Accountability Opinion

Could 100 Million Parents Be Wrong?

By Eduwonkette — January 06, 2008 1 min read
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Every year, the parents of 55.1 million American schoolchildren fret about where to send their kids to school. They inspect potential schools from top to bottom. They wonder if the private school up the road might give their kid an edge. And they talk - to their friends, other parents, and their colleagues - to get the skinny on the local schools. In a bloggable age, parents’ searches have been split open for all of us to watch - and even participate. (My favorite blog in the school shopping genre is the San Francisco K Files, written by a mom who’s searching for a school for her daughter.)

This week’s posts came out of conversations with my fertile friends about where to send their kids to preschool, how to buy into the best school district for their future spawn, or how to pick a good private high school. Here’s a peek into these exchanges:

“Hey, eduwonkette. Thank God you’re home. I went to tour this school, and - “

“The answer is that it probably doesn’t matter much.”

“WHAT?!?!? You study education! You do this all day! What do you mean that the school Madison goes to doesn’t matter?”

“Look, researchers can’t find much evidence that going to this or that school makes a big difference. Especially since the schools you’re choosing between are pretty much identical. Did I tell you about the shoes I just won on ebay?”

“That’s impossible.”

“I know, right? They were mad cheap. And pink.”

“I don’t give a damn about your shoes. I need to find a school for my daughter. So seriously...”

Here’s the puzzle. Parents are convinced that the right school will make all the difference for their child. Researchers are not so sure. What’s going on here? Is this a story about parenting in an era of anxiety, or do researchers just have their heads in the sand?

On tap for this week:

Monday: Do Schools Matter?

Tuesday: Evidence on School Vs. Teacher Effects

Thursday: Parents’ “You are the Company You Keep” Hypothesis

Friday: Why My Friends Still Like Me: My Answer to the “Where Do I Send My Kid?” Question

The opinions expressed in eduwonkette 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.