Sunday, June 01, 2008

Well, duh!

Jay Greene's blog has a piece telling us that students involved in Milwaukee's voucher program graduate at a higher rate than those not in the program. Well, as Gomer Pyle once said, "Surprise, surprise!"

I suppose studies have to be done to establish facts no matter how obvious they are, but is it possible that any one could possibly even raise an eyebrow at this conclusion? Of course voucher students in a city like Milwaukee graduate at a higher rate than kids in the public school system. How could they not?

In my last post, I listed a number of my basic beliefs about public education, but there was nothing particularly profound there. Most of those beliefs are based on common sense that anyone with much contact with public education would be able to figure out.

I don't think too many people would argue with the proposition that children of parents who care about education will generally do better than those who don't, and that includes graduating at higher rates. It also seems obvious that parents who go to the trouble of enrolling their kids in a voucher program probably do so because they care about their kids education. If we put all those kids together in a private school setting where kids who don't try and don't behave can be kicked out, how could they possibly do worse?

Jay Greene, Sol Stern, and others have written books giving the impression that non-public schools do a better job than public schools because the teachers in those schools are wonderful people and there are no unions, whereas in public schools the teachers are lazy, greedy people, and everything is controlled by the unions. Well, there are other factors at work. If critics of public schools really want them to improve, and if they really want public schools to operate more like private schools, they might want to take a look at factors other than unions and the teachers who work in those schools.

11 Comments:

Blogger Mrs. C said...

There are so many asinine studies out there. Just the other day, I was reading one about how eating extra calories every day will contribute to obesity!!

Public schools will never be "elite" schools because that's not what they're designed to be. It's unfair to the teachers AND the students to imply otherwise.

I think bad unions, bad teachers and students and bad schools need to be discussed, however. It isn't acceptable to spend the kind of money we are on some of these schools with the results we're getting.

6/01/2008 5:38 AM  
Blogger Roger Sweeny said...

You are, of course, right. Students whose families take advantage of vouchers are different from students whose families don't. I would expect the former to do better than the latter.

Unfortunately, this inability to recognize the difference between people is incredibly common, and you see it a lot in education research.

Wealthy school districts have better buildings, newer books, more "technology," etc. And their students do better. But students in wealthy districts are different from students in poorer districts. Even if their buildings were as crappy and their books as old, I would expect them to do better than students in poorer areas, for some of the same reasons the Milwaukee voucher students did better.

Everyone knows that people who go to college make more money than people who don't go to college. But the two groups are different. Those who go to college are more goal-oriented, more willing to defer gratification, on average smarter, etc. I would expect them to do better whether they went to college or not.

Similarly, those who get into selective colleges are the smartest, most driven, most energetic. The fact that they make more money later may have little to do with what they did in college. In fact, much of the income bump they get from college may simply be a signaling to future employers: "This is a go-getter. If she wasn't, we wouldn't have accepted her. And if we made a mistake accepting her, she would have dropped out."

6/01/2008 6:59 AM  
Blogger Mamacita (Mamacita) said...

A classroom is only as good as the students who are crowded into it.

Even a poor teacher can help students if those students are willing to listen and behave. I am not advocating poor teaching; don't get me wrong. I'm all for getting rid of a genuinely bad teacher. It's just that NO teacher can get positive results with a roomful of sneering, violent asses.

I still believe that students who are not taught- REQUIRED, actually - to behave themselves wherever they might be, by their parents, are the main reason so many teachers burn out and so many schools are failing.

Families who do not value learning are bringing our nation down. Administrations who allow such families to dictate the policies of a school are enablers. Kids who are in school only because it's the law, and who are determined to rule the room and not learn anything and not allow your kids to learn anything either should be tossed out the door.

Disruptive, violent students in our schools seem to have more rights than well-behaved kids who really want to learn. When did this happen? How could we have let this happen? It's a disgrace to snakes.

6/01/2008 11:40 AM  
Blogger john said...

yes your right. Many of the ideologically based critics though don't want to "improve" public education... they want to destroy it.

6/01/2008 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Mr Teacher said...

The reason that students who are enrolled in such voucher programs do well at school is, as you have said, because their parents/guardians obviously care enough about their childrens' education and future prospects.

As for the public-private debate, most of the teachers working in private schools are the same as most of the teachers working in public schools, namely decent, hard-working individuals who want the kids in front of them to learn. In a general sense, students who attend private schools tend to have more academic success than their public counterparts due to their learning environment. In other words, they are not sitting in a room filled with ignorant, anti-social morons whose parents/guardians do not care enough to teach their children how to spell voucher program, never mind enrol in one.

6/01/2008 1:09 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

There are times I don;t agree with you. However, this time you are correct. Students who have parents that work at their educational needs will do better than those who don't. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that. The voucher supporters know this but ignore it to make their case.

6/01/2008 1:47 PM  
Blogger Roger Sweeny said...

I'm not sure all the voucher supporters do know it.

Everyone in this business takes the correlation between going to college and making more money and says that the going to college causes the more money. But there is the same problem there. The people who go to college are different than the people who don't. For one thing, they were more successful in high school. One would expect them to be more successful.

But everyone acts as if the going to college made people successful. People are urged to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to send their children to "good" schools. Governments are urged to spend billions to subsidize everyone's attendance in a 13th through 16th year of schooling (14th through 17th if you count the all-day kindergarten that so many places have now).

6/01/2008 3:57 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

I really do appreciate all the comments. I was away for so long that I was afraid this post would fall on deaf ears (or blind eyes, or whatever). You are all doing fine without me, but I want to respond to just a couple of the comments. Mrs. C. mentions bad teachers and bad unions. She is right, especially about the problem of bad teachers. I think she probably knows this, but I just want to be very clear that this post was not meant in any way to deny that there are bad teachers. They are hard to get rid of, and I think our unions do shoulder a lot of responsibility for that.

Mamacita, after reading your comment, I'd ask you to marry me, but my wife would probably object.

6/01/2008 4:53 PM  
Blogger Mamacita (Mamacita) said...

Dennis, just knowing you'd want to has made my day! My husband would probably side with your wife, though. :) At least, I hope he would!

It's a lot easier to be a bad or mediocre teacher, than to take the risks necessary to be a good teacher. The REALLY good teachers are usually in the rubber room or the nervous hospital, because, these days, anything outside the box is suspect. It's dangerous to be a really good teacher these days. Mediocrity, ie never asking questions or caring too much or making waves of any kind, is considered good teaching by administrators. What a sad commentary on our times.

Also? I hate the union. It supports mediocrity, discourages creativity, and has no concept of humor. In my old middle school, you could almost hear the slurps when the superintendent visited the building.

6/01/2008 5:01 PM  
Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Dennis, good to have you back. I am always amazed at how quickly the public points a finger at teachers for the failure of a student.

6/05/2008 4:58 PM  
Blogger EHT said...

Good point about the unions Mamacita! One of my pet peeves is the thinking out there that if I'm a teacher I'm pro union. I'm not, and many of my colleagues are not. Here in Georgia most belong because it's the cheapest way to have liability insurance, and if you teach today you better have it because you can be sued over some of the silliest things. I shopped all over for a policy....most agents told me no or the premium was as much or more than my homeowners policy. The Georgia Assoc. of Educators is the cheapest deal in town. It's extremely frustrating.

6/06/2008 1:59 PM  

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