Public Schools Versus Private Term Paper

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Public Schools vs. Private Schools

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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute study results published in "Where Do Public School Teachers Send Their Kids to School?" (Doyle et al. 2004) may be surprising to many parents whose children attend public school. Teachers are expected to be the individuals that know the most about what is going on in schools because they work there every day, with access to the classroom, school resources, school administration, and every aspect of the education system. One would expect that teachers would take pride in their schools and have their own children attend the public schools in which they teach; this would be a strong vote of confidence for the public schools. However, if teachers themselves chose not to send their children to public school, this is a strong indicator that our public schools are in bad shape. According to this study, "urban public school teachers are more likely than either urban households or the general public to send their children to Private Schools." (Doyle et al. 2004) the chancellor of New York City schools is among the influential school administrators that is very concerned about the fact that the public school systems across the nation are not in admirable shape, and he is proposing a complete reform for the school system that goes beyond vouchers or school choice. As far back as 1983, a story in Detroit revealed that Michigan public school teachers were twice as likely to send their children to private school. Subsequently, it was found that forty-six percent of Chicago's public school teachers sent their children to private schools, while only twenty-two percent of the general public sent their children to private school in Chicago, which is more than twice as likely. In fact, in Chicago it was so common for public school teachers to send their children to private school, that one private school held parent/teacher conferences on public school holidays so that the parents could attend. With those reports in mind, these researchers found through the year 2000 census information that the national percentage of all families, including urban, rural, and suburban, that send their children to private schools is just over twelve percent. However, the national percentage of public school teachers that send their children to private schools is nearly twenty-two percent. Additionally, as the income level decreases for the urban public school teacher, the likelihood that the teacher will send his or her children to private school actually increases. There are two possible factors that cause this phenomenon. First, urban school teachers are usually very well educated and believe that a good education is extremely important, and therefore they would be willing to make a greater sacrifice financially to send their children to the best schools. Second, the urban schools that these children would be likely to attend are usually in worse conditions than schools which pay teachers a higher salary, so the lower salary of the teacher may be indicative of a greater need for the student to attend a different school. There are many factors to consider which are brought to the surface by these figures. Teachers in the public school system may be of the opinion that the schools simply are not up to par with the education that should be expected for children, and teachers themselves are seeking alternative schooling methods, including private schools, public charter schools, and moving to other districts so that the student can attend a "better" school than the one at which the teacher is employed. See Appendices I and II for statistical information about public school teachers and private schools.

Charter schools are a unique situation in the public vs. private school discussion. Charter schools are operated using public funds, however they are not subjected to the same regulations as normal public schools. The hopes of charter school supporters is that because they have more freedom from regulations that determine school policies in the public school system, as well as freedom from union contracts, there will be higher performance from the students. Nancy Coleman and Stephaan Harris (2005) discuss a new study released by the Economic Policy Institute which addresses some of the particular issues of the Charter schools regarding enrollment and achievement. It was previously believed by most people that charter schools served a disproportionate number of economically disadvantaged students, however this new study comes to the opposite conclusion. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, and previously conducted state studies formed the basic data pool for this study. The data simply did not support the notion that socioeconomic differences between charter school students and regular public school students are the reason for the differences in academic performance of the students in the charter schools. Charter schools are not serving a student body that is more difficult to teach, therefore alternative explanations for the lower achievement of these students must be sought out. Charter schools are supposed to provide a more specialized education that will give students an advantage not available from the regular public school district because of the different structure, but without the high costs of private schools. When the NAEP data was first released showing that the charter students did not have any measurable performance advantages than normal students, a controversy ensued. The charter schools attempted to dig their way out of this hole with the claim that the students at charter schools were more disadvantaged, therefore having equivalent academic performance to the average public schools was in fact a higher achievement, because the same students would be below average if left in the normal public school system. There are significantly more black students percentage-wise enrolled in charter schools than normal public schools, which is where the assumption that the students were more disadvantaged came from. However, the black students in charter schools are less likely to be eligible for lunch subsidies than those in public schools, which means that charter school students are actually at a socioeconomic advantage. Seventy-six percent of students in regular public schools are from low-income families, while only sixty-eight percent of students in the charter schools are low-income. Standardized test scores show no higher performance from charter school students, and in some cases lower performance in comparison to the public school students, even in a direct comparison of low-income to low-income students. Students in charter schools also appear to show no greater gain overall in achievement improvement than those in public schools.

Further findings of this study come as a surprise to many people who believe charter schools may be the solution to the public school dilemma. (Coleman & Conner 2005) Hispanic students in charter schools are also at no disadvantage in comparison to Hispanic students in public schools. This is further evidence that the overall students at charter schools are not more disadvantaged. Overall, charter schools may even have fewer minority students all together, as well as having fewer socially disadvantaged students. In California, Asian and Latino students in the charter schools had composite test scores, including literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies, that were up to five percent lower than the Asian and Latino students in the public schools. In Washington, D.C., a study of thirty charter schools showed that more students in the charter schools scored in the lowest possible category on the SAT 9 exams in comparison to standard public schools. In North Carolina, students that attended both public and charter schools had much lower achievement gains during their time in charter schools than the time in public schools.

The very basis on which charter schools are founded in an attempt to provide a better alternative to students may in fact be the cause of the lower performance of the students. "Some charter advocates claim positive returns from typical charter school traits such as liberation from unions and regulations, and they insist accountability is stronger and competition with public schools produces results. These claims are not supported by the research evidence." (Coleman & Conner 2005) Bureaucracy certainly causes setbacks for public schools. However, freedom from this will only benefit students if the school takes the responsibility of ensuring quality upon itself, which charter schools do not appear to be doing. In one study, ninety-three percent of public school teachers were shown to be certified, but only seventy-two percent of charter teachers are certified. Freedom from bureaucracy cannot benefit students if that freedom is used to hire less qualified teachers. Charter schools are not being held accountable for academic performance.

Additionally, although it is the honest goal of charter schools to enroll needy children above all, the necessary school choice procedures can prevent that goal from being reached. (Coleman & Harris 2005) Now, this is not to say that charter schools are failing all students who attend them. Charter schools are experimental, and there have been specific cases where charter school performance and increased achievement among students has surpassed the comparable students at normal public schools. Unfortunately, this does not appear… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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