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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Another republican lie refuted.


Public education and private education in America are roughly equal, even though private school students score higher. Why? Demographics. Private school test scores are better because the demographics of their students are tilted highly towards groups that do well no matter whether they’re schooled in public or private schools.
If you’re paying for private school, you’re not paying for a great education - you’re paying for demographics. The report actually says that on average, your student won’t do better on standardized tests in private school compared to public school; the only thing that makes a difference is their race, their income level, and their parents’ involvement in their education.
One more thing: you know all of those doomsday stories about how America’s schools are falling behind those of other nations? Those reports are similarly flawed because of Simpson’s paradox.
Take South Korea, for example. Their test scores in math and science dominate America and I do admire their strong education system. But read that article more closely: only 60% of their students of high school age actually attend high school; the “bottom” 40% are actually funneled into separate vocational schools. Thus, when standardized tests compare 12th graders in Korea and 12th graders in the United States, if you individual compare demographic groups, the United States does at least as well as Korea, but if you combine all students as a whole, South Korea appears to dominate the United States. That’s because their high schools, much like private schools in the United States, are full of students whose personal demographics are universally geared towards greater educational success regardless of the schools.
This same phenomenon is true in many countries; the United States is relatively rare in that they place all students in the same high schools and they have compulsory attendance requirements. Most of the nations that exceed the United States in average scores have high schools that are demographically skewed in some fashion.
In short, the best investment you can make in your child’s education is by being involved. Your involvement is a factor you can control - your race and (to a degree) your other demographics can’t be changed. Instead of dropping $50,000 on getting your kid into that ultimate private school, tone down your career a bit and get involved: find out what your child is interested in, be involved and interested in their homework, and let them know that they really are important to you. Love is the one investment in your child that can really pay off.

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