Several years ago I attended a meeting at a church that was set up to show the congregation the value of sending their children to their private church run school. After 30 minutes of bashing the public schools, the headmaster put up an overhead display of the schools standardized test scores. It showed the test scores for each grade level starting from the first grade. He so proudly pointed out that the test scores of the school's first graders were average when compared to the public schools. In each successive year following, the test scores continued their upward climb above and beyond the public school scores as the children progressed through the church school. The congregation stood in unison with a resounding chorus of "Amen". The headmaster then went on to pridefully announce that every senior in their high school graduating class would be attending college after graduation. He boasted "What public school can boast of such a marvelous achievement?". The congregation left that meeting singing the praises of how wonderful their school must be to have produced such an outstanding crop of graduating seniors! The public schools be damned.
Alas, The King was naked! No one noticed the numbers or perhaps they just weren't intelligent enough to see past all the positive emphasis put on the end results.What the congregation failed to notice was that their typical first grade enrollment was between 55 and 60 students. Their senior graduating class was composed of 6 students! Yes, 6 students! One could only reason that during the coarse of the previous 12 years, 54 students were weeded out and sent packing back to the public schools! Any public school could also boast that all of their seniors were going on to study in college under those same circumstances!
Private and charter schools do get positive results. Be mindful that their success is overwhelmingly attributed to what they can exclude. Too often it comes down to who they exclude. I have often wondered what would happen if each public school teacher were permitted to pick any two students out of their own classroom and send them to a local private/charter school. These teachers could easily bring the private/charter schools to their knees by simply deciding on sending their two most challenging students. The private/charter schools couldn't survive if mandated to accept and retain this influx of challenging children. In all honesty, the majority of the teachers that I have known over the past 40 years would choose their two most deserving children if they had the opportunity. I choose to believe that teaching the least desired is the most noble choice of all. All the teacher bashing and blaming the public schools for all our social problems is pointless. Do I support school choice? Absolutely! Do I support the establishment of schools that are free of government mandates and restrictions? YES! Children must come first. I just expect more honesty in the debate as to why private/charter is better. Authentic educational reform movements seek to win converts. Fraudulent educational reform movements seek to punish or denigrate those that question their integrity.
Submitted by Robert John Meehan