Selective Public High Schools

by Honolulu Mother

This Atlantic article discussed a recent study finding that students in selective public high schools didn’t end up with greater academic benefits than similar students at other schools:

The researchers divided schools into four groups: selective, top-tier, middle-tier, and bottom-tier. The first group consisted of schools that admit students based largely on test scores. The latter three groups were ranked by their students’ ACT scores and high-school graduation rates.

The study compared students against peers who attended different-tier schools but were otherwise similar based on traits including past test scores, degree of parental involvement, and home neighborhood. This approach isn’t perfect, but it allows researchers to estimate the impact of schools while holding student characteristics constant.

When simply making raw comparisons between students at selective-enrollment versus other city schools, the differences appear stark: Students at selective schools scored more than seven points higher on the ACT, which has a maximum score of 36. Yet when researchers controlled for a variety of factors to isolate the effect of attending a selective school, the disparities all but vanished. Attending a selective-enrollment school led to only a statistically insignificant bump in the ACT of half a point. The selective schools also seemed to have little or no effect on the likelihood of taking Advanced Placement classes, graduating from high school, or enrolling and staying in college.

The article notes a couple of caveats, though: the comparisons of individual students across schools were not typically across the whole spectrum of schools, but rather from selective to top-tier, or middle-tier to bottom-tier; and the study did find some non-academic benefits as to attendance and suspension rates, peer behavior, perceived safety, and their trust level in teachers.

We don’t have selective public high schools here, so I don’t know to what extent they’re comparable to the selective private schools that we do have (which were not part of the study). Those of you with experience with selective public high schools, do these conclusions ring true to you? And what do you think of selective public high schools in general — are we missing out on a good thing here? Does it require an urban area over a certain population size for the concept to work?

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Charter Schools, Traditional Public Schools, and $$

by Honolulu Mother

Charter and Traditional Public Schools Fight Over Money

The linked American Prospect article discusses conflicts between traditional public schools and public charter schools over the limited available pot of public education dollars. The specifics of the conflict vary from place to place depending on state laws, but I would think that the existence of the conflict must be pretty universal.

To me, both types of school have a place in the public education system, and I think our state does a reasonable job of balancing the interests by limiting the number of charter schools that can be created so that they offer an alternative to, but not a threat to the existence of, neighboring public schools. Our main problem is ensuring that freeing charter schools from the usual bureaucratic oversight doesn’t result in nepotism and other egregious misuse of public money. However, it sounds like some states have been less successful in finding a funding structure that works for both traditional and charter schools.

I’m sure you all have thoughts on this.

How to diversify elite public schools?

by Lauren

The process for entry into the best academic public high schools in NYC has not changed in the time since I graduated from a NYC public high school in the 1980s. The problem is that the demographics of the city changed during the last 30 years, and many people would like the high schools to be a better reflection of the diverse group of children in the city. There is no question that even though certain minority groups are under represented, the kids that do gain entry actually are a reflection of the economic diversity in the city.

What do you think? Do you think it should continue to be just an entrance exam similar to the SAT, or should other factors be considered to gain entrance to these schools?

Proposals To Diversify NYC’s Top High Schools Would Do Little To Help, Study Finds