First published in the Orlando Sentinel June 10, 2012 and is posted here with the permission of the author and the newspaper. View the original article here…
For the past 21 years I have taught economics to more than 14,000 college students here in Central Florida.
During that time I have made a concerted effort to glean information from my Valencia students as to their educational background preceding their arrival in college.
Drawing from a sample size this large multiplied by two decades multiplied by hundreds of thousands of test answers has put me in a good position to offer the following advice to any reader of this paper with children in Florida’s K-12 public schools.
Get them out now before you ruin their life.
While this may seem to be a bit harsh, let’s look at the facts.
First, my best students every year are in order — Chinese, Eastern European, Indian and home-schooled Americans, and it is not even close when comparing this group to American public-school kids.
Since it is highly unlikely that any of you plan to move to Beijing, Warsaw or Bangalore, you might want to look at the facts concerning public vs. home-schooled American students.
(In Florida, more than 60,000 students in about 42,000 families study in home education programs, which meet the requirement for regular school attendance and were protected under state law in 1985.)
All of us have seen or heard about the annual disaster that is called FCAT results. Thanks to government officials in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee, kids in government-run schools are failing miserably in a wide range of subjects while teachers face bureaucratic nightmares that strip them of their status as professionals and relegate them to servants of standardized testing.
It is also a fact of public education that incidents of bullying, teacher-student sexual misconduct, abusive behavior by teachers and incessant protection of poor teachers by education unions have put students in public schools in the unenviable position of dealing with issues that no learning environment should impose on them.
Moreover, the public education system in Florida and other states is one of the worst forms of monopoly power.
Everywhere in our lives as citizens we have free consumer choice as to where we shop for food, clothes, cellphones and more. However, if you are economically disadvantaged you rarely have this choice in education.
Poorer families in Florida are instead given the school district that their children are forced to attend. Rather than give poor parents choices so that competitive pressure is imposed on public education, we have lower-income families — mostly minorities — who are condemned to 13 years of inferior education just because they live in the wrong zip code.
Everywhere in America where vouchers or other forms of school choice exists, we see competition forcing the unionized public schools to adapt, or lose students.
This used to be the case in Florida, but those options are now lower than in past years and the victims show up in my classes woefully unprepared for challenging college course work.
It is routine that students from Florida’s worst high schools make failing grades in college. These kids have been lied to by a system that tells them that a diploma from an "F" school will not impact them in college.
Meanwhile, the more than 2 million home-schooled kids around America (my two sons included) routinely appear in America’s colleges with an education that prepares them for virtually anything.
The home-education movement has unleashed the forces of capitalism in such a way that anyone can find dozens of types of curricula for any grade level to help educate their kids in areas where one might not be an expert.
Home-school conventions like the one coming at the end of this month in Orlando offer thousands of options and professional speakers who can help guide willing parents through their child’s formative years.
The home-schooled kids who show up in my classes usually arrive at the age of 16 or 17, score in the high 90’s on their exams and then go off to places like Harvard, Penn and other world-class universities.
Jack A. Chambless is an economics professor at Valencia College.