Thank you for following along my education series, twelve stories surrounding our schools today. Education quite has my heart and with four children in public school, the youngest with special needs, I am a long term stakeholder. Visiting public and private schools, speaking to parents, teachers and administrators, and reflecting on my own education and experience as a public school family have all challenged me to think far beyond my Phd in Education.
1. Teachers care about children.
Boy, they really do, no matter if they teach in wealthy suburbs, poor counties or impressive private institutions.
2. The folks making the decisions regarding public education are disconnected.
National and state level decisions indicate that policymakers disregard research and have free reign to invent goals and objectives that are far from what is best for children.
3. The way a school makes you feel is most important.
Parents appreciate being heard and welcomed and made to feel that their kids are not only learning, but valued. Families leave public schools because they are frustrated with policies like testing that are harming their children.
4. There is no one best choice.
The benefits of both public and private schools are numerous and many overlap. Private schools win in terms of far less testing and public schools win in terms of real diversity, i.e., culture, SES, and ability.
5. Public school is not a generic concept.
There is just too much variance. Public schools in wealthy counties resemble private schools and so, the label of public lacks concrete meaning other than the diversity variant.
6. Money makes a difference.
Not just having more state money, but families who raise money for public school foundations that in turn provide for classroom teacher assistants and a plethora of resources.
7. Money doesn't make difference.
Observing children engaged in hands on learning does not cost a dime and, to me, is the ultimate litmus test for a quality education.
8. Family involvement is a game changer.
It seems no matter where you go, the same dozen people shoulder the brunt of the work. Parents must get involved and participate in their child's education, it is not an option.
9. All kids want to be hugged.
Every single one of them, big and small, want to be encouraged and pushed by the teachers that work tirelessly with little credit.
10. Parents are often treated as irrelevant.
No one seems interested to know what parents value in education. Many cry foul over testing, but nothing changes. Schools work to get a high grade but do parents actually care about the grade? I can't speak for everyone, but I would rather my first grade daughter learn by planting a garden and harvesting afternoon snack than achieve some random letter for reading.
Public and private schools are more alike than different and the benefits can not be easily generalized, at least in NC. There is just too much variability between the public and private sector and so, I encourage you to venture out, ask questions, meet people, take time to listen to the many stakeholders and employees in your community. Both programs have far to go when it comes to real inclusion, but that shall be another series. There is always room for improvement and we must listen and act on the stories from the teachers and families who are trying so hard, but feel their hands are tied. We owe it to them to do better.