This post was inspired by:
Study: Teachers, curricula help public schools outscore private peers
Certified math teachers with ongoing professional development and more modern curricula help public-school students do better than their private-school counterparts in math, according to a new study. “Schools that hired more certified teachers and had a curriculum that de-emphasized learning by rote tended to do better on standardized math tests,” said University of Illinois education professor Sarah Lubienski, a study co-author. “And public schools had more of both.” ScienceDaily (2/25) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226093423.htm
I for one am not surprised by this. I have long held this opinion and actually have related evidence (somewhat validated by the study mentioned above) that justifies my belief. Here’s my case. In the past eight years, I have personally visited well over a thousand campuses and have observed thousands classrooms. I also have access to the data collected from over 40,000 R4 Hyper-monitoring observations. Here is what is painfully obvious from all this information:
Across settings, campuses, districts and regions, the quality of instruction in classrooms is very consistent. Unfortunately, it is consistently mediocre. The variable is the academic foundation of the students in the school. High SES students that receive mediocre instruction do OK on achievement tests and pass most of their classes. Low SES students that receive mediocre instruction generally do poorly on achievement tests and struggle in most of their classes.
What is powerful about this fact is that it makes improving schools very do-able. Just improve the overall quality of instruction in every class. When this occurs, low SES students do better on achievement tests and pass more of their courses. High SES students simply blow the roof off achievement tests. Or as one principal I work with stated with glee, “we destroyed the curve.”
So how does this relate to private schools? Well, we learned about the power of changing instruction, not at the high SES schools, but at the low SES schools. The high SES schools were comfortable doing the same things they had always done. On the other hand, increasing accountability standards are forcing low SES schools to change just to survive. In this case, the staffs of low SES campuses have taken the lead in illuminating best instructional practices that can no longer be ignored.
Who are the only schools with higher SES students than a high SES public school? The answer,of course, is private schools. Take high SES students, parents who are OK with paying for private tuition and tutors, small class sizes and non-certified teachers and what you have is the recipe for 1950’s quality instruction.
For all the flack that public schools and their staff face, I would blind draw a teacher from a “good” urban public school over a teacher from a “great” private school to join the staff on my campus any day of the week.