Sunday, July 16, 2006

Follow-up on Public/Private Comparisons
The Depressing Truth
By Matthew Yglesias

Well, events abroad are pretty depressing on their own. Nevertheless, I think this study comparing private schools to public schools is pretty depressing as well. What it shows, roughly, is that once you implement standard demographic controls, kids in private schools do about as well (or as poorly) as kids in public schools. The good news is that this offers a solid talking point against school vouchers, thus bolstering everyone's ability to adhere to the liberal orthodoxy in good conscience.

The bad news is that this once again highlights what seems to me to be the depressing truth about education: Once you control for demographic factors, nothing seems to make a dramatic difference. The trouble here, obviously, is that it would be really fantastic to implement some education reforms of some sort that would dramatically improve poor and minority students' performance. But there don't seem to be any really great solutions in the offing. That, in turn, highlights the vital importance of trying to directly tackle poverty and inequality rather than hoping that the school system -- even an improved version of it -- can redress inequities that arise elsewhere in the social and economic system.


Unknown said...

What's so surprising? Just because they aren't public, all private schools are some kind of monolithic THING? I would be willing to bet that some private school headmaster can cough up statistics on the phenomenal growth of weird little private schools over a twenty year period. Especially schools that have funky religious litmus tests. How about this for an application? "Please describe how and when you were saved" from the Berean Baptist Temple (now Berean Christian School) in West Palm Beach Florida?

Palm Beach County, Florida has no less than 40 private schools registered that will give your child a high school diploma. I counted 50 but I'm trying to be fair and give a conservative count. I am a product of one of them, Saint Andrew's School in Boca Raton. There are only four I would trust to educate my son.

Do some of them do a really poor job? You betcha. (This coming from a Broward County teacher who wouldn't teach in a Palm Beach County public school on a bet.)

Anonymous said...

No, it isn't surprising. It is, as Nick said, depressing nevertheless. Educators should be screaming at the school board meetings about the inequities allowed to continue - those caused by demographics and those concealed within magnet programs that segregate within individual schools.
The teachers I speak to defend tracking kids by standardized test performance. I have never spoken to a teacher who doesn't believe this is best. In our county we have several nearly all white upper and middle class schools, several nearly all black and poor schools, and a smattering in between. Of the few in between, only those with a solid middle class population (smatterings of blacks and hispanics) do well.
You cannot train a teacher to deal with rage and that is what these kids are feeling, especially those whose urban schools have been colonized by kids from the suburbs, who find easy paths to premium classes and special programs unavalable to neighborhood kids - kids whose grandparents remember with pride when the school was all black and everyone, nearly everyone was "above average."