02 July, 2012

Publicly Private

We're Number ONE!!
I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

Today it's Sending a kid to private school vs public. I'm certainly not an expert on education in America, but I am a parent and I have to admit I have a little bit of experience with both public and private schools. 

When our daughter was teeny, she begged to go to preschool - as many kids often do. In our local area, though, the public head-start and preschool choices were, frankly, shitty. No funding, too many kids to too few teachers, dilapidated location, etc. So we saved up pop-can returns and did odd jobs until we could afford to send her to a private preschool. It was located in a church halfway across town, but was rated very highly and I have to admit it was pretty darn cool. We could visit any time we wanted, we got involved in some of the educational activities, and we got to know the kids and the parents. 

All in all, despite probably costing more than we could reasonably afford - we were a hair's breadth above the poverty line, after all - it was worth it, at least to us. Clean, bright, cheerful, and only a handful of kids for each of the three teachers. I think - but am not sure - the class was limited to 20 students. Twenty. With three teachers. When someone says you get what you pay for, they weren't kidding in this instance at least. Our daughter loved it, we loved it, and she came out of there happy, loving school, and excited to learn more cool stuff about bugs or art or numbers or whatever. She went there as a three year old, and a four year old, and both years pretty much rocked.

After that, she went to public school. We open-enrolled her out of the massive metro school district we were living in and into a rural school district for a couple of years. That was, all in all, a very good experience, too. Then we moved to the middle of nowhere and lived in a reasonably decent district where she'd be safe, at least. But was she educated there? Um... Kind of. Better than if we'd stayed in the metro, definitely, but not as well as we'd have liked. And she was on the bright side of the curriculum, she took advanced classes in science all through her schooling, was in band for a while, participated in things like basketball and choir, and, as a B student, her grades were decent, and she got into a good college. But she wasn't very motivated, and she didn't enjoy it much which made her less motivated so she enjoyed it even less, and round and round it went.

I do believe, tho, that if we'd have managed to keep her in private school, or home schooled, she would have been more motivated and learned more. Bill and I were both VERY involved with school and homework and making sure she did what she was supposed to do. We took her to band lessons and paid for project materials and extracurricular activities. We never missed a conference, open house, play, sporting event,  or bake sale. We were involved, but, still... She could have done better, her educational experience could have offered her more, demanded more, and, frankly, we could have made better choices too.

I'm not saying that public school can't, or doesn't, give a good education anymore. For some students it does, but I have come to believe that those students would have excelled almost anywhere anyway. Classroom size is a huge factor. Teacher burnout. Funding (for anything beyond sports. Oh, golly, don't get me started on that!) Administrative leadership. Facilities. Educational milestones and goals. All of those things matter and, in my truly limited experience, private schools kick public schools butts. They do. As in most things, you get what you pay for. 


Maripat said...

Jean and you find the neatest things on the web.

I hate the way our school system has become so pigheaded about these standardized tests. We're killing out kids' desire to learn.

Tammy Jones said...

This was from that random blog generator, so it chose the topic, not me.

And I'm already 2 days behind! ARRGH!! {{huggs}}

Jean said...

I'm with you, Maripat. Whenever I talk to teachers, they all say they spend all their time teaching the test because so much is riding on the outcomes for them, the school system, and the kids, that they don't actually get to teach the kids what they should really know.

Unintended consequences, but any educator worth his or her salt could have told administrators and politicians this would happen. I'm sure they did. And I'm sure they were discounted as not being "with the program" or "protecting their jobs."