Quality of Education in Public Schools

Lately, standardized testing, education reform, and the quality of education in United States public schools are constant topics in the news. Conflicting messages make it difficult to get to the heart of the issue. Are we falling behind China when it comes to educating our children? Are we placing too much emphasis on standardized test scores? Are charter schools the answer?

America’s Founding Fathers set the bar pretty high when they envisioned a country where every citizen was entitled to a quality public education. What began as an idea grew into an ideal. Universal education for all citizens is a concept as American as apple pie and baseball. Yet, as our nation grows, our public education system has not been growing with us. Most Americans recognize that we need to make changes to our public school system to ensure all of our children receive quality education. In fact, a recent study by Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup found:

  • The public has high regard for the public schools, wants needed improvement to come through those schools, and has little interest in seeking alternatives.
  • The public has high regard for the public schools, wants needed improvement to come through those schools, and has little interest in seeking alternatives.

So what exactly is the state of America’s public school system and what is the level of quality of education our students receive? It turns out that arguments over hot button issues like school choice, bilingual education, and testing miss the point entirely.

Currently, American public schools are facing some serious issues. Over the past thirty years, public school teachers have been forced to ‘do more with less’ due to budget cuts and lack of funding. At some schools students must pay cash out-of-pocket to participate in intramural sports. The lack of quality teachers presents an overwhelming challenge to both states and local school districts. Teacher shortages are most severe at the secondary level, where advanced content area expertise and academic majors in fields like math and science are vitally important for student achievement. According to the New York Times:

  • The annual cost of prison for an inmate is more than double what is spent on an individual public school student.
  • Eight years after Congress passed the No Child Left Behind act, with the goal of 100 percent proficiency in math and reading, most states hovered between 20 and 30 percent proficiency, and 70 percent of eighth graders could not read at grade level.
  • By 2020, only an estimated 50 million Americans will be qualified to fill 123 million highly skilled, highly paid jobs.
  • Among 30 developed countries, the United States ranks 25th in math and 21st in science.

The level of quality of education American students receive compared to other nations may shock casual observers. According to the Broad Foundation on Education:

  • America’s top math students rank 25th out of 30 countries when compared with
    top students elsewhere in the world.
  • By the end of 8th grade, U.S. students are two years behind in the math being studied by peers in other countries.
  • Sixty eight percent of 8th graders can’t read at their grade level, and most will
    never catch up.
  • More than 1.2 million students drop out of school every year. That’s more than
    6,000 students every school day and one every 26 seconds.
  • The national high school graduation rate is only 70 percent and rates are much lower for minority students. Only about half of the nation’s African-American and Latino students graduate on time from high school.

A University of Michigan study comparing the Chinese and U.S. public education systems revealed some interesting differences between our approaches to education that may contain the ‘secret’ to improving our ambitious public school system. The study concluded that “If schools in the U.S. public school system were to incorporate the positive aspects that make the Chinese school system so successful, schools in the U.S. would in turn be more successful.” Some of the differences between the U.S. and Chinese public school systems as noted by the University of Michigan study are as follows:

  • Teachers in China are given more respect than teachers in the U.S. For example, teachers do not get taxed on their salary, and they receive their own national holiday, Teachers Day, on September 29th.
  • Chinese schools have a hard work ethic, resulting in student success.
  • Chinese schools do not segregate high achieving students from lower achieving students through tracking levels, like in the U.S. This is mostly due to the belief that all students can succeed if they put in the effort.
  • While American students have the same amount of allocated time as Chinese students, the amount of engaged time spent in school is dramatically less than their Chinese counterparts.
  • State curriculums and state testing does not make sense when standardized tests and textbooks are nationally normed and marked, respectively.

The American public school system has traditionally been one of our nation’s biggest strengths and taking the appropriate steps to ensure that our children are properly educated is critical to our country’s success.

 

 

 

Public School Ratings

Public school ratings are released each year to try to establish a wide database of information for parents to look into. When it comes to choosing a school for your child, the ultimate goal is for the best education one can both afford and the school can provide. There are endless categories that are used to judge each school, but the main ones that usually stand out are test scores, class sizes, enrollment by grade, ethnic/racial groups, economic groups, population distribution by age, household income, and educational expenditures.

Test scores is usually the biggest category that people look at when it comes to choosing a school for your child. The test scores represent the average results that the students in that school end up with on standardized tests or similar since it depends on how the state decides to do their testing procedures. A school with higher tests scores can be assumed to have a better educational, or preparation system in place. Although this may be generally true that those higher scores represent a better education, this is not always the case and it should only be used in addition to other categories. Picking the highest scoring school over any others is a sure way to make a naïve decision.

Class sizes always come up high on the list of what you are looking at with a school. It has been documented that smaller class sizes usually ends up with a much better education. The premise behind this is that the teachers have less work involved with each class so they can spend more time with the students and less time grading papers. There is more one-on-one time and more time in total divided by each student, whether that is more questions answered, or more topics covered. The more time that a teacher can spend with each individual student, the better the learning experience becomes for the students. Keep in mind though that smaller class sizes is detrimental to the schools budget since they have to sacrifice revenue from less attending students to accommodate. It is important for the schools to strike a balance between the cost of the smaller class sizes and the benefits of the intimate setting on the quality of education delivered.

Ethnic or Racial groups data is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it may be imperative that the student be placed in a school that is most fitting for him. Regardless of law and racial equality, research has proven that most people feel comfortable when they have friends of similar interests and who are most like themselves. If a non-Hispanic child is placed in a predominately-Hispanic school, it may be difficult for him to be happy which in turn would lead to lower test scores. This is not always the case, but one should consider this and ensure the school is a best fit. Most schools do not fall into this category though.

Economic groups are a way that many people gauge the education that the school will provide. Data shows that as an increase in the percentage of economically disadvantaged students, SAT test scores decrease. It is an inverse relationship and it is a big problem for schools in poorer areas. The most important part of this category is comparing the school to the district or state. If the school were very low compared to the district, it would definitely show that this particular school should have a better education and may be a wise choice.

Lastly, one of the biggest indicators for educational performance would be the educational expenditures. This category shows how much the school spends on each student. It can be said that the greater dollar amount spent per student should indicate a greater education. This is not always the case, but many schools will use these numbers as a great way to publically advertise the school. The most important thing to consider here is comparison to the district and state and then uses the rating to compare with the rest of the categories.

Budget Cuts Affecting Public Schools

One of the inherent disadvantages of sending your kid to a public school is that their education is a direct correlation to the budget that the school has to spend. Moreover, the school’s budget is directly related to how much the city is willing to give to them. So if the city needs to save money and decides to cut spending on public education, that isn’t going to do good things for your child’s education; your kid’s education is pretty much at the mercy of the city’s finance. Of course, it really is not as scary as that sounds, and most all cities will know that education is a hugely important part of their budget, and adjust accordingly. So how exactly are budget cuts affecting public schools?

Sometimes you will not even notice the effects of a school’s budget cuts, perhaps if it is a relatively small one for a larger school. Nevertheless, other times in times of recessions, there are going to have to be some drastic budget cuts. These are going to be the ones that you are going to notice, and in this article, we are going to cover how you can identify these budget cuts.

Most of us can remember the times when we were in college; and one of the biggest expenses other than tuition was textbooks. This is not just true of college textbooks, as ones used in all public schools can be extremely expensive, often costing over $100 apiece. So when you take this into consideration, it should really be of no surprise that filling an entire school with these textbooks is an extremely expensive chore to do, and one that not all public schools can afford to do. Therefore, when a school is making some budget cuts, usually the textbooks are going to be effect first. Yes, you will still have textbooks made available to your kids, but you probably are not going to be getting the most recent textbooks available.

Some of the repercussions of having budget cuts affecting public schools are not as subtle as using slightly outdated textbooks. Sometimes the entire athletics can be affected in one way or another by a budget cut. This may not be the case for the majority of the time, but it has been known to happen. In this scenario, most sports will still be practiced by the school, but you may have slightly second-rate sports equipment, or a school gym that has not been properly maintained. The point is that when budget cuts affecting public schools happen, no part of the school’s funding is off limits for budget cuts.

When looking at a school’s finances, and where the money goes, you would be surprised at the huge variety of different stuff that they spend money on. For instance, substitute teachers aren’t going to be doing their job for free (for obvious reasons), so it is up to the school to pay for them when a teacher can’t make it to work for whatever reason. Even though substitutes are still going to be paid when there are budget cuts, it is certainly going to put an extra strain on the school’s finances.

So in conclusion, there are many different ways things to remember happen when budget cuts are affecting public schools. A school obviously cannot operate without a steady cash flow, and whenever that is interrupted, there are going to be some drastic measures that the school is going to have to do.

Public Schools vs. Private Schools

When you are deciding which path to take, you are going to have a lot of choice on your hands when it comes to sending your kid to a school. Moreover, each choice boils down to these two options: whether you want your kid attending one of the Public schools vs. Private schools. This debate has been raging on for quite a while, and each side has their own set of followers who are firm believers in what they chose to go with. Of course, each choice is going to have their own set of unique advantages and disadvantages, which is precisely what we are going to be discussing in this article. If you think that you may be interested in choosing one of them, be sure to consider some of the things that we are going to be covering in this article.

First, we will start out with the pros of attending a Private School. Many people seem to view attending a private school as a sort of “snobby” thing to do, and something that is only reserved for very wealthy individuals. This may have been true decades ago, but nowadays it could not be falser, and many private schools have financial aid plans that make attending them a possibility. You can also take comfort in the fact that your kid is going to get more one on one time with the professor, and classes are small, generally speaking.

Of course, there are going to be some cons that anybody who is thinking about using a Private school should take into consideration. Even though they do make financial aid available to all, it is still much, much more expensive to use a private school rather than a public one. In addition, you are going to have to provide the transportation for your kid to go to and from school, since it will not be provided by the school.

To be honest, there are many reasons why someone would choose a public school over a private one. The most obvious reason to choose a public school over a private one is the price. There are other benefits too, like building a sense of community with the fellow students and even the teachers working there. This sense of community is certainly there in private schools, but to a lesser degree. Transportation is always going to be provided to the families who are attending a public school, which is a huge advantage of private. Another reason may sports teams, which many times are not offered at a private school for one reason of another. For huge sports fans, this is usually the main reason why they would choose to go with a public school.

In the public schools vs. private schools debate, there are also going to be some cons to take into consideration. For one, you are usually going to have a larger amount of students assigned to each teacher, which will mean that students are not going to get as much one on one time with their teacher. On top of that, most classes that are offered in public schools are of an intermediate learning level, which means that if you are an above average student, you may not be catered to as well as if you were otherwise in a private school.