One of the big disconnects between those close to the research about U.S. student achievement and parents is knowledge about school quality. This blog has quoted Dr. Thomas Korcok explaining that most parents have never been taught how to evaluate school quality, so they often go by feelings and perceptions such as how modern the classrooms appear and how friendly the teachers seem to be.

But as achievement-focused pursuits such as sports and music show, some of the best teachers are the most demanding. While kindness is indeed a virtue, it is not the top virtue, or one to cherish to the exclusion of others, such as justice, humility, excellence, and integrity.

It’s the same with school quality. While it’s wonderful to have the latest science equipment and biggest sports teams, these actually don’t convey much good information about how good the school is.

There’s more evidence of this inside a series of international comparisons a group of researchers did several years ago that repeatedly showed most U.S. school districts actually aren’t as good as many people think. This video from Choice Media interviews one of those study authors, and gives an overview of what he and his colleagues found.

“Suburban districts tend to feel pretty good about their results because they’re doing better than their urban neighbors,” Greene says in the video. “That’s not really the relevant comparison for those kids, because if the students from the suburban districts are going to have the kinds of jobs and lifestyles that their parents hope for them, they’re going to have to be competitive with other countries. They’re mostly not competing with kids from large urban districts for those same careers.”

While of course as Christians we don’t prioritize worldly success and lavish lifestyles, it’s not just a money thing. It’s also an honoring God thing. He gave our children minds, and he gave us our children. Putting them in a higher-quality academic and social environment is faithful stewardship of those precious gifts.

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