Sunday, July 16, 2006

The major problem of public education.

Kevin Drum (of the Washington Monthly) had a very interesting post yesterday concerning a report released by the US Department of Education on the quality of education offered by public schools vs. private schools.
It basically shows that public schools do OK at the elementary level but not so well at secondary level, and this is what K. Drum says:
I don't have any answers here except for a guess: namely that the pedagogy wars don't really matter much. Phonics vs. whole word? New math vs. old? Open classrooms vs. strict discipline? Without disparaging the people who work hard trying to figure this stuff out, it seems as if practically any of these approaches can succeed or fail depending how well they're implemented.
But what does seem to show up over and over again is the effect of concentrated poverty. Nearly everything I've read suggests that when the number of kids in poverty reaches about 50% in a school, teaching becomes nearly impossible — and that this matters much more in secondary school than in elementary school.

In my experience, that is totally right, and that's true for French education too. Despite what some teachers may like to think, padegogy does not really matter, the social economic environment does. (Unfortunately, they can't do anything about that, hence their sense of despair). In fact, I believe it is one of those things that are true pretty much anywhere. I think concentration of poverty is the main reason for educational and social failure. It is so obvious to me that I wonder why it has not been addressed more seriously.

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