I was struck by this observation:
One thing that I feel was so worth while at that private school where I sent my kids was the Composition course. Every Monday starting with freshman year until the end of first semester of senior year, they have to write an essay on what is usually an unannounced subject. THey have to handwrite the essay in those old blue books used for final exams at colleges. Those essays are scrutinized and corrected and graded. The student then has a chance to rewrite the essay--in class during the week to better the grade. So no out of school help is available for that part of the grade, and the kids really do learn to write. Sometimes a general topic is given and the kids have to research a subject and can bring a page of notes and cites to use for the essay, but still, the exact question is not known.
What makes this work are dedicated teachers who read and grade those essays. One thing I despised about our public school experience were teachers who did not follow up on corrected papers and tests. They would mark off the answers, sometimes not even reading the work carefully, and then just hand back the paper, If they bothered to look in their wastepaper basket, they would find those returned papers for the most part, thrown in there. The kids would learn nothing from the assignment. X School teachers read every single answer and would make the kids redo what they showed they did not know. But that is not always the case for even private schools. The top privates, the selective ones with the top reps tend to offer this as a matter of course.
And here's a parent talking about Rice:
I want to share with you the experience I had going to the last commencement for Rice, a Catholic all boys school in Harlem run by the Christian Brothers. The CB are a dying breed, their extinction accelerated by the priest scandals, and this school never did make any money. The school graduated a group of all African American young men from Harlem, none of them deemed smart enough to be accepted to any of the top magnet schools the NYC city offers to its brightest students. The graduation rate of this school is remarkable, given who goes there, and nearly every single one of those kids is going to college, even more remarkable when you look at the stats for inner city AA young men. Now this is not a school that most middle class folks would want for their kids, but when you look at the accomplishments for those young men, given what the alternatives are, the result are phenomonal. I do not support school vouchers, but this a case that really makes me pause, and would the type of exception that I would support.
I personally know a number of young men who graduated with my son. They did not do well in the NYC high school lottery, so their parents, came up with the money to send them to a Catholic high school. It was a difficult 4 years for these families, who even with discounts and transportation vouchers found it very difficult to go to this school that often required transportation transfers to attend. Some of the kids lived in far away boroughs. They were NOT the brightest or best by any public or private school standards. But every single one of them are going to college with enough merit/financial aid to make it work. I talked to the mom of one who told me that less than half her sons' peers who did not get into the great NYC magnet schools are going to college and if they are, are going to community colleges or at best the CUNYS maybe. What a difference in results.