Friday, January 28, 2011

Take off the myth about private schools

I am a Chinese immigrant living in Texas. My first born is going to Kindergarten next year. All of sudden, my husband and I started looking for information about schools everywhere. We also think about whether we should send our kids to private schools because we keep on hearing people talking that private schools are better than public schools. Even though private schools are way beyond what we can afford, we still spend time to collect information on private schools. What's so great about private schools? Is it worthy to send kids to private schools? Like any other parents, we are just trying and thinking hard about how to give our kids the best education they can get or put them into the best environment we can provide so that they can learn and grow into well educated people.

By looking into information about private schools, I found this interesting book by Richard Rothstein and co-authors: "Can Public Schools Learn From Private Schools?". The authors did extensive case studies to try to find out what are the factors that contribute to private elementary schools students providing better outcomes than those in public schools. If it is due to certain practices from private schools, then public schools can learn from private schools and improve. However, the result of the research turned out to be not as those commonly held generalizations.

"Private elementary school personnel are not necessarily more accountable to parents than are public elementary school personnel."

The key factor that lead to private schools' better outcomes is
because they enroll students from more advantaged backgrounds and disadvantaged students' outcomes also improve by association with more advantaged classmates.

These are very valuable researches and give me insight into private schools and comfort that public schools can provide as good education as private schools. As conclusion of this book, the answer to the question "what can public schools learn from private schools?" is "not much". But to the question "what can schools, public and private, learn from other schools, public and private?", the answer is "quite a bit".

There are very good public schools and very good private schools. Not all private schools are good or better than public schools in the same neighborhood. I know there are advantages in private schools, such as we can freely pick any private school, but public schools are decided by which school district we belong to.

For affluent families, this would not be a too hard decision. But for a working family like us with two kids, sending our kids to private schools is not an option. And now I am so glad that we did research on this and I am not feeling sorry for my kids for not being able to go to private schools, because public schools can be good as well.

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