Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014
Columns

Maglio: Private schools need freedom


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Contrary to conventional wisdom, private school students do not primarily come from high socio-economic backgrounds. The image from the past of elitist private schools has been altered by the progressively dismal results of public education.

Using vouchers in the school choice movement has enabled many families with children who have significant academic and emotional difficulties to attend private schools.

Private education has had positive results with educating all types of students. When private schools have been given the freedom and flexibility to run their own programs to meet the individual needs of children they do a significantly better job.

Hollywood star, Matt Damon who is a strong proponent of public schools, reluctantly admitted to the decline of public education.

“The private school that I send my kids to is the thing closest to the public school that I went to that I could find. And that’s why I send my kids to private school,” he said.

Common Core is being introduced to our school districts throughout the United States to reverse the academic slide. This decision will continue the decline of public school students. A segment of highly motivated, high socio-economic students will prosper but the majority of students will not be given sufficient time to mature before being stamped as failures. They are going to be seen as unfortunate casualties of the numbers game.

All students arrive at school with specific strengths and weaknesses. In private schools the administration can tailor-make the instruction for each student by creatively tweaking staff assignments and facility resources to be more efficient and effective in meeting the student’s unique needs.

These adjustments are done not for political advancement but for practical reasons to provide quality education to each student within the boundaries of the budget. The hiring of additional staff and firing those who do not fit in is based on realistic and specific needs to meet the educational goal of increasing student performance.

Private schools do not want or cannot afford to change the entire program every few years to market the latest educational fad. The financial implications of the cost of new materials, equipment and training are prohibitive. They realize that a consistent structured environment provides a more encouraging and conducive environment for learning.

Most importantly, the owners of these schools have a strong mission that required them to put everything on the line to enter the business of education while competing with “free” taxpayer education. Their philosophy of educating children gradually altered to meet the needs of a changing population. In a real academic situation they learn what works for improving the performance of the students.

Private education will be devastated if they are forced to accept Common Core testing protocol to measure success. This, in essence, will cause private schools to abandon their freedom to be creative that produces high student performance. Private schools will become high priced carbon copies of the Common Core cookie cutter approach to education.

Parents have been disenfranchised in public/government school systems. They are powerless pawns in their child’s education. They witness their child’s academic work primarily being directed towards a normative test with no recourse to change it. This is reversed in private school. The private school, like any business, realizes the consumer has to be treated with respect and provided with a quality product or it will be fired by the parents. The decentralization of power into the hands of parents and students empowers them to become committed members of the school community they have chosen.

The uniting of parents with administration and teachers is the key element to providing an educational environment of excellence. The child knows there is no room to “play one against another.” Everyone stays on the same page, which focuses the child’s education on striving to be the best he can be.

The school community can produce miracles when everyone is working toward the same goals. The school head should have the freedom to make subtle or even more definitive adjustments on the steering wheel to keep on course. Students need a steady wind behind them to guide them toward the desired destination.

The freedom and power being in the hands of the person at the helm of the school, not in Washington, D.C., is essential for a private school to fulfill its mission of providing an optimal learning situation for each student.

Domenick Maglio, PhD. is a columnist carried by various newspapers, an author of several books and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program in Spring Hill. You can visit Dr. Maglio at www.drmaglio.blogspot.com or email him at djmaglio@gmail.com.

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