Libby Nelson wrote a great article over at Vox this week, Ranking High Schools Tells You Which Schools Are Rich or Selective. It isn’t about the Education Reform movement. But it does show the lie to it. The article is based on The Daily Beast ranking of the 700 best high schools in the United States. And surprise: the best schools are the ones that are rich or only let in the best students.
But don’t forget: the issue is teacher tenure and nothing upsetting to the power elite like school funding! We have an educational system that, like most of our society, is set up to help those least in need of help and to let those most in need of help languish as we tell them, “Anyone can make it in America; if you haven’t made it, it is your own damned fault!” It is pathetic and I can’t think about it without thinking what an idiot Jonathan Chait is.
Of the top ten schools on the list, only one has a student body where over half the students (63%) get free or reduced-cost lunches. It is the School of Science/Engineering in Dallas. And it is selective. The best students from throughout the Dallas area go there. So it isn’t surprising that 100% graduate or that 98% are college bound or that 100% take Advanced Placement courses. These are largely students that would do this in any environment.
What we are seeing is that the policies of those in the Education Reform movement have already succeeded at mostly separating the best students out of the normal public school system. This allows them to scream all the louder about how the public school system is not performing for our children. The whole thing is based upon the fact that poor children don’t do as well as rich children for the normal environmental reasons as well as unequal funding of schools. And the Education Reformers have managed to make the situation even worse for the average poor child.
If we lived in a rational country, we would look at The Daily Beast rankings and decide that we had to do something about inequality in our educational system. Instead, we just seem to shrug, “What are you gonna do?!” I suspect that among conservatives, the unstated belief is that the rich are just better than the poor and that’s why their kids do better. It’s all just status quo apologetics.
At her blog, Diane Ravitch recently wrote, Researcher: Success Charter Chain Built on Hyperbole. It notes that the Success Academy charter schools have just lied about who they serve and how well they perform. For example, they claim that they serve the same number of special needs students. But, in fact, while less than 1% of their students have special needs, over 10% of the public schools in the area have special needs students. They do this same kind of misrepresentation in many other ways. I think we would all agree that, just as The Daily Beast rankings show, if you only pick the best students for your school, you will do better.
It is annoying to have to discuss these things. Whenever I do get into an argument with people in the Education Reform movement, they always say the same thing: we can’t do anything about school funding, but we can do something about teacher “tenure”! So it’s the same old American idea: it is better to do something, regardless of how bad it may be, than to do nothing at all. And in the case of Education Reform, the people who determine what can be done are billionaire “philanthropists” like Billie and Mindy.
In 50 years, when The Daily Beast ranks the top high schools in America, it will find the same thing: the best schools are filled with rich and specially-selected students. And the only thing that will have changed is that teachers’ unions will be long gone, teachers will be paid a lot less, and the poorest students will be served even worse than they now are. But not to worry! Rory John Gates III (Billie’s great-grandson) will get a great education!