What if we gave all American kids the type of education that was given to the Clinton, Obama and Trump children?

This is an excellent question, one that begs being asked every time I pass by places like Sidwell Friends, The Bullis School, or Saint Albans School in and around DC, and mentally compare those wonderful facilities with the DC public schools that I and my children attended, and in which I taught and continue to volunteer.

Bottom line: tuition and fees at those tony private schools is about three or four times what we as citizens spend on kids attending DC public or charter schools. For example, the middle school nearest my house (Brookland MS) has no playground…

I took this article from Education Week. It’s behind a paywall.

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What if America Spent Per Student What Clinton, Trump Paid for Private Schools?

By Andrew Ujifusa on July 27, 2016 7:22 AM

Philadelphia

In his speech last week at the Republican National Convention, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. noted that he and his siblings were fortunate to have options for their schooling: “We want all Americans to have those same opportunities.”

Fair enough. But Donald Trump Jr., along with his siblings and Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, went to private schools that weren’t cheap. And so have several other presidential hopefuls’ children, for that matter.

So we thought about the educational opportunity in monetary terms: How much would it cost to spend the same amount per public school student what it costs to send children to the same private schools attended by the offspring of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton? And what if we tried to match the basic outlines of their children’s private school experience when it comes to teachers?

Fortunately, Michael Griffith, an independent school finance consultant, did his own analysis to try to answer those questions.

Outliers Out of Reach

First, Griffith compared the candidates’ private school tuition costs for the schools from which their children graduated to average per-student expenditures in public schools in the children’s home state: New York in three of the four Trump children’s case; California, in Tiffany Trump’s case; and the District of Columbia, in Chelsea Clinton’s case.

Average per-student spending at those schools attended by the five presidential candidates’ kids is $38,464. Nationwide, public school funding is $12,251 per student.

For the purposes of Griffith’s calculations, he used tuition costs at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., for Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.; Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn. for Ivanka Trump; Viewpoint School for Tiffany Trump; and the Sidwell Friends School in the District of Columbia for Chelsea Clinton. (More on that somewhat tricky issue below.) Correction: We originally misidentified where Choate Rosemary Hall is located, although the error didn’t impact our description of Griffith’s analysis.

But let’s think long term about how that plays out over a child’s time at the elementary and secondary levels. The costs below would cover students’ entire educational careers at their respective schools.

private school tuition

The figures above are based on current annual costs, and not what Clinton and Trump actually paid themselves in tuition costs. And Griffith’s work requires some extrapolation: The private schools’ grade spans don’t necessarily match up with those in public schools. The Hill School, for example, where Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. went, enrolls grades 9-12. But Sidwell Friends enrolls pre-K-12.

We should also point out that Chelsea Clinton attended public school in Arkansas before Bill Clinton was elected president and she moved to Washington, where she enrolled in the Sidwell Friends private school. Given security and logistical concerns, it might make sense for a president to send his or her school-age child to private school. President Barack Obama’s daughters also enrolled in Sidwell Friends.

Even when it comes to tony private schools, the ones attended by Clinton and Trump’s children are up in the financial stratosphere. As of 2011, less than a fifth of all U.S. private schools charged more than $15,000 annually per student in tuition, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

private schools 2

Here’s some more context for that $38,464 figure: In 2014, the U.S. Census reported, the median income of a family with two or more school-age children (like Trump’s family) was $53,989. That’s the same as $54,970 in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars. So the average private school tuition for the five children of the candidates would eat up 70 percent of such a median family’s budget.

Here are a couple of other statistics to consider:

  • Combined costs at the private schools attended by all four Trump children and Chelsea Clinton for some or all of their lives, in Griffith’s analysis, clocks in at $2.5 million over the course of their educational careers.
  • Combined costs for three New York state public school children (to match their Empire State counterparts Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Trump), a California public school student (to match Tiffany Trump), and a District of Columbia public school student (to match Chelsea Clinton) clocks in at $1 million over their educational careers.

You can call that a gulf instead of a gap if you want.

Bring On the Teachers?

OK, but let’s think really big. What if we spent $38,464 on each public school student in the nation? What would be the total annual cost, and how much of a change would it be from current per-student spending levels?

Griffith has answers for that, too.

He has America spending $595 billion on K-12 from federal, state, and local sources. How much more would it be if we spent $38,464 on each student, instead of $12,251?

per student public vs private

e of $1.2 trillion. Does that dollar amount sound familiar? It might. That’s because in 2014, the entire student-loan debt of 40 million Americans was also estimated at $1.2 trillion. We’re not talking a few lint-covered quarters here.

Finally, Griffith looked at the average student-to-teacher ratio in the four private schools attended by Clinton and Trump’s children. It came out to about 7.4 students per teacher on average.

By contrast, the national ratio of students to teachers is about 16:1—there are 48.5 million public school students, and 3.1 million public school teachers. The sources for these figures are given below.

However, those ratios are not the same thing as average class size.

So how many more teachers would the nation have to hire to achieve that 7.4 students-per-teacher ratio like the one the Trump siblings and Chelsea Clinton enjoyed?

private vs public student teacher ratio

The nation would have to increase its teacher workforce by 120 percent, or add nearly 3.8 million new teachers, to match what the Trump children and Chelsea Clinton experienced, on average, in their schools. (Each figure in the graphic above represents about 48,420 teachers.)

Money and Opportunity

Griffith’s analysis is quantitative and not ultimately qualitative. And as you might expect, Griffith doesn’t say how that additional $1.2 trillion would be redirected to schools and added to their budgets. It’s pure theory.

For fiscal 2016, the Department of Defense’s budget is $573 billion. A President Clinton or Trump could zero out the Pentagon’s budget, redirect that entire pot of money to schools, and it would stillcover slightly less than half of the total new money needed to match the average per-student spending figure in the private schools we’ve discussed. That’s assuming, of course, that state and locals don’t pitch in at all.

There are a lot of other questions.

  • Many might want parents to have direct control over that new flood of money through vouchers or education savings accounts. How would redirecting some or all of those dollars straight to parents shake up the educational landscape?

Voucher programs and ESAs mostly, if not universally, aren’t large enough to cover tuition at the Hill School or Sidwell Friends—if many parents could use the $38,000 for a local and (likely) much cheaper private school, what could and would they do with the leftover cash?

School choice is certainly an issue Donald Trump has emphasized, on the few occasions when he’s spoken about education:

  • Where would the money go? Would much or most of it go towards hiring new teachers and drive down those student-to-teacher ratios we’ve discussed? Or there’s educational
    technology—would millions of students suddenly get handed a laptop, smartphone, tablet, and (what the heck) Google Glasses courtesy of his or her public school?
  • And as one would expect, the facilities at those private schools attended by the Clinton and Trump children are different than what studentsexperience in Detroit public schools. Per-student spending figures often don’t include school construction costs, but what if some districts wanted to create leafy, spacious campuses with swimming pools and amphitheaters?

Look at the campus map of the Hill School to the right. There’s a building for squash courts, an arts and crafts center, and a music house. The campus covers 200 acres.

hill school campus

  • Here’s a related issue: the enrollment size of the private schools in question. Sidwell Friends, for example, enrolls 1,149 students in pre-K-12. You can easily find public high schools alone where the enrollment matches or exceeds that figure. In 2010-11, the average enrollment of an American high school was 847 students, NCES reported, but California’s average high school enrollment was 1,463 students.
  • And some of the most straightforward yet crucial questions we can ask about this issue are: Would spending over $38,000 per student in public schools create a lot of progress, some, or not at all? And would that be an efficient use of taxpayer dollars?

That kind of per-student spending amount would truly test the arguments about whether inadequate school funding is what’s preventing better experiences and outcomes for students.

Of course, many in the K-12 field argue that creating strong educational opportunities for children is not solely, or even largely, about the financial resources provided to those children from their parents or government. But others say, particularly after the Great Recession, many districts and states don’t provide what their schools need, particularly for schools with large shares of students of color and those from relatively poor households. How would this kind of influx of money impact debates about socioeconomic and racial integration in schools?

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s pick for vice president, addressed school integration in his own experience during a speech last Saturday:

Additional Facts and Figures

A few more notes about Griffith’s data:

  • The private schools’ cost information comes from their websites. Per-student spending figures on public schools come from the National Education Association’s cost rankings and estimates for2015 and 2016.
  • He didn’t include private school tuition information for Barron Trump, Donald Trump’s youngest child—Griffith said this is because Barron is a minor.
  • Griffith used tuition information from the schools which the Clinton and Trump children graduated from, but as we noted above regarding Chelsea Clinton, the candidates’ children did not necessarily attend those schools all through their elementary and secondary careers. For example, Griffith used costs for Choate Rosemary Hall for Ivanka Trump, but noted that she switched to Choate from the Chapin School when she was 15. And Eric Trump also attended the Trinity School in New York City.
  • The tuition amounts in Griffith’s calculations are based on the cost for day students, not boarders.
  • Tuition for Viewpoint Schools, which Tiffany Trump attended, varies from student to student. Griffith calculated an average of the various tuition costs, assuming a student attended from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks contributed to this post.

 

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A Way for the Most Affluent Folks to Really Help Improve Public Education

There is one very straightforward way that well-educated, upper-income families could help improve the public schools.

Send your kids to the local public schools, and get involved.

Your kids WILL survive.

In fact, since they probably carry half of your genes, and since you nurture them every day, they will most likely still do well in school, well enough to get into a good college and have a good life. Your kids aren’t the fragile little flowers you may think. The sturm and drang of adolescence will happen no matter where they go to school, but all the evidence I’ve heard (including from my own two kids, who went K-12 through DC public schools, thank you very much) indicates that there is a lot LESS use of illicit drugs in the public schools.

Plus, you and your children will actually get to know kids and parents from all kinds of backgrounds: African-American and Hispanic and European-American kids whose parents do important work that keeps our society running — many of them in blue-collar or pink-collar jobs. Your kids would grow up with deeper connections, understanding, and sympathy for the kids and families who are not as well off as you are. If they grow up to be managers, they will know much better how to relate to the rank-and-file workers…

Evidence for that comes from a study of upper-Northwest DC students who attended Murch and Lafayette elementary schools. Some of them went on and continued in DC public schools, and others transferred at various grade levels to private schools. The study showed no statistically significant difference in whether those kids were accepted at selective colleges and universities or not.

What’s really alarming about this study is how self-defeating many of these affluent parents really are. Why spend a quarter of a million dollars on seven years of private school, when your kids could end up taking and passing AP classes at the local public high schools, for free, (as did my own kids) and still get into decent or excellent colleges? (see page 38 of the report) More evidence: when I taught at Alice Deal JHS/MS in the same area of town, my MathCounts teams were very competitive with the local private schools. Sometimes we were #1, sometimes the private schools beat us. My old school and I still have lots of “Mathletic” trophies to prove this. And my own kids did quite well on their AP exams, too.

Take a look at this table of data from the report (page 8):

If you look at the table, you can see that zip codes 2008, 20015 and 20016 in Washington DC are  overwhelmingly composed of relatively affluent, well-educated, professional/manageral, white families. Who overwhelmingly send their kids to private schools.

What’s really sad is that many of those families claim to know exactly what’s wrong with the DC public school system and how to fix it: they were the core of the support for Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee and their totally wrong-headed approach to public education.

Seems to me that if these families were on the inside of DCPS, they would have a much better idea of what’s wrong and how it could be improved, rather than the facile answers provided by the billionaires who are simultaneously wrecking the world economy and telling the rest of us how to run our educational system.

And their kids do just fine.

 

A Modest Proposal: NRFEL

I have a modest proposal.


The lower a student performs on the various tests, obviously the more resources it takes to get that student up to par (however you define “par”).

Obviously, right now, regular public schools, especially those in low-income areas, have disproportionately large percentages of those such low-performing, high-needs students.

The current, popular accusation is that the school teachers in those inner-city schools are deliberately sabotaging the learning of those students (and causing that low performance), under union protection.

It is charged that if schools were privatized in general, and/or if teacher union organizations were smashed, then freed-up non-union public schools, and also charter and private and parochial schools, would do a better job.

But today, let’s be honest. All of those high-performing schools are selective. And/or, they put out the low-performers, and the ones they consider ‘rotten apples.’

There has to be some place for housing the kids who are put out of, or simply not allowed in to, more-exclusive schools (be they charter, boarding, magnet, ritzy private, ritzy public, etc., etc…). And guess where that is?

Right. The regular, comprehensive public schools. Especially in poor rural areas and the inner city, there are lots of kids with lots of serious deficiencies, which take a LOT of work to overcome. But many of these schools are totally overwhelmed — I’ve seen it. I’ve seen schools in total chaos, where much of the time, nearly no teaching and learning can possibly take place. Or else it takes an absolute Superman or Wonder Woman to accomplish some teaching in one corner of the school, and only with lots of administrative support, which is denied to the rest of the school…  I’ve seen that, too.

OK,  If those other schools do so much better, let’s try a truly randomized experiment to see if that’s really true. Or else let’s give all of our kids the opportunity to go there.


But what if we turn that on its head? And actually use the ONE positive proposal that Michele Rhee, ever came up with?

Here it is: In four words, it’s this:

USE A REAL LOTTERY.

Use a real lottery for all.

I will call my proposal the Non-Revokable Full-year-long Exchange Lottery (NRFEL for short).

Under NRFEL, in every officially designated ‘failing’ public school, all of the low-performing students would be placed in a lottery. Based on the outcome of the lottery, those students would be selected either to :


(1) stay at their regular school, or

(2) to attend a randomly-selected high-performing school; said school would be either…

(a) located within a two-hour bus ride of the home of the student, or

(b) be a boarding school located anywhere in the USA.

Important terms:

(3) All this would be for no extra taxpayer dollars. Yup.

(4) None of these exchange students could be denied entry, for any reason.

(5) None of these exchange students could be subsequently be put out by the receiving school, FOR ANY REASON until the end of the school year, and the students and their parents would know that. (6) Re-assessments would take place exactly once a year, during the summer break, to discern whether the exchange should continue. If the student then is performing adequately, he or she would return to his or her original school. Let me repeat: those high-performing schools would include ALL high-performing schools within a 2-hour bus ride. Oh, and they also include ALL boarding schools in the nation. For no additional money.

Don’t worry about overcrowding the receiving schools. NRFEL takes care of that. as follows.

(7) Each student in each high-achieving school is also placed in a lottery.

(8) Every school that receives one of the low-achieving or handicapped students from a ‘failing’ would simply send back one adequately -performing student, chosen at random in this second lottery. It could be worked out later whether there would be exact, one-for-one exchanges, or whether all students being moved would be put into a general “pool”.  This is a 1:1 exchange ratio: one kid in, one kid out. So class sizes, overall, wouldn’t rise. But there might be need for physical therapists, mental health and social service professionals, reading and math specialists, as well as security guards in some cases. None of which the school district shall be liable for funding.

A very good question arises: what if the receiving school receives so many low-achieving students that it is overwhelmed and enters the category of “failing school” because they are unable to work enough of a miracle in one year? Well, then they can enter the lottery the next year on the other side of the tracks (so to speak).


One aspect I haven’t decided on yet for NRFEL is whether there should also be a similar randomized exchanges of teachers and staff and administration between high-achieveing and low-achieving schools. So I will put this is up for debate. Perhaps this feature could be a separate experiment in geographical region. (Imagine teachers and staff at Sidwell, Holton-Arms, and BCC randomly exchanging places with teachers at schools in deepest Anacostia or inside the near-DC PG County Beltway area.)


I know what you are thinking: NCLB has something like this, but often there is no room in the ‘receiving schools’. In fact, this has happened a lot in DCPS already. NRFEL takes care of this. First, it’s random, so it’s not merely selecting the kids with the most-motivated parents. Second, it’s ALL schools, no matter what denomination, ownership status, or jurisdiction. The exact numbers of exchange students and their distribution could be debated in committee hearings. I propose that each geographical region (think, Washington Metro Area, or Greater Washington, or Delmarva Peninsula, or Greater New York) would take a census of all youth, and their academic levels, to decide how to allot those students among high-and-low-achieving schools. After all, just about all of our public school students have to take lots of standardized tests. What better possible use could we make of this data? NRFEL’s goal is equalizing educational opportunity for all youth, and isn’t that supposedly what America is based on?
Let me emphasize one thing. None of these receiving schools would have the right or capacity to send any of these students back, nor to expel them. They would have to keep them and deal with them for a full school year, whether they are sick, incarcerated or hospitalized, or truant, or  whether they come to school each and every single day and join the rugby or football or hockey or computer-tech club at their new school. For no extra expense, remember.


What ever could we use to ‘persuade’ parochial and private schools to go along? Public charter schools and magnet schools are funded by public money anyway, so they would have to comply. But think of this: private and religious schools get substantial benefits and subsidies from society and government. I will just mention one public subsidy for these schools: tax exemption!


(BTW: have you recently noticed the bill for tuition at the high-flying local private schools?)


Oh, and the low-performing schools can’t put their high-performing return-exchange students out, either. Though those schools might just find that those students will hold their own pretty well, forming substantial fractions of the school’s student government, athletic teams, and other clubs, not to mention their honor roll…


Waddaya say?

Inequality, Segregation and Education in America vs. the World

This is an excellent analysis of the PISA results, not written by me. It was published in Valerie Strauss’ column in the Washington Post.

What international test scores really tell us:

Lessons buried in PISA report

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by William J. Mathis of Goshen, Vermont. He is the managing director of the National Education Policy Center.. and a former Vermont superintendent. The views expressed are his own.

By William J. Mathis

For the 27th, government officials have yet again been surprised, shocked and dismayed over the latest international test score rankings. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “We have to see this as a very serious wake-up call.” Former Reagan education official Chester E. Finn Jr. reported that he was “kind of stunned” by the results of the Program for International Student Achievement (PISA) results. In hyperbolic overdrive, he compared the results to Pearl Harbor and Sputnik.

The PISA tests were given to 15-year-old students by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 65 nations and educational systems. Nine had higher average scores in reading, 17 in math, and 12 in science.

While ranking nations on test scores is a pretty sorry way to evaluate education systems, there is simply no reason to expect the results to have been any better than they were the last time we heard from this same chorus of surprised, shocked and dismayed pundits and politicians.

The reason is simple. Federal and state policymakers continue to embrace reforms that have little positive effect (if not downright negative effects) while ignoring reforms that make a difference. Buried within the PISA report is an analysis of educational systems that registered high test scores. Here are some of the less-reported findings:·

*The best performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all children.

· *Students from low socio-economic backgrounds score a year behind their more affluent classmates. However, poorer students who are integrated with their more affluent classmates score strikingly higher. The difference is worth more than a year’s education.

· *In schools where students are required to repeat grades (such as with promotion requirements), the test scores are lower and the achievement gap is larger.

· *Tracking students (“ability grouping”) results in the gap becoming wider. The earlier the practice begins, the greater the gap. Poor children are more frequently shunted into the lower tracks.

· *Systems that transfer weak or disruptive students score lower on tests and on equity. One-third of the differences in national performance can be ascribed to this one factor.

· *Schools that have autonomy over curriculum, finances and assessment score higher.

· *Schools that compete for students (vouchers, charters, etc.) show no achievement score advantage.

· *Private schools do no better once family wealth factors are considered.

· *Students that attended pre-school score higher, even after more than 10 years.

As OECD Paris-based official Michael Davidson said in National Public Radio comments, “One of the striking things is the impact of social background on (U.S.) success.”

Twenty percent of U.S. performance was attributed to social background, which is far higher than in other nations. Davidson went on to point out that the United States just does not distribute financial resources or quality teachers equally. In a related finding, students from single-parent homes score much lower in the United States than they do in other countries. The 23-point difference is almost a year’s lack of growth.

Our Educational Policies

Unfortunately, federal and state policies do little to adopt these factors that other nations have found so successful. Countless finance studies show that funding across our schools is inequitable and inadequate. Federal and state governments vaguely note this concern but actions do not match the rhetoric. Our treatment of economically deprived students is to house them in segregated schools and shunt them into tracked programs.

A number of “get tough” social promotion policies have been adopted in states even though we know they are harmful. Despite a clear research consensus, early education is still politically disputed. Tracking students still remains the national norm even as we know it increases the achievement gap.

As the federal government (under both Republican and Democratic administrations) has become even more top-down and prescriptive, local schools become less autonomous and less like our successful international counterparts. Finally, the push for privatizing public education through charters, tuition tax credits, vouchers and the like does not result in better test scores and has the effect of increasing segregation, and the inequalities that lead to low test scores.

The American Dream

The American dream is that all children have an opportunity to be successful no matter how humble their roots. Thus, the most troubling finding in the PISA results is the lack of “resilience” among our children.

OECD measured resilience by looking at the scores of the least wealthy 25% of students and seeing what proportion of these students have academic scores in the top 25% of countries with similar socio-economic levels. In the highest scoring nations, 70 percent of the students are rated resilient.

The U. S. figure is less than 30%. In a nation which sees the top 1% controlling more than 50% of the nation’s wealth and the collapse of middle class jobs, we face the specter of building a country of social, economic and educational apartheid.

Secretary Duncan calls the PISA scores a serious wake-up call for our economy and “international competitiveness.” But that is merely to misunderstand economics and global competitiveness. Due to our pursuit of ineffective and ill-focused educational and economic reforms , the rude disturbance of our slumbers is the slamming of the door on the American dream.

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