        Jul 19 2013: that is the statist thinking. we want a huge building with gym, computer room, etc. but it is not necessary, it is just good to have. poor people buy cheap clothing, cheap car, and cheap education. then can gather in the living room of a volunteering parent. or the church. we are pretending that we can guarantee such high class social services to everyone, but in fact what we are doing is two things: we take liberties away, and we stop progress. that is not the future. that is the present.

        your calculation was wrong. my calculation was simplified, but correct.
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          Jul 19 2013: My calculation was your simplified calculation filled with valid numbers. But it doesn't matter.

          'Poor people buy cheap clothing, cheap car, and cheap education... etc, etc, etc...'

          You got to be kidding me! Are you getting payed for such statements? Are you working for some privately financed PR agency, a Goldman Sachs subsidiary maybe? That is so 'predatory capitalism' like I have never ever heard anybody speak of before.

          You got to change your sort of literature, as it seems you are loosing all points of humanity in case you ever owned them... :o)

          Liberty without equality is leading no where but into a gloomy inhumane future. If this is progress to you, spare me your concept of stagnation ... :o)

          But as your humor is easy to miss too, I take your last comment as such ...
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        Jul 19 2013: some real arguments? no? never mind. you are here to goof around anyway.
    • Jul 20 2013: Krisztian, your understanding of the U. S. school funding is slightly different than the actual system. The U.S. Constitution said that the education of K-12 should be managed by the Individual state, The federal government really doesn't have to interfere if it doesn't want to. The state then requires taxes to finance all the schools, then allocates the funds according to the # of students in each "district". Furthermore, large cities or towns can charge additional taxes from the local residents to supplement the state funding. So some state like Louisiana decided to issue school vouchers;( $2000 per student per year), taking the fund from the school allocation per student, to anyone who like to send their children to charter or private schools (except religious schools).
      So this is not as difficult as you said, but it's not so easy either. However, the states should have the Constitutional right to change the school systems within their states to certain extent. Therefore, the cost factor is not the whole issue. In some state, the funds by the state just go to the charter schools (chartered annually by the state) directly and no private schools are allowed to participate.
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        Jul 20 2013: i think you are mistaken. i don't know the insides of the US school system, but what i have gathered from different discussions is that the curriculum is regulated by law. also i expect to be a lot of red tape around creating schools, which effectively prevents a lot of small organizations and individuals to act. i also know that you have to have a partial picture from the fact that you americans talk about the school system. there is no hotdog stand system. there is no barber shop system. and even if you lament about the power of walmart, there are many other malls around. the free market tends to bring about a great variety of different providers. monolithic solutions suggest state prevalence.
        • Jul 20 2013: You are right about the current curriculum of PUBLIC SCHOOLS are more or less "regulated " by the federal government, but the regulation is not based on the Constitution, and certainly not compulsory to private or schools of special education programs such as KIPP, etc. Furthermore some curriculum like "common core program" were used by states with the CONSENT OF THEIR STATE GOVERNORS. In other word if a state governor does not want to join the common core program, constitutionally they could use their own program materials. Although the program like "no child left behind" were carried out by almost all the states simply because the federal money grant attached to it. If you don't join in, you wouldn't have the money. That's exactly why many of us are complaining about it, the fact that you probably read about them in TED talks before.
          So please note that it was the preamble I said in my post.
          There was another similar federal interference about the Obama Care Program which originally stipulated that the states must be in health program of Medicaid (which insures people at poverty levels financed jointly by the state and federal fund) After a law suit decision by the US Supreme Court, the Medicaid Program managed by the state will get the federal funding at the previous level without the states' obligation of managing the Medicaid with additional insurance participants under ObamaCare. The Court also leaves the states the choice of whether to take up the new Medicaid Program after ObamaCare becomes effective in 2014. Here the choice for the states becomes a little complicated in the money matter. So the current count of states taking up the subsidized Medicaid program is 17 takers and 34 decliners. Because, the choice of accept or decline for the "no child left behind" incurs no additional expenses to implement this federal program with subsidies, while the states will probably pay more of their share of medicaid insurance premiums even with the federal subsidies
  • Jul 19 2013: apologies....meant to quote this earlier....(ENCOURAGING DATA! :-)

    " Children in the United States watch an average of three to four hours of television a day. By the time of high school graduation, they will have spent more time watching television than they have in the classroom."

    -American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry
    (Here's the topic for Ken's next talk)
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      Jul 19 2013: I can't wait to see it!

      I love to listen to him speak. He has so many thought provoking ideas!
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    Jul 19 2013: Profit-driven inertia impedes real reform. Powerful forces want the status quo. Less powerful forces want reform. Guess who gets their way? Solution?. . . increase power of the Reformers to meet or exceed the power of the Opposers.
  • Comment deleted

  • Jul 19 2013: First, I must ask you to clearly define "broken".

    If you mean that every child should be educated at a level that they can go to college and be successful there, then we have to discuss what success is. In some countries where that is an expectation, you also find high suicide rates in teens that fail to meet that mark.

    If you mean that every child should be educated to their ability level and provided the skills with which to earn a living wage, then we are on to something.

    Too often, the belief is that every child will go to college. Well, to put it bluntly, I still need someone to change the oil in my car and provide services requiring less than a college degree. Every child going to college is a pipe dream at best. One that is argued against by good teachers but supported by school administrators because it sounds good to the public. It is not a reality though.

    When you look at these countries that are "doing better than the United States", you should also ask "at what cost"? Are you prepared to have your child in school for 8 hours plus another 4 - 6 hours of private academy or other type of education after school? Plus the homework load from both? This is happening in some of those "top" countries right now. If that is what you feel the United States needs to do to be successful, then that is a system I would not support.

    I am curious to hear your thoughts on what "broken" is and what you think "success" would look like.
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      Jul 19 2013: Everett,

      You have an excellent point here, and one that got me thinking about what exactly it is that I expect the education system to provide. Every student going to college is not my expectation. My expectation is that every student, upon completing their k-12 education, has the ability to choose whether or not to go to college -- regardless of economic or social status. My expectations also include that we educate our children in a way that our society can remain competitive in a post-industrial, highly technical global economy. Otherwise, America will no longer be a leader in innovation, but will become a society that provides support to the countries that are. Do we want to leave our future generations with enough talent to become shoe shiners for the countries that educated their kids to be technological innovators?
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    Jul 19 2013: From what I read the problem has been caused by the influence of psychology/psychiatry in the school system.

    Think about this, Edward Bernays was used by the President Woodrow Wilson to influence people for his agenda. He was credited by communist countries for teaching them everything they know about manipulating people. Remember Wilson brought us income tax, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the hugely corrosive 17th amendment. Where did Bernays learn what he knew? from his uncle Sigmund Freud.

    To further punctuate the point, almost every single school shooting, was committed by a student on psychiatric drugs. I have had a interest in this because as a kid the school prescribed psychiatric drugs to me. Not that I had any desire to commit such an atrocity, I will say that the drug leave a mark.

    So the real simple and workable real answer is to get psychology/psychiatry and their "medication" the F out of schools.
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      Jul 19 2013: Pat,

      Excellent point! Sir Ken Robinson speaks on this issue in this talk:


      I would agree that we, as a society, are over-prescribing these drugs. What is the solution to this problem? I think the first step is to educate the parents on what these drugs could really do to their kids. What do you think?
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        Jul 19 2013: YES

        Secondly schools should go to a voucher system.
  • Jul 19 2013: First, I want to say that according to a report cited by the aei.org, as a result of the deterioration of U.S. education system, the present crop of high school graduates are probably having PISA proficiency equal to the 8th graders in the countries with better education systems. So, how can the parents who are just the product of our failed system in the past 20-30 years to supplement the school teaching? .I like the 2nd suggestion by aei.org copied below:
    "A second possibility is that the system constructed in the Progressive Era will gradually be replaced by a new set of actors and institutions. Each of the institutions that serve a major function in the current system faces challengers that are seeking to replace it. Charter operators such as KIPP, Green Dot, and Achievement First are competing with traditional public schools; Teach For America, TNTP, and a variety of other alternative certification providers are creating new routes for entering teachers; charter networks have created their own teacher preparation institutions such as Relay Graduate School of Education in New York and the High Tech High Graduate School of Education in San Diego to replace traditional education school training; and foundations like the Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation are actively funding economists and others from outside the usual educational research world to do what they view as more rigorous analysis.
    Consequently, a longstanding cartel now has an active challenger. While numerically still small in comparison to the much larger traditional cohort, this group of challengers has received enormous media attention, has considerable influence in a number of major cities (for example, in Washington, DC, New York, and New Orleans), and has increasingly had its ideas incorporated into federal policy.[6]"
    The only way is to gradually and radically change the entire system by infusing of "new blood" teachers based on carefully designed training programs.
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      Jul 19 2013: Bart,

      Jal Mehta (the author of this report) is who I was quoting in my original post for this topic! I agree with many of the recommendations that he writes about in this essay. I believe that it will take a combination of several of these ideas (and others) in order to create change.
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    Jul 18 2013: Modern governments are not equipped to deal appropriately with education. Largely because they do not care and also because there is no money to be made from it. It's an investment of a different kind that most politicians just cannot understand.

    Too many career bureaucrats are brought up to worship the business model and there is no personal gain for them to be had by reforming education.

    The only reason governments have not already pimped education out completely to the private sector is that it remains a real contender for vote-garnering. This is why politicians make all those promises at election time that never come true.
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      Jul 18 2013: Scott,

      I completely agree! Our political system is corrupt and blocking reform! Lawrence Lessig and his Rootstrikers.org movement are what I believe to be a key ingredient to solving this, and many other troubling problems facing the country today. Let's assume that we can fix the political problem through eliminating corporate giving... Just for the purpose of this conversation. What, then, could we do to improve education in America?

      Here is a link to a paper summarizing two of the key concepts that I believe are central to the topic:


      In this, Jal Mehta contends that there are five possible approaches to reform. In my opinion, his ideas on "transforming the system" and "expanding the system", in combination with some general restructuring could provide the changes we need to improve education.
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      Jul 18 2013: When I say "general restructuring", these are the issues I'm speaking of: Politics, nationally regulated curriculum based on standardized testing, teachers’ unions and lack of sound funding methods all stand in the way of effective reform. Political process on the state and federal level makes it difficult to effectively improve legislation that regulates and finds our schools in a timely manner. The process is too slow, and often bogged down even further by competing partisan agendas. There is significant data showing that teaching to a standardized test creates a shallower teaching environment, since many teachers change their methods to teach facts instead of intuitive ways of thinking. Teachers’ unions may be the largest contributor to the stagnation of educational improvement, mostly by making it difficult to weed out bad teachers and simultaneously making it difficult to recruit top talent into the field. They grant tenure to mediocre educators, deny administrators the much needed ability to properly evaluate teachers in the classroom, complicate and delay the hiring process, block useful reforms regarding teacher evaluation and incentives, keep experienced teachers out of the worst schools, lower pay for good teachers while increasing pay for ineffective ones and generally raise costs and increase red tape. In addition, teachers unions’ contribution to political campaigns to strategically block reform legislation plays a key role. Fluctuating state budgets, state budget mismanagement and a lack of federal funding create budget shortfalls in schools across the nation. This is especially detrimental to the inner city and rural schools that need the most help. We have a lot of work to do.
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        Jul 18 2013: In New Zealand, we have had a pretty proud history when it comes to education.

        I used to be a primary school teacher and can safely say, we have an excellent curriculum document.

        Unfortunately, our current government is hell-bent on returning to out-moded forms of assessment (basically all the old ways that most other countries are fighting to remove) largely so they have some simplistic stats to feed the public that support whatever their real agenda is. Invalid, irrelevant and weak assessment systems completely undermine a curriculum, no matter how good it is.

        My belief is that the education sector should be removed from the political sphere altogether especially as most ministers have zero experience in the field and really just push pens.

        If a percentage of tax dollars went straight to education (bypassing the government altogether) and there was an independent body focused solely on education, then we might see some real progress. (I have no doubt that most politicians would balk at this concept and try to quickly rush through laws allowing them to get their hands on the dollars if this ever went ahead)

        That way, communities could be more involved in decision making, it would prevent education from becoming a political football and would also put barriers up to prevent the private sector from turning our schools into a kind of captive market audience.

        My 2 cents - I know it's simplistic but I think it's pretty obvious that the answers are not coming from government.
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          Jul 18 2013: Scott,

          Again, I absolutely agree! A good example of this is Finland, whose government relinquishes most of the educational control to the local districts, including curriculum. They also have very limited standardized testing, which plays into your other point nicely. It's not a wonder why the Finnish system of education is now considered the worldwide 'gold standard'.
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        Jul 18 2013: I have to ask what you mean by saying teachers unions raise pay for bad teachers and lower pay for good ones.
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        Jul 19 2013: In most places, at least until recently, pay has not been connected at all to performance. What has been very widely true is that teachers who have taught longer get paid a lot more than new teachers.

        If newer teachers are typically more effective than those with more experience, pay and quality would be negatively correlated. If teachers with more experience are typically better, the pay structure would not favor the least effective teachers.

        I think whatever correlation arises comes from a structure in which pay is driven entirely by seniority. It isn't that unions aim to steer pay either toward or away from better teachers.

        Because pay is not typically connected to performance, one should expect to find both good and poor teachers at every pay grade.
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          Jul 19 2013: This is a very intriguing concept to me. I wonder if there is any evidence to support this?
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        Jul 19 2013: Please tell me what you are looking for evidence to support. That pay structures have not typically been connected to teacher effectiveness but rather to seniority?

        I am good at digging up research, but I need to know what you are seeking.

        Meanwhile, the pay structures for public schools are absolutely public information. Anyone who wants to know what drives pay in a school district should be able to find this information by going to the website for the District and then within the Human Resources department, the salary schedule should be available for public review.

        Another place to look at what has driven pay historically is the literature on "merit pay." This idea was first investigated, as I recall, in the 1970s.
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          Jul 20 2013: Fritzie,

          I apologize for the confusion here. I was under the impression that you were telling me that the pay scale never differed. After re-reading your comment, you were actually telling me that it only differed by seniority and not performance. So, in response, I would like to say that we SHOULD differ pay based on performance (even though we shouldn't base it solely on the results of standardized tests, but reviews by a competent team of administrators). Teachers' unions strictly oppose these measures, and block any legislation attempting a merit based pay system of any type.
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        Jul 20 2013: You are right that teachers unions dislike merit pay systems.