I see no fix for this as long as this basic funding/incentive structure remains in place. Market forces have been squelched and kids/parents get what they get, no matter what they do or say. Options are limited for most people.
The countries that put us to shame in student outcomes also use public systems with no market forces. Ergo, one has no choice but to conclude that it is possible, albeit difficult, to improve the mean outcome of our overall system.
The reason I use the word “mean” above is that the problem we have in public education is not in its ability to deliver; it’s in its our inability to deliver a quality product to all students.
To illustrate the point, if you look at list like this:
….you can filter out the charters and magnets and then, with a little elbow grease (their filters aren’t very good — to me, any public school with selective admissions is a “magnet”, but not to them) you could make yourself a list of the best hundred or two hundred high schools in the US that are “general admission” in that the only qualification to go there is that you live in their school district.
If you go to any one of those public, general admission high schools, you’re getting an education which is as good or better than any other high school in the WORLD. Take a look at outcomes in at this bad boy:
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Average ACT score is 30. AVERAGE.
Now, how do they do that? Well, I think most people have already guessed. If you look at the school’s demographics, 88% plus are white or asian, and they self-describe as “privileged”, which basically we can translate to “everyone is upper middle class or above, and almost all parents are educated professionals themselves.”
So, we can conclude a couple of things:
- IF the student body comes from professional homes who are serious about the education of their students, our public system can put an education on the table that simply rocks.
- The problem with american public education is not its ability to DELIVER, but it’s inconsistency; it cannot figure out how to deliver a quality product when the parents are NOT professionals, NOT well to do, and where students are apathetic about learning.
So, because of our inability to solve (2) for a selected group (but a large group, and mostly racial minorities) our solution today is to abandon them; we provide magnet and charter opportunities for the kids in those zones who are NOT apathetic about learning, and we move on from there.
However, we pay a societal price for the ones we abandon; that’s the group which will put the most stress on our non-retirement social welfare systems and our prisons.
Now, are we solving those problems with more charters? DEPENDS ON THE FORMAT. If you put a high end high school STEM charter in an “unprivileged” neighborhood, that won’t work; the kids haven’t been properly prepared by their local K-8 public schools and would struggle. So, you need elementary charters in those areas first; OR, you need KIPP style formats (KIPP is a national charter concept that targets minority students; they agree to an 11-month, 8 hour a day educational immersion experience. It has been VERY successful.) as opposed to charters with standard formats in those areas.
But, you still have the problem of student abandonment. All you’re doing is lowering the number of abandoned students.