Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Ideal School

Michael Thompson, author of The Pressured Child: Freeing Our Kids from Performance Overdrive and Helping Them Find Success in School and Life, was recently quoted in the Ask Amy advice column as saying a first-rate education is made up of "demanding academics, teachers with high morale, enriched extra-curriculars, and small class size."

Sounds about right to me.

Thompson, however, was talking about private schools. How much of that prescription is met by the current attempts to reform public education?

  • Demanding academics… maybe that's what you could call the unending attention to test-taking, but with the withering away of any subject that's not covered on the test, I think it's a stretch. (Science? History? Geography? Art and music? Phys ed?)
  • Teachers with high morale… that's a joke, right? I don't think even education "reform" advocates would say they care about teacher morale.
  • Enriched extra-curriculars… even without the adjective, basic extra-curriculars have suffered in public schools and when they exist, they sometimes come with a price tag that bars kids who need them most from participating.
  • Small class size… reformers make a point of saying that class size makes no difference, while sending their own kids to private schools with class sizes in the teens or single digits.
Until our public schools look like private schools in terms of class size, commitment to extra-curriculars, and teacher morale, there will be no meaningful change in the preparedness of the students who graduate.

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