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Do elite private schools have a responsibility to improve local public schools?

Is it possible that a greater collaboration between public and private schools could enhance our society? Policies and practice could be shared and improved. In addition, students could work together on local service endeavors.

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    Mar 21 2013: In Alberta, we have a few private schools but the public system is perhaps more universalist than I perceive is the local experience for many of the responders to date. My daughter is a teacher in a private school (specializing in language immersion teaching) and my son in law is a teacher in the public system. The private schools do have an overall better standing in respect of universal tests ... But not that substantially different from the upper tier of public schools. One experiment that has proved to be quite successful here was to allow the parents and administration of particular public schools to form a "charter school" that is focused in some way... For example, advanced training for the arts, or for gifted children. Parents and children then apply for entry to the school, but once accepted there is no tuition, though there may be extra cost for musical instruments, for example. This middle way is I suppose quite Canadian, neither completely socialist nor absolutely free enterprise. In any case, it seems to work, and I understand creates an improved teaching and learning environment.
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      Mar 22 2013: we hare charter schools here as well. my youngest son 17 goes to one. they are fabulous
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    Mar 19 2013: Many elite private schools do feel such a responsibility. Some offer training in curriculum and pedagogy for local teachers. Some pilot curriculum and materials and then make it available free online for anyone who wants to use it.

    But the elite private schools face different challenges and constraints than public schools and do not necessarily have the answers to the problems that public schools face.
  • Mar 26 2013: As an adult educator, asked a similar question for a long time, "Doesn't the much better funded K-12 have an obligation to support the adult education system?" I ended up rejecting that question. Weak power tries to force or mandate. Strong, long-lasting effective power comes from winning hearts and minds. Now I look for areas of commonality and try to create, specific, concrete opportunities for partnership. A solution to your problem by way of a proclaimed "responsibility" would abolish the public/private distinction.
  • Mar 21 2013: So far the school boards have been mentioned only once.

    In the USA the local school boards are responsible for the public schools. It seems to me that before the private schools start getting involved with the public schools, they should wait for an invitation from the school board. Without such an invitation, there is no responsibility.
    • Mar 22 2013: Barry,

      You're absolutely right that the school board has an incredible impact on schools and their fate. My town's superintendent of only 2 years resigned due to an uncooperative school board, unwilling to change and collaborate. A school board is extremely powerful.
  • Mar 21 2013: My first 6 years was in a private catholic school. It wasn't any better than the ignorant public schools. It all boils down to leadership or the lack thereof. Our congress is a prime example of those schools
  • Mar 21 2013: Hardly. There's a distinction between public and private schools for a reason. It is fairly universal that you spend you money on whatever you truly care about. Private schools may be more money, but the education is far superior and there are scholarship programs if you cannot afford to attend. That and, well, capitalism.
  • Mar 21 2013: Fritzie and all - Why not look at the teachers and the students? A psychologist named Keirsey wrote several books on Myers-Briggs. The relevant one is his first one or first edition of - You Don't Understand Me. I gave my copy of it to my new niece by marriage. When you read that part on the distrubution of personality types among teachers and public school students, you will understand what happened to you and me in our good old public school days. Most teachers are Guardians and Idealists. If you are an Analytical(Promethian) or Artisan(Dionysian), you probably won't become a teacher. The former is the serious Yale student and the latter goes to Julliard. Okay - those are extreme examples, but you'll find the first group just happy teaching the honors students. The Artisans just don't fit in in public schools. Do you want creative people taching in Public High School in America? It's not going to happen except in honors classes. Get over it - The school boards don't want it to happen.
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      Mar 21 2013: Actually public schools can and do draw such teachers, but if the administrative apparatus then demands conformity to some prescribed set of approved actions, such teachers may tend to rebel as long as they can and then leave to pursue other options that are more receptive to their strengths.
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    Mar 21 2013: Your question and your explaination are different. Do they have a responsibility: No. Would it be possible to have a greater relationship with private schools: Yes

    However in policy and procedures they are like apples and oranges. Private schools have the option to design the course and implement strategies that meet the student needs. Fritzie has already stated the benefits and drawbacks of each .. I will go a step further. Public schools are directly under the control of text book publishers, test writers, federal and state governments. The curriculum is so compressed and structured that the teacher will follow the provided teacher guide from the text book publisher or fall behind and not cover materials need for successful test completion by the students. I would go so far as to say that most all discretionary decisions have been removed and the task at hand is simply to teach the test.

    Taking in consideration what Fritzie and I have both said .... exactly where will these to meet for mutual benefit?

    One has a lot to offer ... the other has in it possession a 5 pound bag which the government has given 25 pounds of material to stuff it with.

    If you have the time ... please scroll down and re-read Pat Gilberts comment. Education is a multi-billion dollar a year business. Further upper tier administrators have made feather bedding a art form. Look in the phone book and see how many unions, researchers, consultants, and educational associations are listed. Compare the administrative and operational costs of both private and public systems.

    I wish you well. Bob.
  • Mar 21 2013: Interesting thought, Arthur! Time for our educational system to make some innovative change.
  • Mar 21 2013: Getting rid of one or the other would benefit us all. I lean towards eliminating the public school districts. They are more expensive, and dollar for dollar they deliver less than the private schools. Besides, our "involved parents" would demand performance. In return their kids would be learning in the real world.
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    Mar 20 2013: No.
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    Mar 20 2013: Public schools should be the benchmark for others and always be above the private education. To achieve that goal is necessary to invest in education. Private schools don't have this responsibility because the fact is that they are private and they only have responsibilty to their "customers" and "shareholders". Besides, is better for both parts to collaborate to improve them and their environment.
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    Mar 20 2013: I would say: Ultimately no.
    They can and they should, but I wouldn't class it as an obligation.

    I would however say that (assuming the private schools are verifiably better than public schools), the government and states have a responsibility to provide an equal (or close to, or better, or improving) standard.
    If a private alternative can do something better, than the public sector has a responsibility to strive towards improving itself as the competition has been set.
    • Mar 20 2013: Xavier,

      I agree with you that the public sector has a responsibility to strive towards improving itself. I wonder if it possible to achieve, especially when we consider the points that Fritzie made in regards to the private school population. Is that what separates private and public schools or could it also be the freedom that private schools have to be creative and innovative and ultimately do what works in any given situation (for example, discipline and curriculum)?
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        Mar 20 2013: The freedom private schools have to be creative and innovative and to customize what they do to meet the needs at hand is of huge benefit for their students if the staff is cutting edge. School district administrations go back and forth over time about what they think of what is often called 'building-based decisionmaking." Fifteen years ago it was the new big idea, as I remember, in schooling. Now administrative preferences seem to have swung back to centralized control and standardization, which tends to be highly frustrating for public school teachers, who far prefer being able to make the choices they think will work best for the particular students they are looking at that year.
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    Mar 20 2013: I think the best improvement would be to do away with the public schools and turn all schools into elite private schools. Of course this will never happen as too many people make too much money at the public trough.
  • Mar 20 2013: Fritzie,
    I'm curious to know if the interactions that you refer to (curriculum) are successful. I realize that private schools have unique issues, but could more be done to help minimize the bigger issues that public schools face? Say, discipline, curriculum, exposure or lack thereof, and motivation?
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      Mar 20 2013: Hi, MaRyan. I actually meant that elite private schools do not face, for example, the disciplinary issues public schools often face, the challenge of absenteeism in many student bodies, the students moving from school to school, the students with serious special needs, the challenges that come with size, some of the economic challenges families face that then affect the child's ability to concentrate at school, and so forth. Private schools typically pick students who they believe are well prepared and motivated and with parents they believe will provide what the private school wants to see in terms of supporting the students at home.

      My son is in private school now, while my daughters were in public school all the way until university. I do not think the teachers my son has would be able to use their same curricula and pedagogy effectively in the local public schools in the area that face the greatest challenges.
      • Mar 20 2013: Fritzie,

        I completely agree. But can we blame public school challenges on student population alone? There have been many incredibly successful magnet schools, whose students were previously some of the most challenged in their respective cities. That begs me to ask if there are other approaches that can be taken in public schools for improvement. Higher expectations for all? Demands on parents? Discipline on individual need? More accountability per child? More communication with families?
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          Mar 20 2013: Of course plenty can be done! Experimentation is continuously underway of precisely the sorts you mention- high expectations, strategies for parent engagement, ways of holding kids accountable, communication with families...

          Your question, though, was about whether staffs of elite private schools would be a good resource for solving the big challenges of public schools. I think they are unlikely to be a highly promising source of that expertise or experience, because the biggest issues for public schools are not serious issues for the elite private schools.