kitchen table math, the sequel: 2/1/15 - 2/8/15

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What would happen if parents had choice?

This question has come up in the comments thread of "If you want your children to sit in rows, you have to pay extra."

I strongly support choice, partly because Ed and I had sufficient income to exercise choice by, first, moving to a district we couldn't afford* (because we thought affluent suburbs had private school education at public school prices)** and, second, withdrawing our 'neurotypical' son from our public school and enrolling him in a Jesuit high school.

Choice number 2 was the best money we ever spent.

As a simple matter of fairness, I believe that if we had choice, other parents should have choice, too.

How school choice would turn out is another question, and I certainly agree with froggiemama that the prospect of public schools taking the path colleges and universities have taken (more, more amenities) gives me the willies.

On the other hand, we do have evidence from other Western countries that I think should be part of the conversation.

We also have evidence from Project Follow-Through, in which low-income parents chose Direct Instruction over progressive education (must rustle up the link - sorry it's not here).

My two favorite what-do-parents-want stories:
Which reminds me: I recall reading that the U.S. has the least free school system among Western countries . . . is that the case? I no longer remember where I picked that up.

In any event, it's definitely the case that a number of Western countries fund parochial schools (or fund parents who want to send their children to parochial schools).

Also germane to the discussion: Andrew Cuomo is supporting tax credits for school choice.
In his fifth State of the State speech, the governor also called for an education tax credit for donations to public schools or scholarship funds that aid students in parochial schools, a top priority of Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
Cuomo proposes sweeping education changes 
I'm ambivalent about Governor Cuomo, but he does seem like a pretty savvy political operator:
While the bill is supported by some 20 unions, who say that it would help the children of their members, the New York State teachers’ union staunchly opposes it, calling it a backdoor voucher program that directs tax dollars to private schools.

Cuomo’s Education Agenda Sets Battle Lines With Teachers’ Unions
* Almost sufficient income
** Reality turned out to be exactly the opposite: public school education at private school prices.

Carmen Fariña's grandson has a tutor

She cited her experience with her 10-year-old grandson, who she said worshiped the high school boy her daughter had hired to tutor him. “Charlie goes like this” — she mimicked an expression of rapt attention — “every time Abe walks into the room,” she said. (Ms. Fariña’s frequent references to her grandson have become a running joke among principals.)
Chancellor Carmen Fariña Changes New York City Schools’ Course
American parents spend $7 billion annually on tutoring, in some cases as much as $400 an hour, to reassure themselves that they are giving their children every advantage in the academic rat race, and research on the impact of tutoring backs them up.
Closing the Math Gap for Boys
I was talking recently to a member of the school board here, who told me s/he didn't mind hiring tutors, but s/he did mind hiring tutors for "basic education."

That makes two members of our school board, that I know of, who pay tutors to teach their children at home. (Last year the then-board president told the administration, on camera, that he had hired a math tutor for his daughter.)

I don't know whether the other three members of the board employ tutors. I'm guessing two of them do. If they haven't hired tutors already, they will, because everyone does.

Our current superintendent's take on the matter: the reason Irvington parents hire tutors is "culture."

That's what his predecessor thought, too.

Her observation -- this is close to a direct quotation -- was "Everyone knows Westchester parents hire tutors because they push their children to get ahead."

I always get my back up, hearing this.

What is it about my culture that makes me waste money on tutors, exactly?

And how is my culture any business of yours, anyway?

And why am I, the parent with the supposedly wonky culture, the focus of analysis?

I don't think I know a single parent, in my district, whose children went through all 13 years of K-12 without tutors, and all but one hired tutors because their children were having trouble, not because their children were at the top of their class but the parents wanted more.

Just one parent I know arguably fell into the "culture" category, but even that parent wasn't hiring tutors because of her culture. Pushing her kids to get ahead because of her culture, yes. Hiring tutors to do the job, no. Hiring tutors was simple realism. She had worked in the schools herself, and was matter of fact about their failings. Rely on your public school for the basics, she told me; for anything beyond the basics, hire a tutor.

That's not culture.

That's survival of the fittest. Her household had assessed the situation they found themselves in, and they had adapted.

My question is: when did this happen?

When did it become taken for granted that kids--all kids--have trouble learning at school, and the solution is for parents to hire tutors?

Echoing my board member, I don't actually mind if (some) parents are hiring tutors just so long as the superintendent minds and is working to reduce the need for tutors.

But he doesn't and he isn't.

Ditto for Carmen Farina, apparently.