Wednesday, August 31, 2011

College Board report says that teenagers still think like teenagers

So I’m reading a variety of blogs that are looking at this report from the College Board; the “One Year Out” report.  1,500 “year out” kids were polled about their high school careers translating into college or work.  Some analysis is critical of what high schools are providing for students because of a few statistics:

-Those who went on to college found the courses were more difficult than expected (54 percent), and 24 percent were required to take noncredit remedial or developmental courses. Of those taking remedial programs, 37 percent attended a two-year college and 16 percent did not make it through the first year of college.

-To succeed, 44 percent of graduates said they wished they had taken different classes in high school. Among those, 40 percent wished they had taken more math, 37 percent wished they would have taken more classes that prepared them for a specific job, and 33 percent wished they had taken more science courses.

Not totally surprising in my eyes.  But then check out Curriculum Matters’ attempt to manage the teenage mind.

“…graduates who enrolled in college clearly had a reason to say they wish they'd taken tougher courses in high school; half reported that their college courses were more difficult than they'd expected, and one-quarter got stuck in remedial classes. But here comes the confounding piece: two-thirds of the students still report that their high schools did a good job of preparing them for college-level work.

High schools got mixed reports about how well they did preparing students for work, too. Four in 10 students said their schools fell short in that regard. Students' voices showed more discontent with the way their schools prepared them for work than with the way they prepared them for college, suggesting that high schools are more accomplished on the college-ready side of the coin than they are on the work-ready side.

Students also complained that they got too little help mastering everyday life skills, like managing their finances, and in making a smooth transition to college life.

When you roll all of that up together, it's interesting to learn that 82 percent of the students still look back on their overall high school experience and report that they are satisfied with it. (This at the very same time that 80 percent of the students said they would change something about their high school years.)”

By the way, the title of the above blog post is “High School Shortchanged Us, Students Report”.  I find it amusing that the tone of the post seems so astounded at the vacillation of the teenage mind.   Let me help translate some of this. 

Student: “Mr. Silva-Brown, I’d like to take your AP U.S. History class.  It’s said to be rigorous and does a good job preparing you for college.  Only I want to remind you that I will be gone about six weeks during the year.  I have to go to my cousin’s wedding, my family Christmas in Southern California, a ski trip in February, and I need to visit a few college in April.  Oh and I golf too so I might miss a few Thursdays and Fridays in the Spring.  And make sure this class isn’t in the mornings either because I’ll miss a few because I enjoy the sleep.  Oh, and do you have a lot of reading?  I have a lot to do in the afternoon what with working with little kids and hanging out at Starbucks.  And during the two Homecoming weeks I need to work on the float and the skit and the…. Wait.  You know what?  This class really isn’t for me.” 

Fast forward to a year later.

Student:  “Fucking high school didn’t prepare me for this college shit.”

Fast forward to another year later when they take the poll.

Student:  “Yeah, high school didn’t really do a good job preparing me for the workload of college.”

Pollster:  “So you didn’t enjoy your high school experience?”

Student:  “No way!  I loved it!  We won the Spirit Bell.  I played some fantastic golf courses.  I had an active social life.  Learned some calculus.  Hung out with family.  I probably could have worked a little harder, but damn if I was going to let essays interfere with Homecoming.”

I’ve had a dozen students bail out of two AP classes this year and take less rigorous courses.  Some even brought their parents into my classroom to give a spiel about how tough their kid’s schedule was and that I shouldn’t even think of challenging the drop.  I didn’t and they left.  It’s their choice. 

Look, kids that want to go to college are told over and over about the rigor of college, and only people that haven’t been on a campus would think they have been someone duped that college is easy.  We work and work with kids to push themselves inside and outside the classroom.  Many do.  The average kid does not.  The average kid finds the greatest benefit through the path of least resistance until he/she realizes that they’ll have to work to get a piece of the pie of life.  Want to know why kids have a tough transition to college?  Because a huge swath do not visit the campus, rank academics as a lower priority than social life, and totally forget that they are even going to college until August.  Or did you totally forget about Senioritis. 

Want more insight about how teenagers are thinking?  Before you analyze statistics give a really honest look at how you were in high school.  The answers might make more sense. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Do better than maintain

The students are now a week and a half into the school year and for all intents and purposes the honeymoon is over.  Yep, the Juniors are being blasted by their toughest year ever while the Seniors just hunker down and try to get by, unhappy that the same old is probably going to happen for the fourth year in a row.

This is why you will change things.  You won’t be normal, you won’t be average, you won’t maintain.  While other teachers are starting to fall into the groove of doing things they way they have always been done, you are going to remain spiced up.  Oh sure, you spent a lot of energy engaging kids attention during the first week.  Well so did everyone else.  The question is whether you will maintain the creativity, the accountability, and the engagement. 

Change the littlest things.  Bring your energy level up.  Have students wander while doing something engaging.  Stop your presentations at twenty minutes and do something else.  SMILE!  Do those things that many have decided to skip because “it just works better the way it’s always worked”.  Find the energy. 

The kids will thank you for it, just probably not now.  Even if some of the faces are tired, some of the attitudes are rough, and some of the work is just “eh”, you must maintain the enthusiasm because the students do appreciate it, they just aren’t impressed by the other 4,5, whatever number classes.  The little differences will resonate with them at this point and for the rest of the year.  And by the end of the year the kids will flood you with praise, even if they spent the entire year acting like, you know, teenagers. 

So don’t try it, commit to it.  Don’t be satisfied with maintaining.        

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hello #EdCampSFBay

My final professional development opportunity of the summer was on the Saturday before school began and was located at Skyline High School in Oakland, California.  The idea of EdCamp is that you have no prepared sessions at all when you arrive.  Then sessions go up a board that are directed by whoever is there; teachers, professors, ed tech professionals, software developers, any interested parties.  Then the unconference (as edcamps are named) visitors vote with their feet and attend a session for a little over an hour. 

Though not totally about technology, almost all the sessions are somehow geared towards engaging students through the use of all sorts of hardware, software, or Internet goodies.  Presentations are conducted using this technology so the whole presentation is not a lecture, it’s an engaging experience.  Everyone in the room has an iPad, laptop, or a netbook, and everyone is constantly on it.  Twitter backchannelling is active and strongly encouraged.  People share thoughts online while in the same room or in other rooms.  You get comments from other sessions while you are in your own.  Don’t like the current one?  Leave and go to another.  It’s encouraged.  So what did my day look like….I mean after I got there and was given a swag bag full of goodies from Edutopia and Collaborize?  Oh, did I mention that almost all the tech at EdCamp is free to use.  Hello?  Anyone there?

-First session was dealing with Disturbing the Class.  Basically it was ideas about becoming a “disruptive” force against the norm. It included conversation stretching from how to bring schools into a new attitude towards technology, to trying to shift environments to engage student learning.  I've already used part of this when dealing with assignments that could have been done in the classroom.  Instead of doing a museum art walk in-doors, I took it outside in the open.  In response the students were more engaged and more interested in the task at hand, simply because of environmental shift. Very good first session. 

-Second was titled “Turn your School into a Tech Center”.  It was more geared toward networking for an entire school system, so I left and went a workshop that dealt with testing and techniques.  It was well done but kept going back to complaining about high-stakes testing.  You can only complain so much about testing.  Eventually people have to accept that right now it’s a way of life. It was interesting to hear ideas though.

-Third session was how to develop kids into good “digital citizens”.  This session was all about the impact of the Internet on students and the interaction with students/teachers online.  It was interesting to hear the different policies and feelings about things like “friending” on Facebook.  The ranged spanned from open communication to absolute paranoia.  It was a excellent free flow of conversation and ideas.  I was done a tad early and went over to watch information on Flipped Classrooms, where I found out how to us QR codes to make more technology mobile.  That ten minute session worked. I’ve already used QR codes in my class this year.

-Fourth session dealt with a simple discussion on technology and engagement related student issues.  The breakouts included social network interaction, the value of home, merit pay, and the future of the technology classroom.  Teachers have all kinds of views on this controversial topics, although I noticed that a lot of traditional verbiage (like “homework”) has been locked into a negative context.  That needs to change.

-My final session of interesting.  A woman had come back to the Bay Area from India with the idea of creating a network that connects students with community figures/projects/resources.  Her justification was that the best way for kids to learn was to engage directly with local issues and she was working to facilitate that.  It was very informative.

Here’s the thing.  I can’t really express the massive amount I gained from sessions I never attended, from people with a willingness to share, and during conversations that sometimes started from nothing in particular.  The vibe of EdCamp is so relaxed and collaborative that the slightest little thing sets off a torrent of ideas.  Then the ideas are on Twitter and the backchannels light up.  That’s when the real magic happens.  I wanted to attend the Live Binder session, the QR code session, the mobile tech session, and another few that I didn’t get to see live, but got enough of a taste to arouse curiosity and explore those options in my classroom.  It made me want more,  so I’ve started to look for it.  Quite the liberating and energizing experience.  And it makes you want more EdCamps.

A note for those that are considering attending an EdCamp; don’t allow the naivety of some of the participants to discourage you.  Not all the people that attend are classroom teachers.  You have a large gambit of people all with the intent on using tech to engage students.  But these people sometimes speak as if Utopia can be found through the use of technology.  That five years from now every kid will have Internet, an iPad, and all of the sudden become self actualized, life-long learners.  And while some of the higher end schools can afford iPads in the hands of every child, most California schools can’t.  That’s when the standard classroom teacher steps in and says things like “funding”, “socio-economics”, “standards”, “reality”.  And guess what, there were plenty of us there.  But after we keep people grounded, we then explore the methods that we COULD use in our classrooms to engage students.  Between Utopia and Reality is progress, and we are all stake holders in making students succeed.  Fine, “flipping a classroom” is not going to work in most of California.  But instead, we should ask how we can get more information to kids in different ways outside the classroom while increasing engagement and critical thinking during class time.  Fine, so only 20% of my students have “smart phones”.  But we can create lessons where those 20% can be divided into groups and have QR codes to primary source documents students need to analysis for a DBQ.  And the documents can be structured orderly in terms of analytical rigor which allows students to work at their own pace……….I mean the potential is nuts.

And in the end, the one comment that resonated with me is that if we do not try to engage students using this technology we have before us, we are doing a monumental disservice to the next generation of students we are preparing to succeed in society.  That is why I’ll be going back to EdCamp. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Week One, 11-12

This could be one of the better starts to a year of teaching in recent memory.  My classes seem very mellow to manage and engagement is pretty darn high, something I attribute to my experience at EdCampSFBay and some ideas I gained from the sschat hashtag on Twitter.  The good start also might have to do with the fact that I reevaluated what was really important and actually dropped some things.  I declined a nomination as a site rep to my local teacher’s union because I don’t need the aggravation involved in groups that will probably get little done in the end.  During our district meeting I counted at least three times that our feature presenter mentioned that there seemed to be a “lack of trust in this district”.  Look if a complete stranger is saying that in front of the entire population, it ain’t changing.  And I don’t need to waste energy from my classroom on a situation where only serious change from every angle will accomplish anything.

I’m also doing much better (or worse if you look at it different) at choosing not to fight battles that waste my time.  My absences are starting to pile up with students leaving for extended periods.  Not going to worry about it.  They have the information.  Students not showing up because they are waiting for an Independent Study spot?  Not my problem.  Either they are here learning or they’re failing.  And I’m not resisting students leaving my AP classes at all.  Can’t handle the workload?  Bye.  It’s nothing personal and I’m not angry about it at all.  For some reason I’ve been programmed or allowing myself to get all wrapped up into whether or not my AP program can sustain itself when students bail for easier classes.  No more.  I get good results, it’s a great class to prepare for college, let’s do this. 

This apathy towards those things I can’t control is making me a better teacher this year.  I’m more focused on the “now” and meeting more needs to those that care, creating more lasting relationships with kids that need the help here.  I may pay for that when I hold those not here accountable, but I’m willing to fight that battle when it comes down the road.   

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Never walking into Mulligan Books again

9/11 conspiracy theorists are the worst kind of losers.  It really takes a low-life kind of person with LSD inducing paranoia to attempt to gain some kind of Kim Kardashian slime status in society by capitalizing on the deaths of 3,000 people.  Ever since The X-Files ended, those idiots have needed another bandwagon to jump on because when the Cigarette Smoking Man died, the Clinton era black-ops helicopters didn’t fly as well with the American public. 

I guess these nuts can take any shape or form.  It’s just too bad that a local used bookstore, Mulligan Books, has decided to promote the “new” evidence that shows that the Twin Towers and World Trade Center #7 came down due to a controlled interior explosion; meaning they were actually intentionally brought down by, probably, our own government.  I watched the trailer on Mulligan’s blog and found it sickly amusing that everyone seems to keep saying “I’m not wrapped up in conspiracy theories”, even if they are. 

I guess the used bookstore business just isn’t the business it used to be.  I guess you need to kick in some paranoia to drive up sales. I vow never to set foot in said establishment ever again.  Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that Mulligans and the rest of those nuts have a right to their opinions.  But I also have the right to disagree and I believe this town should express their opinions by not shopping there.    

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Seriously?

Oh yeah, as you read in my last post, I had some odd testing statistics presented to me today.  Check this out. 
In 2010 I had 21 students in AP U.S. History take the STAR test.  Out of the 21, 17 scored Advanced.  All the students that scored Proficient (the next level down) were within ten points of scoring Advanced.  None of the Proficient scores passed (some didn’t even take) the AP U.S. History test.
Fast forward to 2011.  I had 22 students in AP U.S. History take the STAR test.  Out of the 22, only 13 scored Advanced.  And out of the 9 that scored Proficient, four passed the AP U.S. History test!  One of them even scored a “4”!  How in the hell do you pass one of the harder Advanced Placement tests, and (in a few cases) barely pass into the Proficient category from Basic on a test that isn’t anywhere near the rigor?
Anyone?

A decade in.

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This week I started my eleventh year of teaching.  It’s been pretty smooth and for the most part the classes are much more mellow than last year. 

Now, I could go into a whole “decade of teaching” retrospective, but it really wouldn’t serve a purpose since my whole blog is a retrospective.  I have some feelings after my ten years that are in the now.

First is the question I’m always asked about how much longer I’m going to “last” in teaching.  I had a relative ask me if I’m already looking forward to a nice administrative job recently and I looked at him and said “I don’t plan on leaving teaching”.   That gained me a surprised look.  Here’s the deal; barring something totally unforeseen I plan on teaching high school forever.  College doesn’t interest me.  I like teaching high school students.  And administration?  Don’t even get me started on why I want to avoid that. 

I do want to get my Master’s Degree.  The problem is that I don’t intend to use to gain more salary, therefore the whole issue becomes rather cost prohibitive.  Still a Political Science MS is available online from Virginia Tech, and my ultimate dream would then go on to Stanford for a History Education PhD or get a PhD in Political Science online at the London School of Economics.  Too much?  Bah.  Why shouldn’t I attempt to raise my bar?  The secondary tract involves a multitude of Educational Technology Master’s Degrees that are available for about half the cost of the standard degree.  But I’m not as passionate about Ed Tech nearly as much as History or Political Science.  We shall see.

I think I’m a pretty good teacher.  After ten years I think I get good results, I get lots of positive feedback from graduated students, and my classroom management almost never attracts the attention of the administration.  Some could respond saying that if I had real confidence I’d call myself “fantastic”, but I’m still searching for what “fantastic” really is.  Education is not in an optimal state right now.  Today I found out that two kids that passed last years AP U.S. History exam nearly scored only Basic on the California Exit Exam on the U.S. History section.  They were proficient by only four points.  Oh, and one of those students had a 4 on the AP exam.  Do either of those scores reflect my teaching ability?  Does any standardized test? 

I think that part of the reason I’m a good teacher is that I’m constantly working to get better.  While state (and now Common Core) standards are a good outline, nothing is as good as engagement.  I’m doing more and more to incorporate technology into my classroom while still making sure that the ed tech is just the tool, not the solution.  Things that don’t work, don’t last, and I’m still often one of the first that arrive and one of the last to leave.  So I still love my job, and I have no problem with doing another ten more years.       

Thursday, August 18, 2011

“Actually, I’m only ‘this’ stupid”

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I’m lucky.  I haven’t had a raise in over five years.  Yes, that’s lucky….because compared to the millions that have lost their jobs during the Great Recession, having a steady income is pretty damn fortunate. 

And it is beyond reason that University of California President Mark Yudof would even hint at a raise.  This is especially true with all the scrutiny of public institutions misusing funds.  Sure, we would all like to attract and retain the top talent, but let’s take out the fact that we are currently in the biggest economic crisis since the 1930’s and what we find is that enrollment in the UC’s is soaring, especially from students that are coming in from overseas.  Knock in the fact that the UC system continues to kick up tuition and what you get is a guy that is basically acting like a corporate asshole, only he’s doing it with public funds and rubbing it in the nose of people that need to get his institution’s education to get a reasonable standard of living.  Jesus, what a worm.

Dear private sector, the feelings of Mr. Yudof don’t represent those hard working primary, secondary, and community college teachers that are struggling right along with you.  Marky is the worst kind of corporate whore; one that steals from kids to pay for his pension.  If reports are accurate, and if Mark Yudof remains the President of the UC system through 2015, his pension earnings will be $350,000 a year for the rest of his life. 

That’s as good of reason as any for not only a college revolt, but a statewide ejection campaign.      

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Three Days

I’ve actually been back more like six days.  But I don’t count the 2 to 3 hours I spent last week tiding up the classroom, getting my technology all set up, and general preparing my work space for my arrival. 

So I arrived on Monday, which is called a Buy-Back Day.  Essentially a Buy-Back Day is a non-student day where the teacher shows up and spends seven hours in professional development.  I use it for prep for two reasons.  First, the professional development offered by my district has been, oh, less than substantial for my tastes.  And that leads to my second reason I use it for prep; I need the time to prepare, not to learn about something I will hardly ever use in class.  Now, the problem with not attending a Buy-Back Day is that you get your pay docked unless you attend seven hours of unpaid professional development, off your contract hours, some time during the year.  Please.  In the course of this summer alone I can afford years of Buy Back Days.  FED Meet the Experts, AP Annual Conference, EDCampSFBay…..EZ!

So I’ve been prepping for three days now, focused on the task of getting AP U.S. History more engaging primarily.  It’s working pretty good, although I’m looking at it and praying to God that I have no distractions so the course will run smoothly.  Of course, that ended today when I was introduced to Common Core Standards.  Now my AP students will be tested three times this year on content they will not have studied because the Common Core Standards only address Reconstruction onward, while the AP course demands the entirety of U.S. History.  Sigh.

I’ve also got Economics done, also with increased engagement.  I’m trying to work in a way for students to go over the City of Ukiah’s budget while looking at Opportunity Cost, Trade-offs, and concepts of Choice.  But every time I look at the budget I get the sudden urge to slit my wrists because I’m a Social Science major.  I tell people why they need the stuff, not how much everything is going to cost and probable revenue.  So I’m working on a slightly simplified budget, if such a thing exists.  Then it’s on to college prep American Government, which needs minor tweeking and less overhaul. 

Got a new school phone that plugs into the ISBN hole in the wall.  Kinda of cool new toy with my own phone number.  Other than that the technology has changed little, although the district is really touting technology advances.  However I still see my eleven year old, 512 mb ram desktop computer on my counter and when it told me that my operating system would not allow me to download Chrome, I realized I was still driving my 1989 Honda Accord on this technology superhighway.   

It’s meeting time over the next few days with prep in the afternoons.  If you are going to EdCampSFBay this weekend, I’ll se you there!

Meet the Experts at the FED

I honestly believe that Economics is one of the most feared classes to teach and one of the most wrongly taught.  History teachers fear the class because it really has nothing to do with history, although it has everything to do with how history has progressed.  Thanks to No Child Left Behind, many teachers can’t teach the course because they are not “highly qualified”; a degree in History does not require anything above General Ed Economics.  Many that teach the subject often do it incorrectly.  People see it as an opportunity to flaunt political agendas and go on  mini-crusades while completely ignoring the fundamentals of the subject.  A colleague and I went to an Economics institute a few years ago and found that half of the two dozen teachers didn’t even teach opportunity cost, many not even knowing the definition.  I like teaching Economics.  It is the perfect complement to Government and History while forcing you to look at both subjects much more pragmatically.  My credential is in History-Social Science, meaning about 60% of my upper division was History while 40% was Government, Economics, Anthropology, etc.

I’ve been going to the San Francisco Federal Reserve for years and if you teach Economics, especially in the current economic climate, I don’t know how you can’t attend a teacher focused session.  Last week I attended Meet the Experts, a day long workshop where FED professionals, including the President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve, discussed the role of the institution with high school and college teachers.  Couple of bullet points:

-The Federal Reserve really wants to work with teachers.  I started attending workshops about six years ago and their interest in informing teachers and students has grown ten fold.  They want feedback about what works.  In fact the last hour of the workshop was on focus groups about power points, social media, and a video series, and the teachers were very involved in giving opinions about what does and doesn’t work in the classroom. 

-Don’t ask me about recent FED policy because the President had just been to the Federal Open Market Committee meeting and there was a one day black out on passing out information.  Too bad.

-Speaking of the President, my wife and I got to sit at the head table with Mr. John Williams during lunch.  Here’s the deal, Mr. Williams, along with all the speakers at the conference, seem genuinely interested getting teachers to understand the FED.  And they are well spoken too.  Each presentation was about 15-20 minutes with about the same time for questions.  It was done professionally, but in language that a high school Economics teacher could understand.  And if you didn’t understand it, you didn’t feel ignorant when they explained it. 

-So remember when Ron Paul stated that all the FEDs information was secret?  Yeah, I looked at the FEDs balance sheet and all that other stuff that people don’t know a damn clue about.  Sure, the FED was in the background for many years, but it is very obvious that it wants to be out in the open and transparent.  The information about the FED is on the website if you really want it.  In fact, Economics teachers should be bookmarking the Federal Reserve Research site and downloading the FRED iPhone app from the St. Louis Federal Reserve.  Ron Paul should do that right now.

-It was downright embarrassing to hear about high school teachers not having access to social media at their schools.  Actually it was doubly embarrassing because college teachers grinned and working professionals raised eyebrows at the Internet restrictions placed on secondary education instructors.  When a Los Angeles FED liaison started to shoot off methods to communicate with teachers, from Facebook to Youtube, the answers constantly came up “That’s blocked”, “Nope, filter prevents it”, “We don’t have access to that”.  Wow.  I feel thankful that I have a password that allows me access to those forbidden sites because many teachers are just denied.  And that is truly absurd.

By the way, Rick Perry’s recent comments on the Federal Reserve show him to be one of the dumbest bastards on the planet. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is it the school or something more?

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In a time when Education is under the microscope, Gallup has released a poll that shows that Americans have less and less confidence in the public school system.  While it’s easy to simply say “it’s public education stupid”, I’m more interested in looking at all variables that might be complementing societies growing disillusionment of schools.

The 1980’s are more interesting that historians give the decade credit for.  Usually the focus revolves around the “Conservative Revolution” and the fall of the Soviet Union.  But there are lots of things that impact education and the social order of the United States that occurred in the 1980’s, or the foundation was poured in the 1980’s. Here’s a list:

-Women became active participants in the workplace.  This created empty homes that children came home to and beginnings of “guilt money” (spoiled children) and the “ever-busy-child” (packing the schedule so the child is constantly doing something).

-Income inequality becomes stronger. The Gini Index (used in AP Comp Gov to show income inequality) shows clearly that the United States started having  issues with a wealth gap in the 1980’s.  The cause is irrelevant in this argument.  But the result was that two parents had to work to maintain a reasonable standard of living. 

-Media presence has grown.  I actually almost never go off and blame Fox News or MSNBC for the problems of the world.  And I’m not about to now.  But the constant 24hr news cycle has brought to the front problems that have always been there, just not hyped up into a media brew frenzy.  Then politicians have easy access to assess blame because they have an outlet willing to do the work for them.

-The Internet.  Like it or not, the Internet and video games have changed the way kids deal with school.  So many kids are connected online late at night or scoping their cell phones in class that school has become the secondary entity, and parents are pissed.  But noooooooooo…..can’t take away that cell phone. “I need it for work”.  My ass.

-Misinformation about charter schools.  The panacea of the Republican Party is one of the most misunderstood organs of education.  Most don’t realize that charters play on a different field yet yield no more successes and often worse failures.  Yet charters continue to be touted as the replacement for public education, although they are supposed be a part of public education, even though they won’t tell you that.

-General distrust of government.  As the article stated, the American people have become more and more wary of government programs while become more and more demanding of their existence.  Watergate and Vietnam started the distrust and the growing income gap (along with a seething media) have only widened it. 

I don’t see public perception of public schools changing until society steps in and gives itself a good shake-up. I teach Seniors in high school and believe it or not, many parents aren’t interested in educated kids as much as graduated kids. When teachers throw down the hammer, schools become “uncaring” and “inflexible”, and society sends a mixed message of increased accountability, but only when it best suits the individual.