31 May 1995
From: "DG Ervan Darnell"
5/13/95 MacNeil/Lehrer had a piece on inner city Catholic schools. The
bottom line is that they cost half as much and their graduation rate is 75%
(for those students who came there from public schools) versus 40% for the
public schools. Test scores and college admissions are also higher, but
they did not give any quantative numbers.
How do they do it? Several theories were offered:
1) No bureaucracy
2) Low teacher pay
3) Small schools
4) Teach 'values' (according to the schools themselves)
(1) & (2) are surely right.
The NEA responds critically that they succeed only by:
4) Selecting students.
There are a couple of problems with this. First, the same students improve
when they leave the public schools. It's not just a sampling phenomena.
Second, 80% of the Catholic schools surveyed did not reject anyone based on
ability. What I think is interesting is the assumption that selecting
students is inherently evil. Why? Should Stanford just take a random group
of applicants? In the case of primary education, it is even more telling,
because 'selecting students' does not mean scraping the cream off the top,
rather it means draining the bilge. That is, scores are not raised by
choosing students who get good scores, rather it raises scores by getting
rid of those who make it difficult for the rest. That Catholic schools
succeed by 'selection' is a reason for and not against!
Of course, the NEA's real objection is (2) but they cannot say that.
The report mentioned vouchers in passing, but fell short of reaching the
real conclusion: Private schools work. Public schools fail. It has nothing
to do with parochial versus secular.
The post office did a better political job by completely outlawing
competition for its gravy train. There is no one to embarrass it. It seems
to be doing a fine job on its own though. It's interesting that some
private schools have survived to show us how bad the public ones are.