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November 14, 2013

Comments

"In the end, however, I think we're stuck with this extreme dichotomy between the public school system and the private one at the grade school level (as well as others), where the vast majority of the students who attend the latter will never catch up to even an average student at the former."

Hm, I think you have your antecedents and consequents mixed up there.

Nevertheless (if I can indeed assume the intention of the author, pace Wimsatt and Beardsley) this seems a bit drastic.

The vast majority of kids still attend public schools; the vast majority of lawyers, bankers, scientists &c &c went to public schools. Perhaps most Ivy Leaguers went to private pre-college schools; I don't know.

Not going to private elementary and/or middle and/or high school is not the kiss of...anything.

"But...what is to be done about this?"

Well, the way you frame your argument it seems that we might as well do nothing. Which is, I think, wrong; we can improve public schools and narrow the gap, even if "closing" the gap is impossible.

The amount of money we spend on, oh, let's say, tax breaks for oil companies, could easily make a massive, massive difference in the quality of facilities, resources, class size, and quality teacher attraction and retention.

Hoo boy.

It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

(an old bumper sticker)

Of course the Onion chimed in, as has the National Review (so this page claims, with a broken link).

I think we can expect that private schools will usually be better funded than public ones, but it does not necessarily follow that the students in public schools are doomed.

My "suggestion" was intended to point out a matter of scale, not as a literal policy recommendation, btw.

I suspect that the DC pubic school system spends as much or more per student than the tuition at most of the private schools you looked at.

But...what is to be done about this?

Tax away your money so you can't afford the private schools and the public schools have more resources and you are deeply invested in them.

If you move to the suburbs, incorporate them and/or bus your children.

Can't help noticing that someone has stepped into the PUBIC school trap ;-)
Unfortunately the 'solution' to the problem proposed (primarily) from he right is more akin to a final solution, occasionally even questioning the need for school education for every kid (clue the Newt's call for abolishing child labour laws).
The very idea of public schools, especially secular ones, rubs certain parts of the ideological spectrum the wrong way for different reasons (religious, classist, occasionally racist etc.).
Enter the 'starving the beast' strategy.
I think a crucial part in the dropping real standards (as opposed to testing standards that are open to manipulation) is the systematic denigration of anything even remotely related to public schools. Many may be willing to work for meagre wages in education but the constant bombardment with insults is likely to drive away the gifted idealists that are needed. As long as teachers are treated as hookers-but-for-the-lack-of-looks even increased funding will not solve the fundamental problem.

"I suspect that the DC pubic school system spends as much or more per student than the tuition at most of the private schools you looked at."

They might, But to treat the nation's children fairly, many of the DC schools need more money per kid. Ugh gave two reasons: the public schools have to accept anyone and can't expel anyone. They also attempt to work with parents who don't take their share of the responsibility. They experience a turnover in students each year so that the kids they test in the spring aren't the kids they taught in the fall. They don't offer Spanish in kindergarten because many of their students already speak it--but don't live in English speaking homes. The kids in the private schools come from vocabulary-rich homes where right from the beginning the child gets training in how to use language effectively. Too many of the public school kids come from English speaking, but vocabulary-limited homes where effective use of language is a skill the adult in the household never acquired.

Anyone could teach the kids in the private schools.

One person in a room with twenty needy six year olds is a set up for failure.

I'm going to rant on a bit about this.

I have a friend who was the reading specialist in a public elementary school. As a result of No CHild the school underwent a transformation. The whole staff spent time after school training on improved techniques for teaching basic skills. Schedules were reorganized to somewhat reduce class size for the first three grades. A system was set up to provide small group splinter skill instruction for students in the first three grades that were falling behind in foundation skill acquisition. One-on- one was provided for the students who didn't acquire the skills through the small groups.

Nevertheless, last I heard, it was a school of failure. The kids weren't at grade level. Nevermind that the kids tested in the spring weren't the ones instructed in the fall. Never mind that they came from homes where seven or eight different languages were spoken, English not being one of them. Never mind that many of the kids had not learned basic social skills, or worse, had learned bad social skills. Never mind that, in spite of doing out reach in seven languages, parent nights were poorly attended.

Nevermind any of that. Don't think about the budget cuts, the part time nurse, the one social worker for three hundred kids. Forget that a first year teacher with a master's degree can't afford to live independently because the salary isn't high enough to cover student loans, a car payment and rent.

Throwing money at a problem won't help! But somehow cutting money will.

Well, actually throwing money at the problem would help--but not solve--if the money was targeted. One of the most effective interventions would be to significantly reduce class size in the first three grades, which means increasing staffing. Another intervention that works is to have additional staff for small group or one on one drilling, in addition to regular whole class instruction, on splinter skills as soon as a child shows signs of falling behind. But that takes money, too.

However to measure success the testing has to be done on the kid that got the instruction, and in a highly mobile society that often isn't the case.

Also kids are not raw materials, schools aren't factories, and the belief that student success is exclusively a matter of good teaching, (as opposed to a matter of good parenting or willingness on the part of the child) is a handy way of dodging citizen responsibility.

It takes four parties to make a successful student: parents, teacher, the student, and the taxpayers.

bob is boring - thanks for noting the antecedent problem.

I am probably overstating the problem as well as the difficulty in closing the gap. It just struck me as a massive difference in resources, even as compared to the "best" public elementary school.

As a DC resident, I feel your pain. We, however, aren't in the best school district, not even close. We did the lottery at pre-school, and actually won. For two years our older daughter attended a Spanish immersion program, and the bilingual aspect of those two years was wonderful. Unfortunately, the rest of it was not, and so we determined that we needed to look at private schools. We found a gem (Friends Community School in Greenbelt) and expect our younger daughter to join her sister there in a couple of years.

Good luck!

Parents have tough decisions to make. I'd like to point out, though, that in many ways diversity is a "resource". It can be challenging, but that's part of its value.

No foreign language offered at the public school until 3rd grade and then only Spanish.

IIRC, we had a choice of French or Spanish. and both started in 9th grade.

and one teacher, with around 30 kids per class was the norm. not until high school electives did the classes get any smaller.

my, how times have changed.

CharlesWT: I suspect that the DC pubic school system spends as much or more per student than the tuition at most of the private schools you looked at.

Well, upon a quick google I see that the public elementary school I was talking about had a FY2011 budget of ~$7600 per student. Tuition at one of the schools is more than 4 times as much, and the school's website notes that tuition falls ~15% short of the cost of education per student.

Now, that's a hard comparison. Not all the students who attend the private school pay full tuition, and the budget for the public school does not include any funds raised by the HSA. And we're talking school specific operating costs, which leaves out an allocation of DC's overhead to the public school. Of course, the private school has fund raisers too, including an auction that has raised $3 million over the past five years alone. This is in addition to other annual giving and various endowments of the school.

If wikipedia is to be believed, the cost per student at DC public schools is $28k. The private school I'm thinking of spends 50% more on elementary school students that, presumably, cost less to educate than high school students that are in the DC all-in number.

And that's just the difference in resources.

"I don't think banning private schools would be constitutional (not to mention that it's probably not a great idea)."

FYI: I don't have the citation, but I'm pretty sure that the Supreme Court ruled that banning private schools was unconstitutional back in the early 1900s, in one of the substantive due process cases that (arguably) laid the ground work for Roe v. Wade. So, the issue may already be governed by precedent, and I have little doubt that a blanket ban wouldn't survive judicial review today.

my, how times have changed.

I have 3 school-age kids and the amount of paperwork that comes home, the number of things we have to initial or sign, the amount of homework they get (in 1st friggin' grade!), the various standardized tests they take, the frequency with which the curriculum changes - I. Just. Don't. Get. It.

School was not this complicated when I was a kid.

I'm very grateful that I'm beyond the stage where I need to worry personally about this very real problem. (I went through public schools back when they were OK, good enough to prepare me for college and beyond, and our son was mostly educated overseas.)

But what bemuses me as a historian (and annoys me as a citizen) is that a century ago, the US as a colonial power (in the Philippines, but probably also elsewhere: Puerto Rico, Samoa, etc.) was miles ahead of any of its imperial rivals - France, England, Netherlands, Spain - in providing free public education. Only Japan (in Taiwan and Korea) even came close.

If anything, the American colonialists fetishized public education. Are there problems with economic development? Education, giving Filipinos the skills needed for a modern economy, is the answer. Is the Catholic Church too influential? Education will weaken its power by undercutting its mysticism. Is the key issue "caciquism," boss rule in politics? Education will instruct Filipinos in democracy, and then they will overthrow the "caciques"! Etc., etc.

This approach could be criticized, both in its philosophical underpinnings (building schools to avoid dealing with substantive issues of social structure and inequality) and in its implementation. But at least it represented a vision - what appeared to be a distinctly American vision - of a whole society improving itself by investing in its children.

What the **** happened to us?

Rarely Posts - yes, Pierce vs. Society of Sisters.

School was not this complicated when I was a kid.

That's my experience also. But I don't think schools were expected to play as many roles then as they are now.

Schools these days seem to be tasked with sticking their finger in the dike of about 1,000,000 issues well beyond the task of education.

We need to figure out what it is we want schools to do. Then maybe we can figure out how to provide schools with the tools and means to do it.

What the **** happened to us?

This is a question I ask myself every day.

What the **** happened to us?

This is a question I ask myself every day.

See Before the Storm, Rick Perlstein's book on the Goldwater campaign. It's long but very worth reading. Nothing has changed (hardly even the cast of characters!).

I'm not sure what the funding situation is in DC, but in CA it's still heavily tied to property tax (about 21% on average if I recall correctly).

You throw in that the areas with higher property values tend to have more fundraising, more engaged parents, fewer problems with gangs/poverty, etc, you have a confluence of factors that point to some public schools doing quite well and others a few miles away doing quite poorly.

I think funding is a problem, but I also think education of children from poverty stricken areas is an incredibly hard problem. Not one I have solutions for, but I don't think more money is anything more than part of the solution.

Sadly and circularly, I think education is the only real solution to *that* problem (for the reasons dr ngo pointed out). People who have opportunities are less likely to to fall into the cycle of poverty and their children are less likely to fall into that cycle. The problem is ensuring those opportunities, which generally require education.

I have lots of little ideas, but nothing compared to the scope of the problem.

CA's K-12 public school funding breakdown from a few years back. Just needed to spend a little time.

http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_quick.asp?i=1040

What the **** happened to us?

Reagan sold the nation a vision of triumphant selfishness individualism; many were entranced, and many remain so.

All public institutions and most measures of the common good have suffered ever since.

Show me an industrial nation which has thrived by dropping public education in favor of a private education system. None? What a coincidence.

Also, public education does more for insuring an equal chance for all in our society, and preventing greater class stratification, than almost anything else.

And strangely enough, the top academic decathalon competitors in California are all public schools. They even set up a separate decathalon for private schools only since they have trouble competing with public schools.

It takes four parties to make a successful student: parents, teacher, the student, and the taxpayers.

I would put them in about that order in terms of having failed, too. Possibly the taxpayer moves up one notch, but parents are nearly always the worst problem as far as I have seen.

But I have seen schools succeed where there's not much natural support at home. I have seen devoted leadership that has relatively large discretion in hiring do a bang-up job, taking a school from "C" to "A" in just a few years.

My theory is that school administrators by and large have career ambitions as school administrators as an end to itself, rather than having ambitions to be school administrators who run their school so as to educate the students.

I have run into school administrators who just want to be the boss. Education is just one of many things they have to see to in the course of their busy days, rather than the entire point.

My amateur advice to anyone who genuinely wants to effect real change in education would be to pay attention to who the successful principals are. There are some good ones out there. Not to be confused with the popular principals, mind you.

"I don't think banning private schools would be constitutional (not to mention that it's probably not a great idea)."

I think the potential threat comes from the opposite direction. What if a RW SCOTUS decides that the government is not required to maintain a public education system. The Right went after the post office that is actually in the constitution, parts of the right rant against the very idea of public education (that, if I am not mistaken, is not).
Again, cue the 'poor kids should not waste taxpayer money by going to school but go to work, so their parents can get fired saving the job creators huge amounts of money'.

You throw in that the areas with higher property values tend to have more fundraising, more engaged parents, fewer problems with gangs/poverty, etc, you have a confluence of factors that point to some public schools doing quite well and others a few miles away doing quite poorly.

Percentage of low-income students in all public schools.

(Shallow "analysis" article, I know.)

I grew up in an underfunded rural Midwestern school - graduated in the mid-90s, if you want context. We had 25-30 students per class up through HS. No language until the optional 4/3 years of Spanish/French in HS. No math beyond pre-calculus for the most ambitious HS seniors. The middle school was condemned while I was attending it (and kept being used for the next 4 years anyway out of pure necessity).

...but had I lived about a mile down the road, I'd've gone to the neighboring school district in the county seat (a small city with one of the highest per-capita of millionaires in the state), and things would have been very different...

This approach could be criticized, both in its philosophical underpinnings (building schools to avoid dealing with substantive issues of social structure and inequality) and in its implementation.

A strange brew indeed, consisting of good intentions, racism, paternalism, and western imperialism. The jingoism of W.R. Hearst and the missionary efforts in China come to mind.

"...but had I lived about a mile down the road, I'd've gone to the neighboring school district in the county seat (a small city with one of the highest per-capita of millionaires in the state), and things would have been very different..."

Too bad you didn't have the choice to do so without your family having to move.

Some time around when I was starting high school they did do start doing more open enrollment across the county, but by that point I was lining up to do the state's "post-secondary enrollment" program to attend a local state college on the state's dime for dual HS and college credit, which frankly was better in pretty much every way (except possibly in that I was deprived of certain culturally "normal" experiences as an American high schooler). Given my home state's awful track record with education funding, I'm actually surprised and impressed that the PSE program has not only survived since my time in it, but has been expanded...

NomVide:

That's exactly what I'm talking about.

And it's a really tough problem. Even if you somehow normalized budgets across the state by funding directly from the state budget or what have you, more affluent areas are going to have better schools: Parents will volunteer. Fundraising for better programs or facilities will be more successful. Children will be more likely to be fed in the mornings.

I think Charles has a point, if you were free to go to the schools that work, that would increase the pressure on the principals/superintendents to try to attract families by offering better education. Families do choose housing based on school district to some extent, but many don't have that flexibility. I don't think its a cure-all, but its something to consider.

NomVide:

I did something similar in CA when I was in HS. It wasn't on the state's dime but at the time CCs in CA were dirt cheap per unit. I don't feel to cheated by the lack of "normal" HS experiences. Many of my friends were in the traditional HS and had pretty awful times.

in many ways diversity is a "resource". It can be challenging, but that's part of its value. -- sapient

Diversity of backgrounds is indeed a resource, and has value. But diversity of level of interest in education, and of interest in teaching responsibility? Not much of a resource at all. Unless you are coming from a home where the adults are not iterested, in which case it may be valuable for you . . . so long as you are in a small minority in that respect, so you have social pressure to be better, rather than social pressure to be worse.

Just for comparision. I went to a private* secondary/grammar school** In Germany. Our class went from 32 (5th grade) to 26 (13th and last grade). My oldest brother started with 36 in his class. It was managable. Latin from start to end (9 years, very good), English(7 or 8, can't remember and pretty useless anyway***), classical Greek(5.5, mixed), optional 4th (2-3 years; French in my case, alternatives were Russian and Hebrew). Latin stuck, the rest less so. I had to in essence relearn English from scratch. And I guess my Icelandic beats my French these days.

*mainline protestant with a very good rep
**Over here that's called a Gymansium but has no connection to sports
***I owe my English skills primarily to reading. It was simply a way not to run out of books before money since reading took much longer in a foreign language. Also English chemistry textbooks tended to be cheaper, even when they were translated from German.

Too bad you didn't have the choice to do so without your family having to move.

Yes, indeed. Integration via school bussing, which see.

...more affluent areas are going to have better schools.

Then perhaps the 'solution' is staring us right in the face-public policies that promote more equality of income....or at least act to lessen huge income disparities.

I think Charles has a point, if you were free to go to the schools that work, that would increase the pressure on the principals/superintendents to try to attract families by offering better education.

Charles is quite often wrong; the probability that he'd be correct in any one instance. For example, he insisted that the private schools cost less than the public schools were spending when the private school in question cost 4 times as much. Of course, being so spectacularly wrong prompts no reflection or change in belief for him.

In this case, I think your reasoning is highly suspect. Your assertions about underperforming schools attracting families seem to rely on a number of assumptions. For example, you seem to assume that some schools underperform because of random factors that the administration can easily rectify but chooses not to. But what if the problem is in having concentrations of impoverished students? In a model where every student was free to attend any school, you'd end up with concentrations of poor students that better schools would find ways to exclude. Adverse selection for education.

In any event, good schools are a scarce resource. Which means they have to be rationed. Simply opening all schools to all comers can't work: good schools won't have the capacity. So you need some way to ration access, say by having a lottery.

But diversity of level of interest in education, and of interest in teaching responsibility? Not much of a resource at all.

Those things vary a lot between schools. I prefaced my comment with a nod to parents' instincts. But, depending on details, I might choose, as a parent, to send my child to a good public school, rather than a lavishly resourced private school, and spend the money I saved thereby on personalized extra-curricular resources. (You can buy a lot of language immersion camps, private tutor hours, music, art and sports, trips abroad (maybe for the whole family), etc., for the price of a private school. Plus, you're sending the kid to a "good" public school, and supporting the ethic there. Plus, you're giving the child some awareness of others in the community. Some of those "others" might be immigrants from cultures with a huge educational focus.)

Obviously, the above is the ideal. No question that private school may be a better option for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. And some people can afford private school as well as all the other frills.

There is a lot I'd like to say, but the size of the comment box prevents it. This pdf about the Japanese education system might be of interest to those who want to imagine, like the Rickie Lee Jones song gravity, "I try to imagine another planet, another sun, Where I don't look like me"

I tend to feel that the problems that plague US healthcare are similar to those for education: No national level administration to set policy and goals and enforce them in some manner. US education has always been a local affair, financed locally, and administered locally. Slowly, as the little one room schoolhouse cannot keep up with developments, they need a larger pool to draw revenues from, so the state and federal governments enter the picture, but this leads to resentment.

Turb:

"Your assertions about underperforming schools attracting families seem to rely on a number of assumptions."

I don't think I made any such assertion, or maybe I'm confused about what you mean?

"For example, you seem to assume that some schools underperform because of random factors that the administration can easily rectify but chooses not to."

I definitely didn't assume that. Especially the word "easily".

"But what if the problem is in having concentrations of impoverished students?"

I'd pretty much agree, as that was the point I made upthread.

"In a model where every student was free to attend any school, you'd end up with concentrations of poor students that better schools would find ways to exclude. Adverse selection for education."

Where is it implicit in the model that schools would strive to drive out students? And what mechanisms would public schools use to drive out children? I suppose I can envision a system of encouraging suspensions and expulsions until the student ends up in the alternative track...but it seems a little far-fetched to me. Maybe you were thinking of a different mechanism?

"In any event, good schools are a scarce resource. Which means they have to be rationed."

Yeah, or we could try to, you know, fix the problem of scarcity?

"So you need some way to ration access, say by having a lottery."

Probably. But I don't see this as a terrible thing. Let's say you have a situation similar to NomVide's upthread, and the poorer students were eligible to try to get into the better school via lottery. This would have two impacts: First, some poorer students would get to go the better school. Second, wealthier parents would have more incentive to bolster all local schools. I don't view either as an especially terrible result for a public school system which is nominally supposed to educate everybody.

In less polar examples, where there is a district that serves a largely homogeneous population, I don't really see a problem with letting families pick schools.

If nothing else, records of preferred schools would provide a metric of school success that isn't simply a standardized test. Those metrics are extremely difficult to come by.

As I said above, it's certainly not a cure-all, but it deserves consideration.

LJ:

I can't access that PDF...it comes up as 0 bytes in browser or via download.

It might just be me, though, I ride pretty heavy on browser security.

Distinctive Features of the Japanese Education System (.pdf)

Thanks, Charles.

I took a break from writing next week’s lesson to read the Internets and now I am totally distracted by the comments here.
I went to the top-ranked public high school in my state in the early 70s. My husband dropped out of that school. Our kids went to a dinky, really small-town public school with bad-or good- teachers depending on the subject. We all turned out ok, everybody has a bachelors degree, and 2 of the kids have their masters. Was it due to the great educators in public schools? Probably not.
More likely parental influence – my daughter is the fifth generation of women in our family to go to college. On the other hand, the spouse’s family had money but no parenting skills, and support for education was not forthcoming at his home. It took him 20 years to finally graduate from college.
And the same holds true for my suburban low-to-middle class 9th grade students. Those whose parents place a high value on education do fine (some not without a struggle). Students whose parents are unable to provide educational support usually do poorly, mainly because they don’t see the value of an education, or the families have overwhelming financial and personal problems. The only reason the kids attend is the threat of financial sanctions, plus they get to visit with their friends.
More money in schools so class size could be much lower would certainly help, but social services for struggling parents and families would go a lot further in helping improve public education. What Waiting for Superman leaves out is the support that HCZ provides families as soon as the child is born -teaching parents how to raise a successful child. And until our society is willing to spend money on that, all the money in the world won’t fix the schools (although it would help).
My point being – the school doesn’t matter much. Don’t waste your money on private schools if the neighborhood one is ok. Take your kids to the museum and the theater, read to them every day, and they’ll be just fine.

The default American conservative suggestion has been made of letting the market improve public education. Let everyone pick where they want to go, and consumer choice will make the schools better.

Is there any public school system anywhere in the world where that model has been employed with success?

Note that "success" here needs to scale to the population as a whole. "Success" is not "the kids who got to go to the good school did great".

Is our kids failing? The answer is, generally speaking, no. Somerby is unfailingly good on this if you can get past his insufferable writing style.

Geographylady is right. There is extensive research that validates her point: schools are not the most significant factor in school learning. Parents are. Schools can struggle to mitigate the effects of parenting that doesn't support learning, but cannot consistently or even frequently overcome that effect. Kids with the right kind of parents will learn efficiently regardless of what school they go to.

This shouldn't be a surprise.

There is also research data shows that individuals from difficult backgrounds who thrive anyway frequently identify one non-parental adult, often a teacher, as being the influence that made the difference. The problem is that this is hard to reproduce. Certain kids will bond with certain adults at a certain point in time in a way that matters in the kid's development. But you can't duplicate or manufacture or institutionalize this phenomenon. All you can do is make room for it to happen: homerooms, for example, or advisory classes.

Geographylady is also right that it pays for the taxpayers to invest in other people's children as early as possible. But how to get Republicans to understand that?

Take your kids to the museum and the theater, read to them every day, and they’ll be just fine.

Provided of course that any survived within suitable range. The usual suspects hate culture almost as much as education for the lower classes. It's elitist, you know, and should be left to the elites paying for it themselves.

There is, of course, in private schools (especially in Washington), the unspoken fact that one's schoolmates have famous and important parents. That actually (unfortunately for proponents of social equality) could help a child in a lot of ways these days.

Russell:

White paper from Sweden's ministry of employment regarding the effect of their reform:

http://www.ifau.se/Upload/pdf/se/2012/wp12-19-Independent-schools-and-long-run-educational-outcomes.pdf

And in all fairness, if you read the BBC, you're probably aware that Sweden's system is sharply debated in Sweden and in Britain. I have no doubt you can dig up a paper providing a different view. But I think we're left with choosing metrics to quantify "education" which is difficult, if not impossible.

Closer to home, Oakland's charter schools are very well ranked. And I agree, what works for the children that get into the charter schools does not bleed over into the rest of the district. Which does very poorly according to the state.

But given an option between sending SOME Oakland kids to better schools and sending NONE of them to better schools, I'd choose some. Because the district really is pretty terrible, has been terrible, and the charter schools they've tried are the only thing that's worked recently.

As I've said consistently, this is a really big problem with no clear solution. I'm not advocating for the Swedish system, or saying charter schools are the silver bullet that solves all the problems, forever. But they might be part of a solution.

But letting inner city kids rot because on average the US does ok in education doesn't strike me as a good path forward. I'm very interested in breaking the cycle of poverty, and I view education in the crappiest environment possible (poverty-stricken areas) as a key component of breaking the cycle.

geographylady, everybody else already said it, but agree, especially with:

"...but social services for struggling parents and families would go a lot further in helping improve public education. What Waiting for Superman leaves out is the support that HCZ provides families as soon as the child is born -teaching parents how to raise a successful child."

Outlaw private schools or tax and regulate them so heavily so that parity with public schools will be achieved.

Every child has the same right to education, regardless of background and good or bad parenting. Everything else - achieve equality of income, gimme a break, lol - is just the middle-class succumbing to the rat race.

Geographylady is also right that it pays for the taxpayers to invest in other people's children as early as possible. But how to get Republicans to understand that?

Laura, of course she is correct. But the problem isn't getting Republicans to understand that. It is getting reactionaries to understand that. Granted the Republicans have a lot more reactionaries these days, but they haven't cornered the market. (And there are still some Republicans out here who are merely conservatives, and therefore quite in sync with her, and your, position.) And if we are going to address the problem, we need to be clearly focused on the correctly defined problem group.

thompson, thanks for the paper. it's 40+ pages plus endnotes, so i haven't had a chance to read it yet. i will try to do so in the next few days.

regarding this:

But given an option between sending SOME Oakland kids to better schools and sending NONE of them to better schools, I'd choose some.

I would say that is a very very crappy choice, and probably a false one. Or at least it ought to be a false one, and if it's not it's not inevitable that it's not, but rather the result of a million other choices that we've decided to make.

If what we are talking about specifically is *inner city* schools, and not just poorly performing and/or under-resourced public schools generally, there are other issues at play that frankly dwarf the problem of bad schools. And charter schools, or school choice, or a voucher program, is not going to address those.

A solution that salvages a handful of people, maybe, and leaves everyone else to eat a crap sandwich *is not a solution*. It's a retreat, and a concession of failure.

A solution that salvages a handful of people, maybe, and leaves everyone else to eat a crap sandwich *is not a solution*. It's a retreat, and a concession of failure.

I completely agree with this.

Ugh's original post, however, wasn't mentioning a crappy public school. It was dealing with a good public school that isn't as lavishly resourced as private schools.

My question is this: If there are good public schools available, which parents with their own financial resources abandon in favor of private schools, doesn't that further ghettoize the student population into a class-based educational system?

Obviously, if I were a parent making a decision for my child, my instinct might be to go the extra financial mile in order to obtain a better result for my child (even if that result is based soley on social connections, rather than academic proficiency). I think that it's an extremely hard decision for parents to make, and I'm not casting aspersions on anyone for making a decision.

Still, every time a parent chooses to send a child to private school instead of a "good" public school, s/he votes in favor of class stratification. Again, there are loads of very compelling reasons why a parent might do this, but it's a trap that our society has gotten itself into somehow.

Russell:

Regarding the paper, I wouldn't get TOO hung up on the details. I can point you to papers that say the opposite. They all have different ways of running the stats and honestly I'm not an expert enough on those types of studies to really say which one is "best"

"I would say that is a very very crappy choice, and probably a false one."

Agree, 100%. Well, more accurately I agree it's a crappy choice SHORT-TERM and a false choice LONG TERM. Oakland (sorry to keep coming back to it) has gigantic problems school-wise. There is no policy we could institute that will fix those schools in a year. Or 5 years.

I haven't seen anything that will "fix" public schools in Oakland (or similar areas). Maybe you have, and if so, please share it. I'll keep looking and I'm ready to try new things (in the voting and campaigning sense, I'm not a school administrator).

In the meantime, I categorically reject that saving some, when the status quo saves none, is an admission of defeat. It's doing the best we can in a crappy situation. You shouldn't take that as a statement of 'let's not do anything to fix the million other contributing factors.'

As to the underperforming schools in general...I guess I don't see much in the way of failure in suburban/rural schools. They aren't great, but they get the job done (mostly), it seems. When someone says "underperforming schools" I immediately jump to inner cities. In my experience, that's where the trouble lies. But, I can see how that might be a hard jump to follow, so I apologize if I wasn't clear.

sapient:

"If there are good public schools available, which parents with their own financial resources abandon in favor of private schools, doesn't that further ghettoize the student population into a class-based educational system?"

Isn't the system already ghettoized? Families with money and flexibility move to neighborhoods with nice public schools. Nice areas tend to have decent schools. Bad areas tend to have worse. I don't know to what extent private schools (~10% of students) really drives the stratification of society.

Now if you want to zoom in on just Ugh's case, and talk about the top-tier private schools in DC...and talk about the top 0.1% of americans, yeah, I might buy your point about stratification of society along those lines.

You take the schools the rich go to and the schools the poor go to and swap them and it will make no difference whatsoever, despite Nombrilisme Vide's very Frostian assertion.

You take the rich kid and send him to the poor kid's school - same building, same teachers, same budget - and the kid will do just fine.

Schools have nothing to do with education. Schools are a way for society to allow rich people to purchase status for their children, and a way for society to provide day care for lower class children and keep them off the street until they are old enough for a fast food job or an adult prison.

I didn't get my education at a school. I got it through the video arcades, skateboarding, street fights and factory jobs.

The thing that matters most for a parent is what the kid's reading level is by the time the bastard gets to kindergarten.

Families with money and flexibility move to neighborhoods with nice public schools. Nice areas tend to have decent schools. Bad areas tend to have worse. I don't know to what extent private schools (~10% of students) really drives the stratification of society.

I think that's overstated. Sure, families who can afford to move to areas with good public schools often do so, but it's frequently the case that good public schools are also populated by people with less money. This is a demographic profile for Charlottesville, VA

Charlottesville has one high school

When you check the link about where kids go to college, we don't know the demographics of which child went to college where. But the fact is, there is a huge economic (and cultural) diversity of kids that go to school together. There is an opportunity for everyone to do well there, and part of the reason is that the whole community is invested in the school system.

Obviously, there has to be a critical mass of people who care about their kids, and about education. But those people don't have to be wealthy.

A solution that salvages a handful of people, maybe, and leaves everyone else to eat a crap sandwich *is not a solution*. It's a retreat, and a concession of failure.

Though I agree with russell, I want to draw a distinction between what we might wish for as action by our society vs. what we can do as individual parents for our children. Ugh's post starts by focusing on the latter perspective, only at the end considering the former.

Our own family's decision was to participate in a charter school. This turned out well for our own children and the school (now 20 years later) is still going strong, so hooray for that.

But my experience tells me that this is no panacea. Not all families have the luxury of a supportive community and the job flexibility to volunteer for endless hours of sometimes mind-numbing meetings, cleanup squads and (most enjoyable) parent participation in actual learning.

I fully subscribe to the proposition that public education is the bedrock of our society. So how do we fix it? That is a question that can only be answered in a political context. Like it or not, that's the only way we know to make decisions on a large scale.

Sapient:

Thanks for the links. It's always encouraging to see places where public education works.

I would note a few caveats:

Charlottesville actually has several private high schools and one charter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_High_School_%28Virginia%29). I don't think that diminishes the success of the public high school at all, just pointing it out.

I'd also note that education around universities, in my experience, tends to be quite good. Just an observation, I don't have any numbers to back it up. But I'd guess your statement (which I agree with, btw):

"Obviously, there has to be a critical mass of people who care about their kids, and about education. But those people don't have to be wealthy."

...is regularly true around universities, at least ones not in large cities. I'd speculate you have at least a small group of parents that work at the university and likely highly value education, and you have some unique extracurriculars that close proximity to a university brings (outreach programs, etc).

Such things have definitely been true in the few college towns I've lived in or had friends in.

I tried to post this earlier, so sorry if it becomes a duplicate (or an edited duplicate):

thompson, the fact that Charlottesville has several private schools and one charter school does not diminish (in fact, it supports) the real fact that Charlottesville High School performs really well for a fairly diverse demographic, and has the support of the community. (We have to assume that people who choose a private school have either 1) wealth or a scholarship, 2) concern about smaller classrooms or something, 2) a special needs child, 3) religious preferences. In other words, we're subtracting from the number of "successful parents of students" who would be making a positive difference at the public schools.)

You're right that the university probably makes a difference, but so would the intellectual power of the urban elite if they all bought into public schools. I completely understand why somebody would be reluctant to be the first to do so, or would want to be a part of a pioneering minority. (I wouldn't make that choice, probably.) I also understand why people might be wary of dealing with the bureaucratic aspects of most public school systems, even the good ones. It can be very frustrating. But private schools can offer disappointment and frustration for some people too.

Much of it boils down to the teacher, and the teacher's relationship with the student. If that's not there, no amount of money will fix it. If it is there, it's magic.

Wondering, too, anecdotally, who here might have experience in private education, or know people who had that experience. What does it mean to you, and how do you think it compares?

I went to public schools. I do have friends who attended private schools. I don't discern a difference in our ability to manage life's slings and arrows, even the money side of things. (Except, of course, some of them have substantial trust funds, which helps a lot.)

sapient:

To be clear, I wasn't trying to belittle CHS by saying there are other schools in the area. I just wanted to avoid confusion regarding the statement: "Charlottesville has one high school"

" I completely understand why somebody would be reluctant to be the first to do so, or would want to be a part of a pioneering minority. (I wouldn't make that choice, probably.)"

And that's the problem (Well, problem is likely the wrong word for parents wanting the best for their children).

I agree, it would help to get those parents involved in public schooling, but if the sales pitch is "it'll suck for your kid, but maybe in a few generations it'll be better" we'll be waiting a long time for critical mass. You have to make public schooling attractive to the ughs and sapients of the world.

I'm not here to say public schooling can't work. It just isn't in some cases, and I view that as a major problem in our society. Philosophically, I think that poor public schooling contributes to the stratification of society and the cycle of poverty. Without access to quality education, there are limits to economic opportunity. Without economic opportunity, there is no social mobility.

Fixing it is the hard part.

You have to make public schooling attractive to the ughs and sapients of the world.

Actually, ugh said that he had a good public school. So I think I might have made a different decision than ugh.

That's my point, not to second-guess Ugh.

I have one more preference that would tip the balance: I have a huge preference for Montessori early education. Apparently that's available in some public schools. If not, I would think (and investigate) long and hard about public school v. Montessori.

@Duff
You take the schools the rich go to and the schools the poor go to and swap them and it will make no difference whatsoever, despite Nombrilisme Vide's very Frostian assertion.

Two points, one anecdotal but substantive and conciliatory, and one concrete but pedantic and contentious.

The selection of classes available to me in my middle and high school had a radical impact on the course of my life. Really. Now, I don't know that I would not have done as well or better (broadly speaking) had I not been playing catch-up when I first got to college (or had I had better language education available to me; my school district's awful language programs honestly were pivotal in me ending up where I am today, as overwrought as that might sound), but had I been less motivated and self-directing, I might well have failed to overcome the disadvantage I found myself in. A lot of my peers didn't. But this is all being Frostian now; the history of what didn't happen has never been written, and I concede that even if, owing to particular circumstances, outcomes might have been drastically different for me, in aggravate they probably wouldn't be qualitatively different for a hundred reasonable facsimiles of me.

Second, you're actually presenting a more Frostian assertion than I am. The Road Not Taken is not describing a choice to take the less traveled of two roads, it's describing looking back and nostalgically rewriting history to declare an arbitrary choice between two essentially identical alternatives as having been of great significance. To wit:

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

(Emphasis added.)

So really, it's actually your conclusion that my reflection is overstated that is Frostian. My actual assignment of great significance to it might bear a shallow resemblance to how most people misread that verse, but it doesn't actually reflect it...

Fixing it is the hard part.

It is, obviously. But figuring out how to get people of all income brackets invested in public schools would be a start in fixing them. As long as we think of public schools as being for "the needy", it's going to be a humanitarian, charitable project, not a civic given.

"the passing there
Had worn them really about the same"

Exactly.

D Clarity obviously believes in predestination.

It's hard not to, although I struggle against it.

wj, I stand corrected. Thanks. (This is in reference to his comment waaaayyy upthread).

I don't believe in predestination, I don't think everything is set the day you are born.

I think its pretty much set by the time you go to grade school.

Better schools and better teachers aren't going to change a thing. Better parents might, but what does that mean?

We're pretty much going to be stuck with a combination of public schools and homeschooling, for financial reasons. The exact proportion depending on how well the public school does.

Little Victor goes off to kindergarten next year, already able to read, write, and do addition and subtraction. (He'll probably have a grasp of multiplication and division by then, too.) I foresee a lot of grade skipping over the next few years.

Educational inequality is pretty much inevitable, given parental inequality. You could waste an enormous amount of resources barely effecting it at all. Really, instead of being pissed off that some kids are getting much more expensive private educations, you ought to reflect on the fact that the excess money is probably largely wasted.

"Little Victor goes off to kindergarten next year, already able to read, write, and do addition and subtraction. (He'll probably have a grasp of multiplication and division by then, too.)"

Really? That's common? I'm a little skeptical, but my contact with five year olds is pretty limited. Maybe there are a lot of alpha plus plusses running around kindergartens these days, being held back by the deltas and epsilons.

Oh, you're talking about your own child, I take it. I'm sometimes one of the deltas in my reading comprehension. Congrats on having such a bright child, but I don't think there are any deep policy implications to be derived from the existence of such children.

I guess what makes for a policy implication is that, be he ever so brilliant, little Victor wouldn't be reading if his parents hadn't taught him to read. Likely he wouldn't have much interest in learning to read, either, if both his parents hadn't been reading to him, and being seen reading for themselves, while he was growing up.

School can't effectively teach what parents don't raise a child to value, and scarcely need to teach what parents consider important enough to transmit themselves. For Victor, school will be an opportunity to become socialized, (Something he desperately needs as an only child.) and handy day care for mom, but one thing it won't have much to do with, is how much he ends up learning.

Neither teachers nor parents exist in a social vacuum. In studies, both end up being proxies for the institutions and social networks in which they are imbricated. There are few parents both good and fortunate enough to transcend their own socio-economic situations and few teachers good enough to make up for the host of factors weighed against them in a failing district.

If rising tides lift all boats, ebbing tides founder many, even when their draft would save them in deeper waters.

For a good look at what ails the US Education system, check out The American Dream and the Public Schools. It does a good job of laying out the complex of interrelated problems that have to be addressed with any education policy.

As far as reading goes I am in full agreement with Brett there. I think many kids would already have learned the basics of that, if their parents put some efforts behind it. Over here it's a perennial dispute whether it should be encouraged or discouraged. Grade skipping is very uncommon around here and parents have mainly the choice, whether to enschool their kids at age 5 or 6. Since 1st grade is primarily learning to read and write, some think it unwise to preempt school there because it creates a rift between the advanced children and the rest. If I had kids (it's for their own sake/good that I don't have any!!!) I'd probably take a middle position, i.e. instilling into them the desire to read but not necessarily teaching them to do it before their first schoolday*. Giving them a first taste of a foreign language would be something different since I am very sceptical about school efficiency there (plus: the earlier the better).
No opinion about math. I guess there is no harm in the basics one does not need notation for.

*no excuses though once they are in school. Then parents should drive them as hard as feasible. Those letters have to go in and stay in and demand a regular feeding.

I haven't seen anything that will "fix" public schools in Oakland (or similar areas). Maybe you have, and if so, please share it.

My point is that creating one wonderful school that a small number of kids get to go to won't fix it.

In other words, the selling point of charter schools, or voucher programs - that breaking up the monopoly of public education and allowing alternatives will bring everybody's game up via competition - is not bloody likely to happen in an environment where there are already insufficient resources, and where the surrounding environment, including but by far not limited to the parents, is not supportive.

You may give a small number of kids a way out, but that's not a solution.

Before you can discuss solutions, you have to understand, or at least accurately describe, the problem.

If the problem is that the educational system is in a rut, and needs invigoration through the introduction of new teaching methods and approaches, I can see the value of making "alternative" schools, of whatever kind, available and letting parents and kids vote with their feet (and the public money that follows their feet).

If the problem is that the offerings are too much one-size-fits-all, and there is a need for some specialization to meet the needs of particular communities, ditto.

If the problem is a combination of endemic poverty, widespread family dysfunction due to poverty + incarceration + substance abuse, missed meals due to all of the above, no safe quiet secure place to read or study due to all of the above, and little motivation to study in the first place because there is no realistic model for how academic achievement will lead to anything desirable, then a charter school and/or vouchers are not going to solve the problem.

They are going to be a life-raft for a small number of people, and the rest are going to sink.

They are not going to improve the other schools. They are not going to miraculously transform the family lives of kids whose home environments suck. They are not going to ensure that everyone gets a meal. They are not going to make sure that everyone has time, and a place, and the resources needed, to do homework.

If the immediate problem is that the parents are not sufficiently engaged in their kids' lives to help them, then the solution is for someone else to do so.

If the immediate problem is that the kids aren't getting fed, the solution is to feed them.

If the immediate problem is that they don't have a clean safe quiet well-lighted place in which to study, the solution is to provide one.

Specific problems have specific solutions.

None of what I'm describing is a solution to the much larger issues that are the context for underperforming schools in very poor communities. They're just solutions to the specific problems that those larger issues create for the teaching environment.

I'll also add that in many places, the business of operating voucher-funded private "alternative" or "charter" schools has become a way for many folks to make themselves quite rich off of the public dime, without offering an educational experience that is better than the existing public schools in any measurable way.

Grifters gotta grift, but I'll thank you to keep that the hell out of my community.

Regarding the original post, I guess my thought is that it's no surprise that expensive private schools can offer resources that public schools cannot. If you have a lot of money, you can buy better stuff.

The problem arises when folks who do have a lot of money, and can buy better stuff, come to believe that they no longer have any stake in making sure that the perfectly adequate stuff is available for the rest of us.

So, their kids don't go to public schools, so why should they invest in them?

Similarly, they don't ride the bus or the subway, so why should they pay for them?

They don't use the library, why should they pay for that?

They don't need public parks, so why should they pay for them?

When privilege erodes public life, that's a problem.

I recognize that there are lots of problems in American public education, but I'm not sure that the enrollment of wealthy kids in private schools is a major factor at this point. Public schools in wealthy areas are generally pretty good, even if a proportionally high number of kids there go to private schools.

In the end, however, I think we're stuck with this extreme dichotomy between the public school system and the private one at the grade school level (as well as others), where the vast majority of the students who attend the latter former will never catch up to even an average student at the former latter.

Why? Why should the wealthiest nation in the history of the world settle for such nonsensical outcomes? I, for one, will never, ever, surrender to such pessimism.

The arc of prosperity can be widened, and widened substantially.

You will have to pry my public policy optimism from my cold dead hands.

And, of course, what Russell said.

In the end, however, I think we're stuck with this extreme dichotomy between the public school system and the private one at the grade school level (as well as others), where the vast majority of the students who attend the latter will never catch up to even an average student at the former.

I actually don't believe this is true, as between decent public schools and private schools. Sure, private schools are richer, and have more teachers, and that's a plus. But kids in most good public schools also do really well. Not to repeat myself too much, but the biggest plus for ugh's kids is that they'll be going to school with kids who have powerful and "important" parents. This will help them later, but not because they're smarter. Kids from good public schools will have to think outside the box a bit to get the benefits of that society.

I disagree with Brett's view that school makes little difference (because good teachers are incredibly inspiring). That said, there are plenty of autodidacts in the world. You don't need "resources" to be educated, other than books and competent teachers. It helps too these days to have computers and internet access.

What russell said about the other things that are helpful, such as breakfast, health care, time, and a safe place to study.

Do what you think is best for your kids. Whatever benefits a good school can give them are more valuable than the "fairness" brownie points they could receive otherwise.

I don't have kids. If I did, and if I lived where the public schools were scary or chaotic, I would send my kids to private school. I agree with DaveC: you have to do what is best for your kids.

On the other hand, I also believe that we have to do what is best for all of our kids and that means supporting the public schools whether our own kids attend or not.

And, yes, supporting public schools means paying for them.

Has anyone here read Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities?

Do what you think is best for your kids.

I completely agree, and think that if you have kids, that's what the money is for. Sometimes, though "what's best for kids" has some complicated aspects. Privilege is undoubtedly, in many (most) ways, good for kids. In some ways, it's not.

I completely agree, and think that if you have kids, that's what the money is for.

If I may expand this a bit, if you have kids and money, that's what the money is for.

If "what was right for your kids" was accessible to everybody, the original post here and every comment in the thread would be beside the point.

I think the division of the US into a class system divided by wealth and access to economic opportunity is a serious problem. I also think the Republican party is doing whatever it can to solidify this class hierarchy to the benefit of the 2%. And I think the rightwing efforts to demonize, defund and replace pubic education is intended in the long run to solidify that hierarchy in favor of the 2%. (The other reason for the rightwing attacks on public education and the promotion of the use of public money to support private schools is to marginalize science and support religious extremism.)

But, still, I understand ugh's dilemma when it comes to his won children.

But, still, I understand ugh's dilemma when it comes to his won children.

Me too. But part of what's good for one's "own children" is promoting a society that is more egalitarian. And all children, to a certain extent, are one's "own children". It's very hard, in our nuclear family centered society, to think that way. But anyone who's ever been responsible for children has to know that it wouldn't take much for one's "own children" to be at the mercy of someone else. A car accident, a disease, a divorce ...

But, still, I understand ugh's dilemma when it comes to his won children.

And, me too. I think pretty much everybody does. And, by far, most folks will take the best option available for their own kids, and they should do so. Your kids shouldn't bear the burden of some idealistic wish-fulfillment on your part.

And neither should anybody else's kids.

To echo sapient's point, it's harmful *to everybody* if large numbers of other people's kids - and other people for that matter - get written off as, basically, collateral damage.

russell, FYI, charter schools in California, at least when I was involved, were public schools. Our attendees were chosen by lottery once there was a waiting list. (except for grandfathering of the founders). Yes, in part I participated for the benefit of my own children, but I like to think that wasn't the only reason.

I realize that there are charlatans who are trying to exploit the opportunity to make a buck. I didn't encounter any such people myself.

This is a great thread with everyone getting a piece of the problem.

I've stayed out because, as lj intimated way upthread, the subject is fraught. It's like having a fistfight with a cloud.

But I saw this at Kevin Drum, which is interesting:

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum

I guess when the economy recovers sufficiently, we can look forward to the better qualified teachers now drawn to education because of lousy job prospects to be siphoned off by higher pay and less frustration.

The market -- friend to some, enemy to the commons.

Well, with the cratering of the number of law school applicants, where are all those smarty pants going to go?

;)

In Texas after the recession hit, there was a definite increase in people studying for and taking the states' teacher qualification tests.

charter schools in California, at least when I was involved, were public schools.

Not every place is CA.

The market -- friend to some, enemy to the commons.

Welcome to the USA. So concise it makes my teeth hurt.

The business of America is business, b***ches.

I would only add, here, that schools need to be cognizant that not all students have parents that want/are able/willing to help them advance. They may not have home lives that encourage learning.

And we, the communities that make funding and other decisions for these schools that affect who and how many get hired to teach need to keep in mind that these factors do place extra burden on the teachers.

How that would work, ideally, is not something you want people like me to decide.

How that would work, ideally, is not something you want people like me to decide.

Why not? I'd love to hear about your evil, conservative plan. ;)

"your evil, conservative plan" - but I repeat myself. ;}

A somewhat relevant story on NPR this morning.

How that would work, ideally, is not something you want people like me to decide.

You do democracy with the people you have, not the ones you wish you had.

sapient: A somewhat relevant story on NPR this morning.

Must have read Milliken v. Bradley 20 years ago. This statement by the majority is a little odd: "The constitutional right of the Negro respondents residing in Detroit is to attend a unitary school system in that district."

Seems overly narrow. This too seems way off base:

The view of the dissenters, that the existence of a dual system in Detroit can be made the basis for a decree requiring cross-district transportation of pupils, cannot be supported on the grounds that it represents merely the devising of a suitably flexible remedy for the violation of rights already established by our prior decisions. It can be supported only by drastic expansion of the constitutional right itself, an expansion without any support in either constitutional principle or precedent.

Apparently the constitutional principle is that constitutional rights can be violated/constrained by drawing school district lines, even if the unconstitutional actions of the district in question can be attributed to the state as a whole.

I liked the last footnote in Justice Douglas' dissent: MR. JUSTICE STEWART indicates that equitable factors weigh in favor of local school control and the avoidance of administrative difficulty given the lack of an "inter-district" violation. ... It would seem to me that the equities are stronger in favor of the children of Detroit who have been deprived of their constitutional right to equal treatment by the State of Michigan.

Sorry absent (I'm sure everybody missed me), works been crazy.

russell:

"Not every place is CA."

I'm not familiar with non-district administered charter schools, most of what I was saying was based on an assumption of a district overseeing the school. I'd love a link to a charter school that isn't overseen by a school district. And to be clear, I'm not talking about voucher systems.

And regarding the comment WAY upthread (sorry): You don't have to convince me that people milk the public dime for their own ends. There's an ongoing corruption investigation in Oakland, actually. I don't view corruption, cronyism, and financial mismanagement a purely charter school problem, however.

When found, the perpetrators need to be punished. We probably agree on that.

I like the charters, especially in districts like Oakland, because they work when nothing else seems to. I don't like, and maybe this is what you were getting at, they frequently sap funding from the rest of the district. If that is part of your point, I agree, that's a huge problem. As I've said, I don't like how public schooling is funded.

I do like giving individual schools flexibility to try novel things, and find out what works best for their students.

I would also like to hear Slarti's evil plan for education.

maybe this is what you were getting at

what i was getting at is that a free market approach - school choice, a mix of public and private schools, parents get vouchers which they can then take to whatever school they prefer - is not a solution to the problems that face poor urban school systems.

because it doesn't address the actual root causes of why schools and students in those environments don't succeed.

it's likely that we agree on that specific point.

the counterargument appears to be that something like some kind of market-oriented school-choice approach is the way to go in those environments because, for better or worse, it's the best we can do.

i don't agree with that.

my issue overall is that the knee-jerk conservative response to every imaginable problem appears to be "let the market fix it". IMO that grossly misunderstands (a) what markets are and what they are good at, and (b) the proper responsibilities of the public and private sectors as regards common public life.

briefly, markets are not inherently virtuous. "the market" is just people trading things of value. "the market" has no intent whatsoever, and the dynamics that inform market behavior definitely do not always further the broader public interest.

we should not assume that results created by "the market" are any better or worse than those created through any other process. that's what i'm getting at.

i have no problem with giving individual schools flexibility to see what works best for their students, as long as somebody is keeping track of which bright ideas actually work and which don't.

my comment about "not every place is CA" is a reference to the fact that in other jurisdictions, "school choice" is often achieved via schools owned and operated by private actors, for profit.

"The market" is good at pricing, say, grain such that there will be a more or less equal number of buyers and sellers. WTF that has to do with education, I have no idea.

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