Opinion
Education Opinion

Two Cheers for Public Schools

By Walt Gardner — May 09, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

At a time when public schools can’t seem to do anything right, it’s welcome news that the fourth edition of the rankings of the Best High Schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report awarded 500 gold medals (“U.S. News Ranks Nation’s Best High Schools,” U.S. News & World Report, May 8). This compares with 100 in 2009. California is home to the largest number (97), as well as the largest number of schools receiving gold, silver or bronze medals (577).

In light of this improvement that was based on data from nearly 22,000 public high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia, why do public schools warrant only two cheers? It’s because U.S. News moved the goalposts. It made three key changes in the 2012 rankings methodology that made it easier for some schools to qualify for medals, as compared with the last edition published in Dec. 2009. Nevertheless, I still think the media need to cover the improvement story the same way that they cover dropout rates and other negative news. It’s a matter of fairness.

Certainly for California, whose schools went from first to worst over the last few decades, the number of awards is most encouraging. I stress this point because Hispanics have made up the majority of public school students in the state since 2010. The fact that many of them are English language learners means that if schools in the state were held to the same standard as in the past, even the best of them would not pass muster.

Only four charter schools finished in the top 20. I would have expected more because they are not bound by the same rules and regulations as traditional public schools. By the same token, I was surprised that just two schools in the top 20 were magnet schools since they typically are highly selective in which students they admit. Still, they deserve recognition for their achievement. Let’s not forget that they are public schools.

What the U.S. News report shows is that public high schools are doing a better job in the face of daunting challenges than critics maintain. It also calls into question the claim that public schools are responsible for undermining the nation’s ability to compete in the global economy. In the final analysis, “The U.S. remains the largest, richest, most secure market in the world, full of valuable resources” (“Myth Of Decline: U.S. Is Stronger and Faster Than Anywhere Else,” Newsweek, May 7). How about giving credit to public schools for their contribution? They still have a long way to go, but they’re making progress.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP