Sunday, January 10, 2016

School quality

The best education, we have found, and I like to base things on evidence and not ideology, the best educated: homeschoolers, next best, are going to be private schoolers, and then charter schoolers and then public schoolers.

I agree that I'd put home-schooling first, seeing as smaller class size is correlated with school performance, it makes sense that if you make the classes really small, you'd get the best possible academic performance. Two conditions, though. First, you'd need to ensure that the parent who was doing the teaching had the time and the talent to properly teach the child. They'd need to be financially able to take the time for teaching during the day without impacting their basic standard of living and their financial survival. That might require a socialist type of organization for society where parents weren't required to put in so many hours a day into work. Second, I'd hate for the child to be socially isolated and would prefer to see the child enrolled in a daily sports program. There may be other and better ways to see to it that children are not socially isolated, but I would think that should be a real priority.

But to prioritize private, charter and public schools into any sort of hierarchy makes no sense. There's never been any evidence that any of these are superior to any other. Public vs. traditional private schools, there are distinctions based on admissions. Traditional private schools that serve a wealthy clientele (I used to work in one as the receptionist) are essentially skimming off the cream of the students who are most likely to profit from a really well-funded and well-organized education.

Charter schools do not benefit from capitalism and the innovation that private companies bring to technical fields because schooling is overwhelmingly a labor-intensive process. It makes very little difference to the outcome of schooling whether a schoolteacher is paid by a local government or a private corporation. Paying teachers properly and supporting them in their mission is what counts. Technology is involved to some extent, but technology is nowhere near as decisive as it is in, say, building windmills for generating wind power. Showing films via computer as opposed to the old projectors saves money and makes the teachers job a bit easier, but hardly results in any obvious bottom-line advantages as what really counts in educating children is the after-film discussion that the teacher conducts.

Why would I prioritize public schools and financially starve charter schools? Because public schools take all comers. They accept everyone regardless and put whatever resources are needed into educating all of their charges. Charter schools have a great financial incentive to toss out under-performing students and to only keep the ones that will reflect well on the school.

So it's far from clear what “evidence” Dr. Carson is basing his hierarchy on.