Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Public Vs. Private Schools

There is a very interesting editorial in the New york Times today regarding the quality of education at public and private schools. Here is the most revealing analysis:

The public, private, charter and religious realms all contain schools that range from good to not so good to downright horrendous.
This point was underscored last week when the United States Education Department released a controversial and long-awaited report comparing public and private schools in terms of student achievement as measured on the federal math and reading tests known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. As with previous studies, this one debunked the widely held belief that public schools were inferior to their private and religious counterparts. The private schools appeared to have an achievement advantage when the raw scores of students were considered alone. But those perceived advantages melted away when the researchers took into account variables like race, gender and parents’ education and income.

Finally, a study that demonstrates what we have ALL known to be true: there is quality in the public school system. In fact, public schools sometimes out-perform the so-called champion schools, those darlings of the right wing: private schools! The hollow arguements made repeatedly as the false mantras for the anti-public school alliance are permanently undermined.

We have school choice within America. It is simply the unfulfilled responsibility of the political class to properly fund and oversee and educational program for all children K-12. Now, there are studies which demonstrate the success of public schools in direct comparsion with private education!

The study seems to begin the process of comparing apples to apples in this on-going and fervrent debate about public education.Let us compare apples to apples in comparing the academic achievement of students in all school systems. Let’s compare several students from several schools with two parents at home who are engaged in rearing the students. Let us compare and contrast the portfolio assessments of students whose parents have a middle class income. Let us compare the students who have one parent or no parent, or who are never fed properly at home, or who may be lacking in appropriate health care. Let us use a rubric or assessment measurement that quantifies the value of an involved parent or two, or put all of these requisite factors into the overused and confusing set of propaganda that is so often misused to bash the public schools!

The prevailing conservative “news” paradigm relative to public education allows only pessimistic stories promulgated by the mainstream media to constitute the entire vocabulary of news reporting. Conservatives use this one-sided reporting to further their thesis of bad “government schools.” I am glad that I did not stop reading columns and blogs because there are a few blogs out there that certainly are irresponsible, inaccurate, and unprofessional. There are bad bloggers, bad teachers, bad superintendents, bad politicians and bad journalists to be found throughout the United States. Because all public schools are supported by state, local, and federal tax dollars, every incidence of poor behavior is magnified beyond its breadth and scope and each overblown occurrence makes an easy and ready-made target for the anti-public school alliance which always seems to be lurking in the wings.

A real, meaningful, and authentic discussion of reform in the public school must begin with a discussion of all things done well in the public schools and those things that are obvious failures.

Finally, there is one more issue that I have raised that is never addressed by the critics. This comprehensive philosophy should provide a basis for reform, and promote a scholarly, essential, and consequential topic for further discussion.

While I am a strong advocate of portfolio accountability and comprehensive assessment for public school students and teachers, and I believe that as a nation we should aspire to the ideal of allowing competitive market forces to assist us in creating stronger public schools, I will also vigorously support strong public schools as the foundation of our republic and the hope of future generations. As with many institutions in our society, there is room for significant improvements in the public schools.

Even more revealing
are the low math scores of the students in conservative christian schools.

Here are the NAEP scores and analysis on which all of the commentary is based.

Here's some more information from the Washington Monthly.

The Education Wonks have further information from January


pharaoh said...

I worked in Public Schools for 37 years and currently, I am working in Private Schools. Both organizations have solid fundamental qualities and flaws but competion for students would help each improve. Public School take funding for granted! Even in the light of NCLB, accountability is diffused or debunked as "someone other than the organization's fault". Kids are flawed by society or communities have no regard for schools or there is not enough money for programs,etc. The list could be endless. The bottom line is that we are not doing as well as we should in getting students ready for the 21st century and beyond and I am part of the guilty party not doing the job. Competion can be supported by the voucher program. If the public school is good and completing its mission, then the student population will not change due to vouchers. If the private school is not good and does not provide properly for students, then it will not survive. I know that this is a simplistic way to look at a much more complex problem.I was a "Special Education" administrator for part of my career. But the only issue educators should be focusing on is the performance of their students, and if they are not learning and progressing properly then someone else should take over and do the job.

SLM said...

Maybe if the public school system made reforming bad schools easier and more likely, conservative-types would have options less extreme than bringing down the entire system in order to fix particular schools. On the other hand, liberal-types seem to be so invested in the current method of public education that they attempt to thwart any proposed changes.