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Old 09-17-2010, 04:17 AM
 
258 posts, read 773,732 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dma1250 View Post
When you speak of "academics" do you mean the curriculum and the specific skills that are taught? If so, Streetsmart is certainly correct that you will find essentially no difference between public schools since all grade-level curricula are tied to the state standards. Compare the curriculum of local schools (available on the district sites) and you will find only minor differences. The differences between schools are in how things are taught, and how much focus is put on the state tests, not in what is taught.

However, the biggest emphasis in education right now is on differentiated instruction and teaching students at their level. I think most public schools will have a good deal of differentiated instruction, especially in the elementary grades. While the bottom line is still making sure all kids are at grade level and are learning the state standards, most schools now emphasize giving students work at their own individual level. For example, since kindergarten my son has been reading text and doing ELA work at at least two grade levels above his—and he has been doing math work at a lower grade level than he should be. Meanwhile his best friend in the same class is doing much higher level math work, and is reading at grade level. This emphasis has fixed one of the traditional problems with public schools—that advanced students weren’t challenged and had to wait for the others to “catch up.” Nowadays most classrooms should be set up so that the advanced student is doing advanced work a good portion of the time.

As to comparing private and public schools, that depends on what you’re after. My friends' kid goes to one of the best private schools in NYC and she spent 6 months of 3rd grade doing an in-depth study of ancient Greece. That isn't something you'll get in a public school. On the other hand, I saw the work she had and the skills that she was being taught--the "academics"—were the same as what my kid was being taught. On the other other hand, she was learning about ancient Greece and learning how to do an in depth, long-term project—good things to learn.
DMA,
Everything you have been saying has been my experience. I have been to elite private schools and the way they teach is different but the kids should learn the same things. Public schools and private schools are very different by nature. Private schools can pick and choose students who fit in to their style of teaching. If you want your child to be in a school where all of the children are of similar ability than you have to go private. That will not happen in the best public schools because they have to take anyone who lives in an area. It is unfair to compare schools that pick children. I have triplets. One has autism, one was reading at 2 and one is average. They are all going to the same public school. It would be very difficult or impossible to find that in private school.
As for differentiated instruction, I love it. When I was in school, they segregated students based on ability and taught us all at the same level. Now, kids that are more adept can teach other kids and that helps both children. Kids actually understand more when they teach a skill than when they learn. That is a proven fact. However, the issue with differentiated instruction is that it takes a skilled teacher that is highly organized and you can not guarantee that.
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Old 09-17-2010, 10:31 AM
 
367 posts, read 879,192 times
Reputation: 120
Quote:
Originally Posted by Forest_Hills_Daddy View Post
Like many growing families in the NYC metro area, we are in the process of choosing whether to stick it out in the city or move to a suburb that has purportedly an outstanding school district. In all the research that I've been able to do so far, I have come up with many high-level arguments supporting a move to the suburbs - high graduation rate, low class sizes, high standardized test scores, matriculation into selective colleges, etc. From that perspective only, it all looks very good. However, stories such as this make me wonder:

Leaving the City for the Schools, and Regretting It
http://multicultural.syr.edu/home.php?inc=news&mode=details&id=232

In addition, I do know of some suburban families (not in Westchester) who send their kids to private schools while paying high suburban taxes.

Which makes me wonder - Is there something I'm not seeing?

What makes my discernment more challenging is that I have not seen enough detailed comments when it comes to quality of academics, which is my highest priority. Essentially, those who like suburban public schools typically talk about:

- High graduation rates
- Reasonable class sizes (approx 20 students)
- High standardized test scores
- Matriculation into selective colleges
- Many extra curricular actrivities

While those who pulled their kids out of suburban public schools normally cite:

- Social cliques / peer pressure
- Teaching methods
- Overtesting

Among the naysayers, the only comment I found that directly focused on academics itself was from a (former?) Chappaqua teacher named Tom Corwin. According to Corwin, he had to dilute/make easier his lesson plans in order to accomodate mediocre/weaker students. Things like what Corwin mentioned - if true - are unacceptable to me.

So, I hope some people out there could help me shed light on both sides of the issue. My main concern is academics, especially at the elementary and middle school level.

Thank you in advance.
Forest_hills_daddy,

I read this and some of your posts and I think you are over analyzing the environment and under analyzing the child.
Just to illustrate,
your child in private school maybe better than your child in public school,
and your child + private school maybe better than my child + private school
but my child + public school maybe better than your child in private school

Same thing with neighborhood and comparing different public schools. You can't know which combination will produce the best environment for your unique child. You can't even know which teacher your child will get. So even if you find the perfect neighborhood and perfect school, you may get the worst teacher (for your child) in the school. Then what do you do?

I say give your child the best neighborhood you can afford (even if it means paying atrocious taxes) and put your child in the best school in/close to the neighborhood whether it be private or public that you can afford. So at the end of the day even if your child is a complete failure, you can say that you gave him the best. (Although, you will be wishing you had sent him to public school or that you had saved some money on taxes on the other neighborhood.) But if your child excels.. then you can congratulate yourself on giving your child the best.


Oh and about why some suburban families pay high taxes and send their children to a private school... it's because they can afford it, and their priorities are different than yours. They place high priority on things like status, commute times, etc. over costs.
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Old 09-18-2010, 06:38 AM
 
6,993 posts, read 9,509,447 times
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/\/\

As someone pointed out beforehand, my singular concern is academics - specifically the content of instruction and level of challenge. Other concerns such as the environment are secondary to me. At this point, I do know that quality of academics in private schools is sufficiently good. At best, mediocre students flunk out or, in schools that accept mediocre students, they are separated in the classroom from students who are reasonably motivated. There is also an extensive use of challenging pedagogical instruction, essay writing and problem-solving in all subjects. So I am sure that my child will get a good academic experience if enrolled in a private school. However, if my child can get the same experience in one of the so-called "top suburban public schools", then why not? That is what I'm trying to get more color on.

As far as what I can afford, I can afford private school tuition; I can also afford a residence in a suburb that has a reknowned school district (albeit a starter home) and pay the taxes. Like those suburban families in the article who send their kids to private schools, I can afford to do the same thing, but I would prefer not to if what they are saying is true.
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Old 09-18-2010, 06:45 AM
 
6,993 posts, read 9,509,447 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dma1250 View Post

Differentiated instruction is most common in subjects that are easier to assess and to determine what level a student is at. Its relatively simple to develop appropriate work for multiple levels for math, reading, grammar, spelling, and writing--and they are skills that can easily be taught in small groups. Other topics are harder to teach in a differentiated approach.

Every single class in every school (private schools with entrance requirements included) will have kids at many different levels. And the vast majority of kids are above level in some areas but not in others. There are many approaches to dealing with this, but the teacher who deals with it by "watering down" the topic or avoiding creative projects is (in my opinion) a poor teacher. And you'll certainly find some of those in every school, too.
So can I infer then that the problem is with the teacher, and not the school? What should a teacher have done in classes that contain a mix of good and mediocre students (in which he or she has no say) apart from watering down the level of instruction?
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Old 09-18-2010, 06:47 AM
 
6,993 posts, read 9,509,447 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tammy42 View Post
Reading this string made me think of the excellent documentary currently (and briefly) in theaters: The Race to Nowhere.
It would be great if all parents, educators and education policy makers see it.

Here is the synopsis of the film:

"Director Vicki Abeles turns the personal political, igniting a national conversation in her new documentary about the pressures faced by American schoolchildren and their teachers in a system and culture obsessed with the illusion of achievement, competition and the pressure to perform. Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired."

"Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens."

Just thought I'd pipe in and recommend the film.
I haven't watched the film so I don't know the entire context. In general though, I find it sad if someone would call the pursuit of academic excellence a "race to nowhere".
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Old 09-18-2010, 06:55 AM
 
6,993 posts, read 9,509,447 times
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Originally Posted by lan3 View Post
Now, kids that are more adept can teach other kids and that helps both children. Kids actually understand more when they teach a skill than when they learn. That is a proven fact.
I admit I'm not familiar with this approach. But shouldn't the instruction of students in school be exclusively a teacher's job? What is it that a teacher can't teach in class that they have to delegate this to students? And which schools practice this?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lan3 View Post
However, the issue with differentiated instruction is that it takes a skilled teacher that is highly organized and you can not guarantee that.
I'm surprised this is so. I thought that the point of well-off suburban schools paying high teacher salaries and benefits (funded by high taxes) was to recruit highly skilled teachers. Maybe I'm wrong though.
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Old 09-18-2010, 04:25 PM
 
Location: Yorktown Heights NY
1,316 posts, read 4,558,388 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Forest_Hills_Daddy View Post
I admit I'm not familiar with this approach. But shouldn't the instruction of students in school be exclusively a teacher's job? What is it that a teacher can't teach in class that they have to delegate this to students? And which schools practice this?

I'm surprised this is so. I thought that the point of well-off suburban schools paying high teacher salaries and benefits (funded by high taxes) was to recruit highly skilled teachers. Maybe I'm wrong though.
I'm not sure if this is what Ian3 is talking about, but "peer mentoring" is a very successful approach used in many classrooms. Teachers are responsible for the primary instruction, but then students in need of additional practice and instruction with a particular skill are paired with students who have a stronger grasp of that skill. The pairings can be very beneficial to both students and can greatly add to their mastery of the content. In general, partner work--be it with kids at the same level or kids at different levels--can be a very successful approach.

Regarding the difficulty of making differentiated instruction work well, it depends on the teacher, the materials she/he has access to, and if the school is set up to support this approach. No one teacher is equally good at everything--just as no students are equally good at all skills. The teacher who may be brilliant at determining a student's level and needs may have poor classroom management skills. Some teachers have access to (either via the school or through their own time and effort--an array of good materials for multiple skill levels. And some school set things up to make differentiated instruction work. At my son's school there are periods of the day where each class has teacher's aides in the room to assist in small group instruction time. The aides help the kids doing independent work while the teacher instructs one of the leveled groups. In addition, every class is paired up with another one in a team, and the teachers work together to support each other and often teach lessons together or take turns teaching small groups. Lots of schools have various approaches to making differentiated instruction work.
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Old 09-18-2010, 05:57 PM
 
258 posts, read 773,732 times
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DMA- Of course primary instruction is the teacher's responsibility. I just meant that many bright kids benefit from working with peers at a different level. A person understands skills best when they are able to teach others. There is a lot of opportunity for that in heterogenous classrooms. I think kids benefit from helping each other in the classroom. I don't think all academic groups should be homogenous in terms of ability. I have triplets at completely different levels and they learn so much from each other almost as much as they learn from me.
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Old 09-18-2010, 05:59 PM
 
258 posts, read 773,732 times
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Forest Hills dad- I think there are good and bad teachers in every school public or private. High taxes do not mean all good teachers.
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Old 09-18-2010, 06:35 PM
 
Location: Toronto
815 posts, read 1,983,282 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Forest_Hills_Daddy View Post
/\/\

As someone pointed out beforehand, my singular concern is academics - specifically the content of instruction and level of challenge. Other concerns such as the environment are secondary to me.
I absolutely don't understand this. The environment of the school and classroom basically determine what is taught and how it is taught, and in my mind these are the things that you should be focusing on MORE than academics. Things like class size, differentiated instruction as mentioned previously, and the support the faculty receives directly influence the academics in the classroom. Will the kids get the bare bones of the curriculum and a test, or will they have the opportunity to do experiments, group work, presentations, etc.? That all depends on the environment in the classroom and the make-up of the students in the class. The skill of the teacher comes into play, yes, but sometimes even the best teacher can have their hands tied by a terrible administration, assinine rules, and things outside of their control.

If you are debating between the top Westchester school districts and the various private schools in the area, I don't really think you can go wrong. Visit potential schools and get a feel for their "culture" and the administration. If it's a private school, ask for their curriculum. Go from there. But your singular focus on academics is very short-sighted in my opinion.
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