Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Go Public Schools

Adding more fuel to the school choice debate is a recent study of the Philadelphia school system which has been experimenting over the last several years with turning over public schools to private operators. I'm not that familiar with the program, but it seems to be a kind of beefed up version of the charter system we have in New York. Anyway, after years of this program, the study has found that the traditional public schools outperformed the privately-managed schools on test scores and in terms of closing the achievement gap.

With information like that, I wonder if we'll start hearing arguments about how we should turn over private schools to public control.

As I would say if the results were reversed, I find it hard to believe that the governance structure of these schools matters more than what actually happens in the classrooms. That just doesn't make sense to me. So the real question is not why don't we make every school in Philadelphia a government-operated public school? The question is, what did the public schools do that made them more effective in this instance? Does it have to do with curriculum, class sizes, teacher preparation, social services, or something else entirely? To my mind, the difference in achievement matters less than what causes the difference. Because once we find that out, we can focus on what works and eliminate what doesn't. Then it won't matter who's running the schools.

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