Public or Private?

by Robert Pondiscio
November 10th, 2008

Everyone and their brother is weighing in on where the future First Daughters should go to school once their dad moves to Washington to start his new job.  Jay Mathews of the Washington Post wisely avoids grandstanding, noting that school choice is very personal.  He assumes the Obama girls will find their way to Georgetown Day School, “because of its similarity to their current school, its historic role as the city’s first racially integrated school and the presence of Obama senior legal adviser Eric H. Holder Jr. on its board of trustees.”  However he notes there is a viable public school, Strong John Thomson, a stone’s throw from the White House.

Meet the principal, Gladys Camp, and you understand why Thomson parents think the Obamas ought to check it out. Dr. Camp, as everyone calls her, is a legend. In the past two years, she has won awards from the National Association of Elementary School Principals and this newspaper as the best school leader in the city….Sixty-nine percent of Thomson’s 355 students are from low-income families. Forty percent are Hispanic, 34 percent black, 22 percent Asian American and 5 percent white. That demographic mix often means remedial instruction and little enrichment, but parents say the school offers a feast of music, art and foreign languages as good as what they would find in a private school. 

The last President to send his kids to public school?  Jimmy Carter.  “Thomson is close to capacity,” writes Uncle Jay, “but Camp said she would have room after the holidays for a fifth-grader and a second-grader transferring from the Midwest.”

Poll: Confidence in Public Schools & NCLB Slipping

by Robert Pondiscio
August 13th, 2008

A nationwide poll shows confidence in America’s public schools and the No Child Left Behind Act is declining.  The survey by Education Next also shows Americans believe Democrats are the party “more likely to improve the nation’s schools.”

On NCLB: half of those surveyed support leaving it as is or renewing it with minimal changes; half think it needs a major overhaul or should be done away with. The survey also shows that Americans–especially African Americans and Hispanics–are more confident in their local police force than in their local schools.

The poll results are here.  Some other noteworthy nuggets:

  • In 2007, the EdNext poll found 57 percent of the public supported renewing NCLB as is or with minimal changes; today only 50 percent of the public do.  Support has declined among African Americans, Hispanics, and whites.
  • Public school teachers are especially critical of NCLB with only 26 percent supporting renewal as is or with minimal changes; 33 percent suggest that Congress completely overhaul the act, and another 42 percent recommend that Congress not renew the act at all.
  • Only 20% of African Americans give public schools an A or a B.  The percentage of Hispanics giving schools a D or F has doubled since last year’s poll, from 16 to 32 percent.   

“The public has more faith in its local police force than it does in its local schools,” notes EdNext.  ”This is especially pronounced among African Americans and Hispanics: Fifty-five percent of African Americans and 64 percent of Hispanics gave their police force an A or B, a significantly higher show of support than for public schools. ”

  • When asked whether students “who have been diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disabilities should be taught in regular classrooms with other students,” only 25 percent of teachers, and 28 percent of the public, favored the idea. The rest said they should be “taught in separate settings.”
  • 37 percent of respondents support the idea of public school districts offering parents the option of sending their child to a single-sex school; 25 percent oppose the idea; and the remainder are undecided.  Support is stronger among public school teachers–47 percent approve the idea.
  • More than two thirds of American parents say they would be willing to have their children take some of their high school courses over the Internet.