Thursday, June 30, 2011

The FOCUS Program

By Sean Scarpiello

In New York, the Liverpool School District is implementing the FOCUS program for the 2011-2012 school year. The program is being implemented to raise the 81% district graduation rate. The new program will be held in a recently closed elementary in the district and is expected to have approximately 50 students enrolled in the program by the fall. This program is designed to focus on students who have trouble in high school by personalizing classes and giving students more individualized attention. Although the program looks like it will be successful, many parents are skeptical and feel that it is not a prudent investment.

The program has good intentions and will definitely raise the graduation rate. It is important to personalize education for students that struggle, especially in high school. As society attempts to educate more and more people, education is becoming less personal. When students have less individualized attention, many begin to struggle because they have different learning styles, ineffective teachers, or because they need more time to grasp information. As educators find successful methods of educating more people in a shorter time, it is important to remember to keep education personal to some extent.

The FOCUS program however looks as if it will find success only at a high cost. The fact that the district is reopening a school for 50 students is a bit ridiculous. It costs a lot of money to reopen and maintain a school. The original idea to shut down the elementary school in the first place was to save money. Reopening the school for a small group of students is not efficient. When it comes to educating students in a public school, districts try to limit the amount money being spent on each student. My high school spent about $9,500 a year to educate me. This included everything from books to my share of teachers’ salaries. When the FOCUS program is implanted, the majority of students will have a similar amount of money being put towards their education, but there will be 50 students with much larger amounts of money being put towards their education.

In all, the FOCUS program will be good for the students who need it but there are easier and more efficient ways of carrying the program out. The only problem which really seems to upset the district’s taxpayers is that the local elementary school is being reopened. If the FOCUS program could be carried out in the high school, the program would be perfect. This would reduce a lot of the costs that accompany reopening and maintaining a building for a small number of students. Perhaps the administration will recognize this after the first year of implementing this program. The current state of the economy forces school districts to use their money wisely and the best way to make this program cheaper and efficient is to use high school classrooms.


Monday, June 20, 2011

United States vs. Europe: Higher Education

By Sean Scarpiello

The American education system is constantly getting a bad reputation when it is compared to the rest of the world’s education system. Although there are some flaws in parts of America’s education system, the United States definitely has the best higher education system, especially when compared to the systems in many European countries. In Europe, schooling is very cheap or even free, yet college professors teach large numbers of students and remain relatively detached from their classes. Classes are typically held in buildings scattered all around cities and there is no real campus where students coagulate like in American Universities. How exactly does America have the upper hand when it comes to higher education?

First and foremost, the United States is home to most of the world’s best universities. These universities graduate the best leaders, business people, lawyers, doctors, and more. Also, a large percentage of Nobel Prize winners work at these universities. So overall, the United States has universities with solid professors and a quality education. Even though America has strong professors, the way the system is set up also gives the United States an edge when it comes to higher education.

European universities do not typically have main campuses. Along with this lack of a common area for students, European universities have fewer clubs, sports teams, and other social gatherings. Plus, professors at European universities do not really interact with their students. They usually give there lecture and hand out exams. There is no guidance or help given to students by professors in Europe. Even in some of the largest American Universities, there is still some sort of interaction whether it be a question and answer session or office hours. The point is that education is more than memorizing facts and grasping concepts. Education is a growing process that must be built from sources other than a lecture. Clubs and social interaction among students helps to build education. Students can learn just as much from each other than from a professor and this decreased amount of social interaction in Europe. Even the lack of feedback from professors in Europe is a problem. Students will know what they get wrong, but nobody tells them how to fix their mistakes.

One last way European universities fall short in higher education is how they are cheap or free. At first, little to no cost education sounds great; however, there are some flaws hidden within this system. Many students finish up their education and prepare to enter the workforce and discover that it was great being a student. This leads to many students staying in school because it is easy being a student and it allows people to put off working in the real world. This causes many problems with the government, employment, and the education system itself. In the United States, large college tuitions limit the amount of time students stay in college and give them reasons to hurry up and graduate. Once students do graduate, they can begin to pay off college loans by entering the workforce. For some students, the pricy tuitions motivate them to graduate in less time than previously thought.

Although America is weak in some areas of its education system, it is easy to see that higher education is unparalleled. Even though the education is not free or very efficient, in the long run it proves to be the best. People from all around the world get college educations in America because it is more than just an education. Higher education in America is an experience worth having.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Celebrity Tutors

By Sean Scarpiello

A friend of mine who recently immigrated to the United States from India was talking to me one day about the differences between life in the United States and India. When I asked him how high school compared in each country I was shocked to hear his comparison. He described that in India, school work always comes before fun, but in the United States, sometime fun can come before school work. This really made me think about the types schooling systems there are in other countries of the world. Currently in Hong Kong, there has been a lot of fuss about tutors who are treated much like celebrities. How exactly are these celebrity tutors affecting Hong Kong and will the rest of the world adapt these methods one day?

In Hong Kong, there are currently a hand full of tutors who are famous for their teaching skills and regarded as celebrities. They pretty much live the celebrity life style and have nice cars and big houses. Parents are willing to spend a lot of money on their children’s education and hire these tutors so that their children can do even better in school. But, is this good for the education system of Hong Kong? In my opinion, it is good in moderation for more than one reason. First off, when tutors are suddenly being viewed as celebrities, a lot of the fame and fortune can get to the tutors heads. This can later cause a decreased quality in education for these students. Also, tutoring needs to be implemented in moderation because it is possible to have too much of a good thing. If parents are hiring a tutor, it should be to help the student in one or two subjects where the student is weak. In Hong Kong, some parents are having their children tutored in several classes. This is not tutoring. If a student is constantly struggling in more than two academic subjects, it is probably best to just accept that the student will not be able to succeed in an education system as brutal as that of Hong Kong. This just turns in to unnecessary stress.

Since there is such a large amount of students and a low college acceptance rate, it may be best to come to the realization that not everyone is cut out for college. This may be hard to grasp for some parents but the world still needs plumbers and electricians to function properly. I am in no way down-playing these jobs, but really I am describing how these occupations are just as important as jobs which require years of education. Also, I am not saying that a quality education is not important. Quality educations are important, but there should be no shame in having an occupation that comes with little prestige. There are some blue-collar workers out there making a lot more money than some lawyers.

Is there a possibility that the United States will one day have these sorts of celebrity teachers? There will probably be some celebrity educators but only to an extent. There will not be celebrity tutors to the extent that there are now in Hong Kong. This is not because American students do not want to learn, but this is attributed more to the way the United States education system is made up. The United States has more colleges with more spaces for students. There is a greater opportunity for students to learn in the United States. Some of the students who are accepted into American colleges may never come close to getting into college if they lived in Hong Kong. However, parents in the United States still drop large sums of money on their children’s education and if an educator were to step up and create a successful learning program that is personalized for students, much like the tutors of Hong Kong, there would be a bit of a fuss. America would still find many benefits that Hong Kong has found, just not to the extent. There is definitely the possibility for tutors to become popular in other parts of the world where the education system is harsher. Some parts of Europe and Asia would find a lot of success with tutors. At this point, there really needs to be someone who steps up and creates tutoring programs for students around the globe.