Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The "Best" Schools

R' Horowitz:
The bottom line is that nowadays parental pressure has virtually forced the hands of our educators in large cities to pull in the gangplank of the teivah when ‘average’ kids apply. Why? Because accepting ‘average’ kids is the kiss of death for many schools in the eyes of the ‘customers’; parents of prospective children (that’s you). The caring principals who were once accepting and tolerant regarding admissions policies have had their schools relegated to second-or-third tier status by parents (that’s you, again) who now shun their mosdos. Other school heads and board members who watched this horror show of a school’s decline due-to-word-of-mouth unfold learn the ‘new math’ rather quickly. The equation is quite simple and brutal. More children in these larger cities, b’eh, means more schools in the same geographic area. More schools mean more competition. And which parent wouldn’t turn over heaven and earth to get their child accepted in the ‘best’ schools?
Read the whole thing... as usual. I've long felt that my elementary school (the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland) was an excellent school, though it took me until around high school to understand that. Not only was it a very wide mix of kids from different backgrounds, the kids were on a variety of levels - and while there are sometimes drawbacks to that, the HAC did an okay job (and now does a much better job) of catering to students who would gain from a higher-level curriculum. Meanwhile, other schools fall all over themselves to try to be exclusive... and their students don't come out anywhere near as well. The "best" school thing? Most of the time - it's all hype. (Heck, even among the Ivys for college it has been proven to be a lot more hype and dependent on the individual students than the schools themselves.)

It's time for schools to focus on education and teaching middos (and knocking down tuition costs) and stop worrying about reputation (like this post by Harry Maryles). They - and more importantly, the students - would be a lot better off.