Why are there "bad school districts" and "good school districts" in the US, assuming that the government works hard to increase education standards?

  • In many areas of the US people choose the place to live based on the quality of local schools. In districts where schools are geographically segregated, many parents even resolve to various scams in an attempt to get their child into the "right" school.

    However it seems unclear to me why bad schools exist in the first place - assuming that the government wants to make sure that all students receive a good education, shouldn't they replace personnel in schools which are considered "bad"? Or do bad schools only exist because the local population is under-educated in the first place and therefore no amount of schooling can help their children become better?

    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

    "the government" is a very broad and somewhat vague entity, especially for this discussion/question.

    Yes, to reiterate the deleted comment, in the US, the federal government doesn't directly influence local school districts to a great degree. Most of the management of a district happens at the district level. This would include funding as well.

    "replace personnel in schools" have you seen the salaries for educators and other school personnel? There is not a lot of people willing to work hard for such salaries. So once "bad" are removed you have a high chance to substitute them with "worse".

    @SalvadorDali well, where do the good schools get the good teachers then?

    From the same place anyone else can get any workforce: from the available pool of talent. They are able to get a better talent because of 1) higher salaries 2) more prestige 3) more convenient to work there 4) students/colleagues respect you more. The last thing is especially important. I know a few people who decided to take this low-paying job and all of them told me that they really like to teach. And in the "bad" schools many students do not want to learn and have very little respect to a teacher. Back to my point - it is very hard to replace personnel.

    Re "replace personel", consider the possibility that it is not primarily the staff that makes the difference between a good and bad school, but the students.

    @SalvadorDali so it's about the local populace, rather than about local funding?

    @JonathanReez the two are not independent variables. As mentioned in the answers a big chunk of school funding comes from local property taxes. Gaining additional funding for schools generally requires the local populace passing a referendum to increase those taxes. So it depends on how much they are able/willing to pay. The students' behavior and the amount of money to spend are tied to the same thing, the amount that the people in the community *care* about education. And *that* is the reason there are bad schools: there will always be people who, for whatever reason, don't care.

    "shouldn't they replace personnel in schools which are considered 'bad'?" - That's kind of like saying a losing football team should replace its players. One problem is, will the replacements be any better?

    There was education before there was government.

    @D M: No, it's more like saying that if you're losing at poker, you should turn your hat around. Or that if you're not finding pay dirt in your mine, you should hire new miners.

  • Stig Hemmer

    Stig Hemmer Correct answer

    5 years ago

    I am not an American, so I'll talk about Norway instead.

    Even here there are bad schools and good schools. While there are some unevenness in funding, it isn't nearly as large as in the US.

    I would like to discuss

    Self-fulfilling prophecies

    A newspaper publishes a ranking of schools. This ranking can be based on the Norwegian equivalent of SAT tests or something else. It doesn't really matter.

    Even if the differences are small, some school will be at the top of the list, and some school will be at the bottom. People attach a ridiculous amount of importance to these rankings even if the message should have been that the differences are small.

    So, we have a "best" school and a "worst" school.

    Some parents read these ranking and decide that their child should attend the very best school possible, so they move to the relevant school district even if they have to live with a longer commute or other inconveniences.

    The parents who do this are also supportive of their children's education in other ways, they talk to them about their homework, they have books at home, they have computers and a good Internet connection, and so on.

    These children would have done well in any school, but now they attend the "best" school and raise its rating. The difference has increased.

    And then we have the teachers. First we have one who graduated top of their class at the Teachers Academy. While good Academy grades doesn't automatically mean they are a good teacher, there is some correlation.

    They want to teach at the "best" school. They apply and are accepted. Good grades is a door opener. The "best" school now has better teachers and will get a better rating.

    Meanwhile another teacher who just barely graduated from the Academy applies too. They are rejected from the "best" school, the second-"best" school and all the way down to the "worst" school, where they are finally accepted as the only applicant. This school also have several unfilled positions, meaning they have to make do with unqualified temps.

    In addition to being academically weak, these teachers are dissatisfied with their job and will use more effort on searching for another job than on their actual teaching.

    The "worst" school and its students loses out and falls on the ratings.

    After a few years of this, the newspaper publishes another ranking and the differences between the schools have increased. Now there really are good schools and bad schools. A shame, really.

    Kind of like the tragedy of the commons, huh?

    Maybe it's not all bad. Good students are wasted in classes full of low-archivers who drag them down and bully.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM