For example http://zillow.com has huge sections of school data built right into the purchase section for any property. Here for example is a $900,000 home in a town called Sudbury in Massachusetts (it's a bit posh, but I wanted to use it as an example - we would never live there!). The yearly council and property taxes for this particular place come in at over $16,000. But check this out for some of the local schools - you can clearly see where the money goes right?
Anyway so I want to tell you about where I carried out my high school education...
Tulketh High School, Tag Lane, Preston, England.
I was there in the mid to late eighties. Other than white socks being a formal, and required part of the male and female uniform - it was not all that bad a place. Sure the bar was extremely low, it was a pretty poor neck of the woods. At the time we were living in nearby council assisted housing and didn't have two pennies to rub together. But there at Tulketh the teachers (for the most part - but I'll get to that later) tried their very best to teach us reprobates the three R's.
I remember fondly our English, Latin and French teachers in particular being absolutely great and my Chemistry teacher, well he was the chap who first introduced me to a 480z... and I guess given my current occupation you could call what I do now as being the rest of his history! So a good teaching staff in a pretty shitty location, but with absolute hearts of gold. Certainly there was no $16,000 a year council tax, heck I imagine at the time you could probably buy our entire house for that!
For balance, just in case folks think I'm getting all wet and starry eyed, I did unfortunately have a math teacher who in my later years at Tulketh helped me achieve a very solid "D"... I can tell you that "D" looked totally amazing next to all my other "A's" when I later applied to do my A levels! Anyway, I retook the math course and achieved a straight A on the second go round. Once I had a teacher that actually taught me the syllabus... but as I said, the bar at Tulketh really was pretty gosh darn low. I hold no grudges - it was utterly amazing I made it to University to be honest!
Unfortunately for Tulketh, it turned out that things did not get a whole lot better after I left the area either. I've no background as to why this is, although I do have some personal ideas. But mainly one.
Teachers are not paid anywhere near enough $ to stay in the profession.
Couple that with the total reprobates (sorry pupils) that hung out at our school when I was there, I can hardly imagine how difficult it must have been to even get up in the morning to go to work... Some of our classes were merely a study in chaos theory rather than anything approximating education. I can't imagine that part ever really improved any. Certainly not for the teachers.
For example, the latest performance figures from the BBC back in 2004, show the school came in ranked 90th out of a possible 93, with a 15% success rate in the GCSE. That's altogether just on the other side of absolutely grim, however you want to do the statistics....
I've not been back to that part of the UK in about 10 years, google maps currently shows it to be not doing all that well, and I hear the rest of the building is also all boarded up now:
They appear to have closed the school after attempting to make it a "sports centre of excellence" after failing at education fully in 2003 or so, and then basically from what I can see gave up on the whole system some time in 2009.
Very, very sad.
And worse still - it very much looks like the new rebooted version of this school, albeit at a new site with a big fancy building, and in a fancier postal code with huge multimillion pound building investments, (but with probably the very same dodgy pupils - remember I was one ;-)) is also still not doing so very well either... Do we think the teachers all got paid more? I doubt it. And yet the report below STILL blames the teachers! It can't be the twenty five million pound building, it has to be the teachers!
When will they ever learn? Just pay the bloody teachers!
However in this recent and much more positive news:
"The report addressed suggestions raised including references made to Tulketh High School as a possible alternative to the proposed new secondary school.
A new secondary school is currently in phase two of the proposal, and the report said: “Tulketh High School is closed now and whether it should be retained in abeyance until such time as it might be needed is a matter for the County Council as the Local Education Authority.
“It is, however, an option that should be discussed further.”
Gives me hope that the place where I first learned to program a computer may well be able to dig itself out of the rather nasty corner it is in right now.
And for fun, I'll leave you with a picture of what prefects were given to denote their status (courtesy of Tina Kelly from a Facebook post). I also remember holding one of these badges with great pride! It was the only time that this little nerd could get his own back on those big bullies - basically by handing out detention slips! Ah! Happy days! :-)
Must say, it does have a slight imperial look to it... and I guess we know how well that kind of thing always works out - right?
Tulketh High, there will always be a place for you in my heart - you are clearly gone, but you will never, ever be forgotten, neither will all the amazing teachers there who helped me on my way!