Monday, June 2, 2014

Public Schools Aren't Failing - They Outperform Private Schools

The primary narrative behind the establishment of Common Core State Standards and national assessments  such as PARCC and SmarterBalanced is the "claim" that "American schools are failing" and that "American students are falling behind." While there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, and plenty of information about how the conversation is much more complicated than sound-bites, it's important to consider the reason and motivation behind these myths - and the impact they have had in literally altering education policy. Basically, the concern of public education advocates, and the motivation for the changes, is a belief that private schools are better than public ones. And there's the claim that if public schools were privatized - namely out from under teacher associations - then the school system would miraculously solve all social ills and America would have the top schools in the world.

But what if private school superiority were the myth?

That is the conclusion of perhaps the most important new book on education policy, The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools. The research of Christopher and Sarah Lubienski from the University of Illinois compiles extensive data for not only the strength of public education, but also for understanding why the "public" has long believed private is better. The reality is far more complicated than any book or review can explain. America has some fantastic schools and world-class students, and it has some schools and communities where the system is pathetic. Poverty seriously impacts student achievement - but it is a cop-out to simply use poverty as an excuse for failure. Poor kids can achieve, and the success of some charter and magnet schools should not be dismissed. At the same time, the charter model is no panacea, and it is not the only answer to poverty-stricken communities where kids struggle to even become proficient students. Regardless of the causes and the people behind the solutions, no progress can come if people are under mistaken beliefs about the current quality of public education.

Certainly, America's public education is far from flawed. But at the same time, public education is definitely not in a state of ruin.

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