Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."


Great Public Schools (Yes, in America!)

While the U.S. collegiate system is the envy of the world, our primary and secondary schools have become punching bags for the media, politicians, and disaffected parents. This week's U.S. News & World Report even has an article on "education consultants" who, for a fee, will help parents find "good grade schools". This same article decries our nation's "sagging SAT scores", with a USA Today-esque graphic helpfully showing the downward trend in Reading (508 two years ago to 502 today), Math (520 two years ago to 515 today) and Writing (497 last year, when this module was introduced, to 494 today). Maximum possible is 800. Überblogger ZenPundit has blogged extensively on the topic of public schools.

This is why we're so glad to live in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Who'd have thunk that one of the best public school systems in the nation would be nestled in the hills of southern Appalachia? In fact, both Newsweek and Expansion Management magazine have consistently ranked Oak Ridge as among the best school districts in the nation -- with Oak Ridge High School garnering accolades from them as well as the Wall Street Journal as one of the best high schools in the country.

Note that these are public schools, paid for by the city (through sales and property taxes), the state (through franchise and excise taxes) and the federal government (through income taxes and other revenues). And even citizens outside of the Oak Ridge district can send their kids to our schools: annual tuition is about equal to what the "education consultants" in the USN&WR article mentioned above charge for simply finding a good grade school.

Is this because of our city's founding as an integral part of the Manhattan Project during World War II (city motto: "Born of War, Living for Peace") and its close proximity to one of the nation's finest National Labs, or because of proactive citizens and School Board members like blogger Citizen Netmom, or because of the forward-leaning Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation? Or some combination of all of those (and other) factors?

This much I know: U.S. test scores may be failing -- but not in Oak Ridge. Our prowess in math and science may be slipping -- but not in Oak Ridge. And as a product of the California public school system (from elementary through undergraduate), I am proud to learn new vocabulary words like onomatopoeia from my 10-year-old daughter.

Click for a summary of Oak Ridge Schools awards and honors.

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At 5/9/07 21:47 , Blogger mark said...

Hi Shane,

Few ppl realize that high scoring states on international math and science tests like Singapore are quietly sending their officials to visit the best American public schools to find ways to make their own educational system less rigid, rote-based and narrow.

We have some amazingly good and bad schools here, along with an underachieving middle. Our educational "leaders" in government refuse to use tests that would compare apples to apples (i.e. test the actual improvement of the same child or cohort from year to year instead of different groups) or use fixed goalposts so they can game the annual results to their political needs.

I have great reservations about many aspects of American schools but there are more gems out there than most ppl realize.


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