American Education

By: Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC

Date Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2023

Education in America has many strengths – but it also has many weaknesses.

On the one hand, the US has some of the best universities in the world. My daughter and son-in-law teach at one of them. University students in the US have a wide range of educational opportunities.

On the other hand, US Students consistently underperform their peers in other developed countries on international standardized tests, and there are large disparities in educational attainment between different racial and socioeconomic groups.

Overall, the US ranks in the middle of the pack among developed countries in terms of educational performance. In the most recent Programmed for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measures reading, math, and science literacy among 15-year-olds, the US ranked 24th in reading, 38th in math, and 24th in science. This is below the average for OECD countries, and well below the top-performing countries in Asia.

OECD countries are the 38 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organization with a mission to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. Here’s a list of those 38 countries in alphabetical order:

  1. Australia
  2. Austria
  3. Belgium
  4. Canada
  5. Chile
  6. Colombia
  7. Costa Rica
  8. Czech Republic
  9. Denmark
  10. Estonia
  11. Finland
  12. France
  13. Germany
  14. Greece
  15. Hungary
  16. Iceland
  17. Ireland
  18. Israel
  19. Italy
  20. Japan
  21. Korea
  22. Latvia
  23. Lithuania
  24. Luxembourg
  25. Mexico
  26. Netherlands
  27. New Zealand
  28. Norway
  29. Poland
  30. Portugal
  31. Slovak Republic
  32. Slovenia
  33. Spain
  34. Sweden
  35. Switzerland
  36. Turkey
  37. United Kingdom
  38. United States

OECD countries are all developed countries with high standards of living. They are also all democratic countries with strong market economies. The OECD provides a forum for its member countries to share ideas and best practices on a wide range of economic and social issues.

There are a number of reasons why US students underperform their peers in other countries. Here are the reasons that some will give:

  • One reason is that the US has a highly decentralized education system, with each state having its own set of standards and curriculum. This can lead to inconsistencies in the quality of education from state to state and even from district to district.
  • Another reason for the US’s relatively low performance is the high level of poverty and inequality in the country. Students from low-income families are more likely to attend schools with fewer resources and less experienced teachers. This can lead to a significant achievement gap between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. I am not certain I totally agree 100% with this reasoning.

Despite these challenges, some still think the US has a strong education system. The country has a long tradition of educational innovation, and (as stated before) its universities are some of the most prestigious in the world. However, there is room for improvement, and the US needs to address the disparities in educational attainment in order to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed, especially those who are not yet at the university level of education.

Is Private Education better than Public Education?

This is a question that has a lot of debate. Some feel this is because Private Schools have more resources per student – so let’s begin the debate there.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average public school in the United States received $16,390 per student in funding in 2022-23. This funding comes from a variety of sources, including federal, state, and local governments.

The average private school in the United States, on the other hand, does not receive any government funding. Instead, private schools rely on tuition payments from students and their families. The average tuition rate for a private elementary school in the United States in 2022-23 was $11,346, while the average tuition rate for a private high school was $16,059.

This means that the average public school in the United States receives more funding per student than the average private school. However, it is important to note that there is a great deal of variation in funding levels for both public and private schools. Some public schools receive significantly more funding per student than others, and some private schools have tuition rates that are much higher than the average.

We can conclude from this that it is not necessarily more resources that would cause some to think Private School is better than Public School.

Here are some additional factors to consider when comparing public and private school funding:

  • Public schools are required to educate all students, regardless of their academic ability or socioeconomic status. Private schools can select their students, which means that they may have fewer students with special needs or from low-income families.
  • Public schools are subject to a variety of government regulations, while private schools have more autonomy. This means that private schools may be able to spend their money more efficiently or target it to specific areas of need.
    • There’s that government regulation “getting in the way” again …
  • Public schools are typically larger than private schools, which can lead to economies of scale. However, large public schools can also be more impersonal and have more difficulty meeting the needs of individual students.
    • I graduated from a public school and had more than 2,000 kids in my graduation ceremony. I did not know the kids in front of me, behind me or either side of me – nor do I recall seeing half the teachers that were in the ceremony actually at the school.

What about the average grades of Public vs. Private school students? Some feel that higher grades in Private Schools make it a better choice. But as you may see … the grades are really not that much higher.

On average, students in private schools score higher on standardized tests than students in public schools. However, it is important to note that there is a great deal of variation in test scores within both public and private schools. Some public schools have average test scores that are comparable to or even higher than some private schools.

Here is a comparison of average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for public and private school students in grades 4 and 8 in 2021-22:

As you can see, private school students scored higher on average in all four subjects. However, the difference in test scores is not as large as some people might think. For example, the average private school student scored only 15 points higher than the average public school student on the NAEP reading test in grade 4.

There are a number of factors that may contribute to the difference in test scores between public and private schools. One factor is that private schools typically have smaller class sizes than public schools. This allows teachers to provide more individualized attention to their students. Another factor is that private schools often have more selective admissions criteria than public schools. This means that private school students are more likely to come from families that value education and are able to provide their children with additional support, such as paid tutoring.

It is important to note that test scores are just one measure of student performance. There are many other factors that contribute to student success, such as motivation, creativity, and social-emotional development.

So do test scores (though the difference is not that great) suggest you send your child to a private school. Here are a few other things to consider:

      • the school’s curriculum,
      • extracurricular activities,
      • and teaching philosophy.

It is also important to consider your child’s individual needs and learning styles.

Now you may also be thinking that Private Schools are probably better because their teachers are better because they are paid more money to do the job. Well, you’d be wrong!

I ran a survey on my Facebook page and had people answer the question of who made more money each year – a private school teacher or a public school teacher. Of those who answered, 34% said a public school teacher was paid more, and 66 % said a private school teacher was paid more.

Here’s the facts that I was able to find in my research:

Private school teachers in the United States typically earn less than public school teachers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the median annual salary for private school teachers in 2020-21 was $46,400, while the median annual salary for public school teachers was $61,600. This means that the average public school teacher earns about 30% more than the average private school teacher.

There are a number of reasons for this difference in salary. One reason is that private schools typically have fewer resources than public schools. This is because private schools do not receive any government funding, and they rely on tuition payments from students and their families. As a result, private schools often have to pay their teachers less in order to balance their budgets.

Another reason for the difference in salary is that private schools often have lower standards for their teachers than public schools. For example, some private schools do not require their teachers to have a college degree or to be certified by the state.

This means that private schools can hire less experienced and less qualified teachers at a lower salary.

It is important to note that there is a great deal of variation in salaries for both public and private school teachers. Some private school teachers earn more than some public school teachers. Additionally, salaries for both public and private school teachers can vary depending on their experience, education level, and subject area.

Here are some additional factors to consider when comparing public and private school teacher salaries:

  • Cost of living: Salaries for both public and private school teachers can vary depending on the cost of living in the area where they work. For example, teachers in large cities like New York and Los Angeles typically earn more than teachers in rural areas like Yazoo City, Mississippi.
  • Unionization: Public school teachers in the United States are more likely to be unionized than private school teachers. Unions can help to negotiate higher salaries and better benefits for teachers.
  • School size: Teachers in larger schools typically earn more than teachers in smaller schools. This is because larger schools have more resources and can afford to pay their teachers more.

But overall, public school teachers in the United States typically earn more than private school teachers. This should settle the debate that Private is better than Public because Private school teachers probably earn more money … they don’t, on average.

So, are you thinking about a Private School for your kids?

If so, here are some additional things to keep in mind when comparing public and private schools:

  • Cost: Private schools are typically much more expensive than public schools. Tuition rates vary widely, but the average private school tuition in the United States is over $11,000 per year. Public schools, on the other hand, are free to attend for all students. That does not mean its free to the parents … most parents will still pay property taxes which will include a school tax.
    • Remember: You will pay this tuition in Private School in addition to any school taxes your state, city, or municipality will charge you … so the cost to send the kid to private school could get really expensive. Just because your kid goes to a Private School does not eliminate your from paying your fair share of public school taxes.
  • Location: Public schools are available in all communities, while private schools are often concentrated in urban areas. This can be a factor to consider if you live in a rural area or if you have a long commute.
  • Diversity: Public schools are typically more diverse than private schools in terms of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. This can be an important consideration for families who want their children to experience a diverse learning environment.
  • Religious affiliation: Some private schools are affiliated with a particular religion, while others are secular. If you are looking for a school with a religious education, you will need to consider private schools, since religion is not offered in public schools.

Overall, the decision of whether to send your child to public or private school is a personal one. There are many factors to consider, and the best school for your child may depend on his or her individual needs and learning style.

What are some of the things the US could do to improve education in public schools?

Here, I focus on public schools alone because the US government cannot and should not get involved in private education.

These are my ideas and you may agree or disagree with them:

  • Increase funding for public schools, especially in low-income areas.
    • This increased funding should not come from increased taxation on the American People who are overpaying taxes now. It must come from getting a handle on current governmental waste and redirecting that waste to a better investment … education.
  • Attract and retain high-quality teachers.
    • This may be to pay teachers more if they deserve more, but most of all hold them accountable for their student’s learning. Not all students learn the same way. We all have dominant learning styles i.e., Kinesthetic, Auditory, or Visual. Teachers should teach using all three methods of learning. It is not one size fits all when it comes to educating a person.
    • Teachers should also be required – like other professions – to have continuing education credit requirements and ongoing testing to make sure they stay up to date.
  • Set high standards for all students and hold schools accountable for meeting those standards.
    • Stop grading on a curve. There is no reason a person should have a greater than a 4.0 GPA nor any reason a person with less than a 1.0 GPA should be allowed to move forward. Some students pass from one grade to another because of age alone … not because of how intelligent they are becoming.
  • Provide more support for students from low-income families and students with disabilities.
    • Here I am talking much more than simply free meals. If a family cannot afford decent clothes, food, and supplies for their child they need to get assistance for those items. However, someone in the family also must be able to work off that assistance through voluntary labor to the school. Nothing should be totally free if you don’t want people taking advantage of it.
  • After increasing the number of teachers, reduce the size of classes so that they are easier for the teacher to do his/her job. It’s much easier to teach a class of 15 – 20 than a class of 30 – 40 (and in some cases more) students.
  • Make college more affordable for all students who are college material and wish to attend college.
    • Again, nothing can be done on the private university level by the government but a lot can be done on the public or state university level. When you consider the cost of Tuition, Room & Board, and Books at the University of Mississippi for an in-state student it comes to about $21,212 per year in 2023-2024. When you consider the same cost for Florida State University the cost comes to about $16,494. And when you look at the University of Alabama the cost comes to $21,424.

  • These outrageous costs for those students that cannot afford college tuition or all the tuition should not have to come from student loans but rather some or all of what the student is lacking could come from the college endowment fund at that university. Currently these funds look as follows as of June 30, 2023:

    • And while we are on the subject of the university footing part of the bill – or at least lowering the cost of education to a more affordable price – how much do you think these schools pay their football coaches as compared to their actual teachers?
      • First the professors … the one’s who actually are responsible for the education of the students at colleges and universities in America:

      • Now the Football Coaches:

        • Yes, football is important to the university, after all, that is what drives a lot of those endowment fund contributions, but should it be more important than the education itself? Universities should lower the cost to attend as long as they are building these huge “tax-free” endowment funds primarily on the back of their sports programs.
  • Finally, remember that all children are not “college” bound so bring back shop classes to the high school level, in all public high schools, and begin to once again teach trades for those who decide not to attend college.
    • Technology may be taking over the world but the world, and America, still needs plumbers, electricians, heating and air conditioning people, mechanics, welders, carpenters, and brick layers to name a few.
    • In November 2018 I wrote an article, “Whatever happened to shop classes in high school” that you can read by following this LINK.

In summary:

The decision to send your kid to public school or private school is an individual one that should be made by you, the parent. If the child is old enough, they can help with the decision.

However, don’t make the decision based solely on what you hear or what your neighbor or relative tells you. Do your research and know the reasons you are making the decision you decide to make.

Have a great day!

Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC

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