9093rivate schools don’t always want your children, might not want vouchers, and don’t necessarily do better than public schools!
There’s some fascinating information flying around about private schools vs. public schools, and I thought I would write about it today since vouchers are likely going to be a big part of 2017.
Kellyanne Conway and Her Kids
The news is Kellyanne Conway, President-elect Donald Trump’s spokesperson, is having difficulty finding a private school in DC who will accept her children. The elitist political establishment can pick and choose which students they want for their private schools. And it looks like they are snubbing her kids.
The irony here some find sweet, since Donald Trump and his selection of voucher advocate Betsy DeVos for education secretary idolize private schools.
But the message is sad. Quite frankly, when it comes to children all should be welcome in school.
Oh. I forgot. That’s public schools I’m thinking about.
If only this would give Ms. Conway pause and help her to recognize that to make America Truly Great we need to fully support the schools that accept all America’s children unconditionally.
It hurts children when elitists shut them out. It creates a rich and poor nation that shuns democracy. Or, in Conway’s case, it rejects her children because of her connections to a President-elect many don’t like.
Private Schools Don’t Always Want Vouchers or Your Children
Charters and religious schools might want vouchers, but most elite private schools don’t.
They don’t want to accept everyone. And they don’t want to follow rules and take directions from the government.
They often don’t want students with learning problems.
I know this firsthand because during my teaching career I was offered jobs as a learning specialist at two prestigious private schools. I was told that if I could not remediate the student’s learning difficulties, I was to let the headmaster (or principal) know.
Part of the reason I did not take either of those jobs was because I did not want to be the person responsible for getting the students removed from school. I’d always worked in public schools with every child who entered my classroom no matter their learning problems.
Like most public school teachers, I never considered giving up on any of them!
I also found it interesting that no one from those schools told me I would be evaluated lower if the students failed to improve. Compare that to public school teachers and value-added assessment.
Private Schools Aren’t Better than Public Schools
Many Americans automatically assume that private schools are better than public schools. When parents spend thousands of dollars for their students to attend those schools I suppose it makes everyone feel better to think that.
But since private schools don’t have to show how accountable they are to the general public, we’ve never really known this to be true.
Usually teachers are paid less in private schools. And I’m never certain whether they are credentialed in the subjects they teach. Some schools do their own credentialing.
Also, it is not easy to compare private and public schools because private schools are selective with their students.
In 2013, Christopher and Sarah Lubienski, education professors at the University of Illinois, figured out that public schools actually do better. Their book (the link is below) and its valuable research has popped back up on social media.
Using results from the math portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, the Lubienskis compared scores from more than 13,000 public, private and charter schools. The private schools did have higher raw scores. But once they controlled for factors like family income, race, and location, they found that public schools were overall getting better results from their students.
The Lubienskis also found that autonomy wasn’t helping independent and charter schools like reformers believe. Most choice schools used outmoded ideas and curriculum to attract parents because that’s what parents know. Traditional public schools tried new ideas and were actually more innovative.
I have their book The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools and look forward to reading it soon.
All these things need to be weighed before we hand over public schools to vouchers and choice, especially since we had it right to begin with.
There are some fine private schools and if people want to pay to send their children to them that’s fine. But 90% of this country’s children attend public schools. Think how public schools would flourish if they were funded like they should be, and if the country got behind one great public school system!
Let’s work towards that end in 2017!
Happy New Year!
Judith Yero says
Claiming that public schools are “better” than private schools is an unwarranted generalization. Certainly there are some ways in which public schools are in the best interest of children–not the least of which is the fact that they have to accept all children and are tax-supported, so income shouldn’t matter. But of what value is acceptance if school funding is not equitable?
There are some fine private schools that accept everyone up to their capacity and charge as low a tuition as is economically feasible while still giving their teachers a living wage. It isn’t so much about whether a school is public or private as it is about their philosophy of education. Because private/independent schools are not required to follow one-size-fits-all standardized curriculum and assessments, they are free to educate the whole child. Why do so many educational policy makers who can afford it, such as former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, send their children to private schools while at the same time doubling down on the one-size-fits-all mandates for “other people’s children?” Private/independent schools that are learner-centered are graduating responsible, self-confident, critically thinking students. The model works and has worked for over 100 years. It serves as proof of concept so there is no excuse for not using similar methods in public education.
Like you, I believe in public education, but only if it offers the same opportunities for authentic learning and development that are found in many private/independent schools. If we want “school choice,” why can’t it occur WITHIN the public schools? Divide larger schools into several smaller schools and allow each school to base its program on a different approach (one that has been proven effective through experience or research). Then children and parents can choose which approach appeals to them. Those who are brainwashed into believing the one-size-fits-all standardized education is in their children’s best interest still have that option. Other children can benefit from the programs used in private/independent learner-centered schools without having to be rich!
Take the best elements from each system and make them available to everyone’s children! By the way, the tuition in many excellent learner-centered schools is equal to or less than the per-pupil expenditure in their states…so money is no excuse for not using these programs in public schools!
Nancy Bailey says
Happy New Year, Judith! Certainly there are fine private schools.
My point is that the book by Chris and Sarah Lubienski indicates public schools, when you control wealth, location and race really aren’t any better. Please check on their research to see what I was referring to. They also showed that public schools are more innovative for the most part.
And the push to privatize public schools has included starving them. De-funding public schools destroys programs and the quality of the school for that matter. It drives those who can leave to private or charter schools leaving the poor in substandard schools.
I do agree with you that parents deserve choices and good programming. We need to get behind good public schools.
Also, we have to quite claiming that individual children deserve their share of the funding for school choice. Public schools are not about individual students, they are about ALL children in America…creating an educated populace.
But thank you. I always appreciate the time and thought in your comments. You are fun to debate with and we really are on the same page I think–for the most part.
Kathy mclinn says
It’s hard to fault individual parents who want a liberal wonderful education for their kids, but if all of us who can flee the fight for quality public education for all, what you get is sub par factory model a-democratic inequitable authoritarian test driven schools. We all have to live in it to fight to create the vigorous commitment to public education our kids and nation deserve! I can’t believe our schools are as good as they are in the face of its challenges today. I credit good educators for that, but it’s the system that needs fixing. A few good teachers can’t do it all.