I’ve taught college freshmen for seven years. These students have come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from rural high schools to private school graduates. This is what I can tell you about freshmen English students.
1.) They don’t know the rules for capitalization
2.) They don’t know the rules for apostrophe usage
3.) They don’t understand that they can fail a class.
4.) They expect that they will be able to take quizzes and tests as many times as needed until the right grade is achieved.
5.) They don’t understand that work will NOT be accepted if it is late.
6.) MANY of them have NEVER written a basic research paper
As a result of this experience I have always been rather suspect of our public school system. However, I understand I’m biased. That I am only seeing these students through a very narrow lens and perhaps I am not being fair.
When I first started questioning whether or not the academic needs of my kids were being met I decided I had better rely on hard facts instead of my own perception.
It Is All About The Test
The first thing I wanted to take a look at was how testing has actually affected our school environment. I went to the Texas Department of Education and did some reading. The STAAR test is focused on the following “core” subjects: math, reading, writing, science, and social studies. At first this seems like a completely fine list, until you think about what is MISSING from this list. For example, art, music, history, geography, handwriting, and literature (which is different from reading). After I looked at this list I compared it to my kids’ daily school schedule and it was an EXACT match. They had time allotted to math, reading, science and social studies, and that is it. My kids go to art, music and library once for 30 minutes EVERY TWO WEEKS. My conclusion was clear, yes, the school teaches to the test. In fact our school is so good at taking the test our test scores are some of the highest in the state. Our school excels at the STAAR test so well because they start testing the kids in Kindergarten in anticipation of the test in third grade. Max spent so much time in assessment and testing this year that at one point his teacher went almost three months without reading with him one-on-one.
I desperately wanted my assumptions to be wrong. I wanted to find some secret piece of research that showed how superior public schools were to anything else. I searched. I went to the university library and dug. The numbers, studies and results were so overwhelmingly in favor of home school that I couldn’t ignore them.
- 74% of home school students attend college
- 46% of public school students attend college
- The average SAT score of a home schooled student is 1043
- The average SAT score for a public school student in Texas is 985
The numbers are there. They are solid, but when you combine them with the limited subject profile, and the school process you start to wonder how we’ve limped along as a society for as long as we have.
The public school system was designed at the same time as the industrial revolution – the development of the Model T and Ford’s radical assembly plant mode of operation. The goal of public school was to educate the masses – the poor. As a result the public school system is set up like an assembly line. All 6 year olds in and every year extra features get added and they get spit out at the other end. However, our children aren’t cars and they aren’t cogs in a machine and they definitely don’t all learn the same way, grow the same way or react to the same learning environment the same way. I would like for somebody to explain to me the benefit of giving 1 adult 19 students ranging for the autistic and academically challenged all the way to the gifted and talented students and expect HER to meet all of their needs equally. She can’t. And the fact that more than 90% of public school teachers are women that is even more detrimental for our boys.
But don’t take my word for it, I suggest you watch this great video. It takes 11 minutes
And if that video doesn’t do it for you, then I suggest you read “The Knowledge Deficit” by E.D. Hirsch.
That’s Great But…..
Here I am with the academics obviously better, but what about socialization? I mean goodness, you don’t want to raise social dorks do you? How will your kids learn to be competitive? How will they learn to stand up for themselves? How will they learn social norms? Well, I save that for part 3.