We have written several posts on the failures of the public school system. But, we have not written those because, in any sense, we are opposed to public schools. Fact is, we are pulling for the success of our public schools.
Why would a private school be rooting for public schools? Easy. But asking another question may be a better way to get an answer. "Why would we rejoice in the decline of an institution that is there to benefit 93% of the nation's children and prepare them for their futures?" Simply put, we wouldn't. We are for students, and the success of the public school system will be success for many.
We should certainly all be aware of the problems facing the public school system, some of which it will never overcome. We should also be aware of the benefits and advantages private schools offer, and they can offer many. And, the elephant in the room: the public school system needs to wise up and stop playing to the politicians. Instead, they should be allowed to pursue only the good of the nation and the people it serves. That is the attitude of its teachers, not the system. But, because setting standards in test results have become the measuring rod for public schools, the system has been forced to turn inward on itself. It has become its own worst enemy.
Still, after all has been said, we are for the students, wherever they may attend school. The whole nation will do better when every student does better. If this is not true, the alternative is to espouse a 'zero-sum' perspective on education. That will serve to bring it down even further.
This idea of the fallacy of a zero-sum game was burned into my conscience after reading Heather McGee's book, The Sum of Us. Applications are many. Her book focused on economic racial disparity being rooted in zero-sum thinking: there's a winner and a loser. She did a brilliant job reasoning through the issue and arrived at the bottom line that we all do better when we all do better. The success of one group is the success of all groups.
Our nation's educational system is not a zero-sum game either. If one team loses, everyone will suffer loss. An analogy to that is one of managers and their teams. Good managers work hard for the success of those who work under them. Their success is inextricably tied to their department's success. This is fundamental management theory. Business owners strategize for the success of their employees. Only poor managers and owners don't. And if they don't, it is to the detriment of their own departments, businesses and wallets. Everyone, private and public schools alike, should be fighting for the success of the entire school system in the U.S.
There is, in fact, a significant disparity between private school students' results and public school students' results, at least as measured by post-secondary degrees. The differences divide us. The simple chart below is taken from a study by the National Center for Educational Statistics. The complete study results can be obtained at https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2014363.
The findings were published is 2014 so it is a little dated, but considering the steady
decline in public school results in the past 10 years, the devastating effects of the Covid 19 pandemic on the public educational system, and the fact that other research shows very little decline in private school results because of the pandemic, these numbers are likely quite generous.
But we will never revel (or gloat) in the underperformance of public schools in contrast to the performance we see from private schools. We know there will likely always be differences between the two. That's ok. The question the public school system should be asking is "why?" and, "Why is this difference so significant?" But they aren't asking.
We cannot rejoice in these results. They are unfortunate and do damage to our nation and our credibility around the world. This is not a zero-sum game in the battle of schools. There should be no battle at all. Practically speaking, as a private school there is little we can do for the public school system other than, if possible, speak out and cast our vote for those who are looking for reform in the system. I can not do otherwise than have deep concern and desire to see the educational success of all students.