In the first segment of this three-part series, I made a rather brazen statement that ruffled a few feathers:"Private school education is not only for the rich and privileged, but also for those who are willing to go into debt, those willing to fund-raise, those willing borrow from parents, those willing to volunteer time, and especially ONLY those willing to make massive sacrifices to their lifestyles, all for the sake of their kids!"....
In the public school system, it's a commonly accepted notion that everyone in grade school (junior kindergarten to grade eight) passes. Sure, some students may get C's in their report card, on a rare occasion a D, but never an "F." No matter how incompetent or how unprepared a child is to move to the next grade, they still get passed. Like an assembly line, no discrimination, no quality control -- from one teacher to the next.
My point is that the grades reported to parents in the term report cards may not truly reflect actual achievements and abilities. As a parent trying to prepare my kids for the real world, that's truly a concern for me, as it would be for any CEO of a company trying to make decisions based on skewed or made up performance reports.
I've spoken to many teachers about this practice and it appears that "non-failing" policy is promoted from the administration, top-down. In fact, the wife of one of my oldest friends was forced to change schools because she was refusing to pass a failing student and the principal was making her life utterly miserable because of it.
"Is it worth risking your position, your pension, your friendships here over a kid who won't amount to anything anyways?" he asked her. "Wow" is all I can say.
In this three-part series of Like Father, Like Daughters, I'll explain why I chose to "pay for something" that I could have had for free, and why I feel that it will pay back great dividends in years to come, despite the many material sacrifices made. Part 1 of this segment can be read here.
Bell-curving of student grades is another "best practice" commonly used to ensure that the overall grade of the class is kept at a certain level. It makes perfect sense to me. If a few bad students bring the overall grade down (heaven forbid you have two or three failing students), it would make you look really bad as the teacher. Incompetent even! So what would you do? Pass them, get them out of your class, out of your hair and let them be the next teacher's problem. All the teachers I've spoken to have admitted to bell-curving grades, although none would go on record -- and rightfully so. Sure, I've been known to drive over the speed limit on occasion, but I'd never admit to it on record to a police officer!
So what's the problem? It's a win-win-win isn't?. The teachers win -- they get the problem student out of their class. The school wins -- they maintain their status with the school board and their ranking amongst the other schools. And the student wins -- they are not burdened with an inferiority complex, and their self-confidence and self-esteem are preserved.
So what's the issue? Do I really need to go into how this process could negatively affect the problem student in the future?. I'll just leave it to the army of child psychologists who deal with those kinds of problems after the fact, to write about it. Not me.
The issue for me is simply this: If any of my daughters have issues at school with certain subjects, I want to know exactly what the cause and extent of the problem is. Is it their study habits? Is it the materials? Do I need to spend more time checking homework? Is it a behavioural problem? Does she need extra homework lessons?
Whatever the cause may be, I don't want her to receive a B grade if it's really a D grade. I need the teachers to know that they can call me at any time of the day to discuss current and potential problems. I need a partnership where a frank and open discussion can happen at any time about the kids.
Yet somehow, I just don't see that kind of partnership coming from a school environment where teachers, (in general), want as little interaction with the parents as possible.
Since I'm no educational expert with years of extensive school and school board experience, it would be wrong for me to paint all publicly-funded schools with the same brush. I'm sure there are exceptions. However, I haven't found any public Catholic schools within my geographical area that happen to be exceptions to the rule.
Now is it naive for me to think that bell-curving doesn't happen at private schools? Perhaps. But at least I have control over the parent/teacher relationship, and I can call my daughters' teachers any time of the week at home or on their cell phones. Should an academic or behavioural problem arise, not only am I sure to know about it that day, but a plan discussed with me and implemented with my feedback and approval will occur even before the kid gets home from school that day. As a result, I know that an A grade was properly earned and that a C grade is no surprise.
In most cases, I don't even look at their report card in any real detail because I already know their grades in terms of efforts and results long before my wife hands that piece of paper to me. I just read the report cards with the kids after dinner for purely ceremonial purposes.
I'm not convinced many other parents can say the same.
The Score -- Private School: 4, Public School: 0
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In the final installment of this series, I'll discuss the final reasons why I'm convinced that I've made the right schooling decision for my daughters. I'll also review some of my other financial considerations and options that were available to me as well as my final pros and con list.