.....is the socialist bit important? normally we're just called "Europeans" nothing else.
short answer is no not really.
In the UK for example in the County of Kent (where I live) we have academic streaming. At the age of 10/11 kids of a certain academic standard (determind by their teachers) do an exam, if they achieve a result over a certain level they can attend a "Grammar Schools" which are basically schools for those with more brains (no common sense required though as my kid goes to one!!)
In Germany and France much the same principal applies - but in Germany for example in the high schools you can opt out of certain academic subjects and concentrate of trades - bricklaying or car mechanics or plumbing that kind of thing.
Certain subjects are compulsory though for example in Germany kids must learn start English lesson and those continue all the way through until they leave school they also must choose a second language.
They pitch in with the rest of the class.....its amazing how quickly they learn! We have many Polich, Lithuanian, Rumanians and god only knows what else...they all just get on with it!
When I put "socialist" in quotes, I'm really poking fun at the view of some that Europe is socialistic, and saying that maybe their brand of "socialism" isn't so bad.
There is a good summary of one of the main differences between US schools and those in Europe. Here, all
of the students, regardless of interest or ability, have to perform on the all important end of year test, or the school (not the kids) is seen as failing.
What we need to do is quit whining about how awful the public schools are, and legislate some real reforms. For example:
More choices. Why should parents have to use the school assigned to their neighborhood? Let the parents choose. Why should everyone be forced into an academic program? Let's have some trades taught as well.
More accountability: Let schools set standards, and boot students who won't meet those standards, just like private schools do. Let there be standards for teachers, of course, but for kids as well.
Fewer layers of bureaucracy. Put the money where it counts, in the classrooms.
Vouchers is the hue and cry of the "public schools are failing" voices, in other words, "let me get my kids out." The problem is, there aren't enough quality private schools to go around. We'd be much better off to give parents who choose private education a tax break, and allow all parents a choice of where to send their kids.
Get rid of NCLB and get the federal bureaucracy out of education. All NCLB does is create a test centered curriculum with little time or resources for anything that isn't on the test. The only reason for NCLB is to make money for the test publisher, who, BTW, is friends with the Bush family (not that such friendship proves a cause and effect relationship necessarily, of course.