White House girls

The Obama girls will attend Sidwell Friends, a Quaker private school with campuses in Maryland and Washington, D.C.  Chelsea Clinton is a Sidwell alum and three of Joe Biden’s grandchildren go there. Allegedly, Michelle Obama considered D.C. public schools — there are some good ones — but none made the short list.  Highly educated upper-middle-class parents, especially those who succeeded because of their access to educational opportunities, don’t compromise on their kids’ education.

On the Obamas’ visit to the White House, the Bush daughters gave the Obama daughters tips on bed jumping.

“We helped them jump on the beds,” Barbara said. “We used to jump on the beds when we were little, too.”

Remember their grandfather was president too, so they have a lot of White House experience.

First lady Laura Bush echoed her daughter’s comments, saying Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, were shown the inside scoop on White House bed-jumping.

“They’re really tall beds; you need to get a running start,” the first lady said.

I’m sure the Obama girls will master the technique.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Robert Wright says:

    I’d like to know what makes Sidwell Friends a good school.

    Money spent per student?

    No teacher’s union?

    High teacher pay?

    Student selection?

    Parent contracts?

    Homogeneous student population?

  2. “Highly educated upper-middle-class parents, especially those who succeeded because of their access to educational opportunities, don’t compromise on their kids’ education.” How lovely for them.

    Robert F

  3. I place a high premium on quality education, and on top-notch security measures for the new First Family.

    That being said, it troubles me a bit that the privileged policymakers for the nation’s educational system don’t actually allow their own children to be part of it.

    If it’s deemed that sub-par, then either the elitists need to spend some serious effort on improving it, or else they need to demonstrate flexibility in allowing parents to choose what school their child attends.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    In general, what makes a school “good” is a population of high SES students. Screening students for academic ability (and/or IQ) helps, also. I’d be surprised if Sidwell Friends was much different in either of these aspects than other good schools.

    -Mark Roulo

  5. Sister Howitzer says:

    I have my fingers crossed that they hate the math curriculum. Sidwell uses TERC.

  6. Your “in general” qualification, Mark, is ironic in the context of this blog.

    I’m referring, of course, to Joanne’s book “Our School” which is about a school that’s aimed at low SES students yet is, by any reasonable definition, “good”.

    DCP, and similar schools, put the lie to the contention that parents have to be rich, or that a lot of money has to be spent, to create a good school. Since some of these schools have been around for a while the greater question is why is there so little interest in the academic education community in characterizing and understanding the factors that go into those school’s success?

  7. Barry Garelick says:

    I have my fingers crossed that they the math curriculum. Sidwell uses TERC.

    Absolutely correct. But if the Obamas are like many parents, they won’t notice anything wrong. And the many schools that use TERC’s “Investigations in Number, Data and Space” will now be able to tell protesting parents that “It’s good enough for the Obama s; what’s your problem?”

  8. Homeschooling Granny says:

    What is TERC math?

  9. Sister Howitzer says:

    Homeschooling Granny,

    See NYC HOLD and Illinois Loop for in depth reviews and explanations.

    It’s among the worst of the elementary level fuzzy math curricula. It’s the main reason I started homeschooling.

  10. I know the Obamas will be under lots of criticism for their decision, however I hope they did what they think is in the best interest of their girls. That has to be the number one priority.

    I find the bed jumping tid-bit cute. It’s nice to be reminded of the humanity and hospitality of the office in the wake of such heated election.

  11. Homeschooling Granny says:

    What a pity. The beauty of math, at least at foundational levels, is that it is not fuzzy. It is clear and definite in a way that English and history are not.

    I just ordered “Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States by Liping Ma. Apparently the Chinese have some ideas about how to teach conceptually, as opposed to procedurally, without being fuzzy.

  12. Robert Wright says:

    I’m generally for the new math but I just spent 30 minutes online looking at what TERC is all about and, gulp, it looks like they went overboard.

    I’d spend another 30 minutes on it but it hurts my stomach.

  13. Obama, who does not support school choice says: Sorry, folks. Choice for me, but not for thee.

  14. DCP and the Sidwell School both might be “good,” but look at the level of academic performance at both school and they are not even close. At DCP teachers are happy to get kids into the Cal State system (yes, I read the book), and the Sidwell students are on their way to the very most challenging universities in the nation. Let’s not deceive ourselves about this.

    I would send my kids to the Sidwell school, too.

  15. Sister Howitzer says:

    “DCP and the Sidwell School both might be “good,” but look at the level of academic performance at both school and they are not even close. At DCP teachers are happy to get kids into the Cal State system (yes, I read the book), and the Sidwell students are on their way to the very most challenging universities in the nation. Let’s not deceive ourselves about this.

    I would send my kids to the Sidwell school, too.”

    But if you took those kids at DCP, and sent them to Sidwell, do you think they’d do better? I don’t. Not if their choice of math curriculum reflects their overall approach to education.

  16. Robert Wright says:

    When I am named Secretary of Education….

    I’ll turn all public schools into private schools and tuition will be free.

  17. I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning!
    Wouldn’t want those girls rubbing shoulders with riff-raff from the ‘hood, would we, B.O.?

  18. Cardinal Fang says:

    I don’t understand the hostility to the Obama girls going to a private school. I know that many of you support school vouchers, but I don’t see the relevance. Vouchers are not going to help anyone attend a $30,000 a year school. If there were school vouchers in Washington DC, the Obama girls would most likely still go to Sidwell Friends.

    Barack Obama was a US Senator and wrote two best-sellers; Michelle Obama was a highly paid lawyer. Both of them started from not at all rich backgrounds, and now they’re rich. So the Obama girls will have many things that people who aren’t rich can’t afford. So? Are you opposed to private schools? Should they also wear second-hand clothes, because some other people can’t afford expensive clothes?

  19. Robert Wright says:

    Choice is good.

    And everyone should have it.

  20. There is nothing wrong with private schools. But when the system is set up so as only the wealthy have choices, some of us peasants get a bit surly. It’s even worse when those with options tell us that “choice” for the rest of us would be bad for our public school system. We’re told to think of all the children and not just our own — unless you’re wealthy or famous or connected, of course.

  21. Cardinal Fang says:

    Of course rich people have choices others don’t have. Rich people can buy first editions, but everyone else has to go to the library. Rich people have big estates, but everyone else has to go to public parks and open spaces. Rich people have box seats at the opera, and everyone else has to listen to the Met on the radio. But no one here is advocating library vouchers, parks vouchers or opera vouchers. We supply some level of public goods, and rich people are free to supplement that.

    There are plenty of good arguments for vouchers, but, “Rich people have choices, so we should have the same choices” isn’t one of them. It’s not hypocritical for someone with money to spend it.

  22. No one is complaining just that the Obamas send their kids to private school. The complaint is that they do so while opposing school vouchers, usually under the logic that allowing poor parents to pull their kids out of failing schools will hurt those schools even more.
    The more apt comparison is: buying first editions, and opposing public libraries, having estates, and opposing public parks, having box seats at the opera, and opposing radio broadcasts of performances. Having the ability to pull their children out of failed schools, while opposing a program that would allow the poor to do the same.
    And while DCPS claims spending of about $13k per pupil, actual public school spending per pupil works out to approximately $24000 per year.
    The Washington DC voucher program provides up to $7500 per year for each of about 2000 low income students to attend 54 DC area private schools. The average family income of those receiving voucher assistance is $22736.
    And the widely covered, decades long problem of violence in DC public schools makes this a serious safety issue as well.

    No one has suggested the government foot the bill to send every child in DC to Sidwell. The amounts of the vouchers are modest, and should not be a net cost to tax payers, given the what DCPS would have spent on these kids in the public system.

    (Figures are from a half dozen articles in the Washington Post.)

  23. CF

    It’s not a “rich people have choices, so we should have the same choices” arguments. It’s a point about certain people acting in their own best interests while telling the rest of us to act in the best interests of the group. After all, the reason so many people are against school choice/vouchers/charters is because they think these things will harm the public schools, even if they help specific children. We’re told to do the best with what we’re given for the sake of the Public Schools first, unless you can buy your way out.

    All of us, not just the children of politicians, have compelling reasons to get our children the best possible education. All of us have special circumstances we’d like to take into consideration. Yet most of us have to put up with mediocre schools because “choice” would mean putting more power into parents’ hands — a no-no for supporters of the status quo, to include Obama (I assume).

    Embrace choice in education for everyone. Spread the joy.

  24. And it really is only the poorest who get the shaft on this. Middle class parents opt out of dangerous, failed schools by moving to the suburbs.

  25. Cardinal Fang says:

    First of all, where is your source for the claim that the Obamas send their children to a private school “while opposing school vouchers, usually under the logic that allowing poor parents to pull their kids out of failing schools will hurt those schools even more”?

    But let’s say President-elect Obama does have that view, that school vouchers would help the students who get vouchers, but harm the students whose parents don’t apply for vouchers and or who couldn’t find a school that would accept a voucher to educate them? Isn’t Obama going to be the President of all the kids? If he believes that a policy would help a minority of schoolchildren but harm the majority, wouldn’t he be inclined to oppose that policy? Shouldn’t he oppose such a policy?

  26. I assume Obama would oppose any significant ed choices based on what I’ve read and heard from him. I could be wrong. Regardless, plenty of people in important places are against vouchers and other schemes.

    No, our public schools should not be able to hold some students hostage in poor schools just to cover their own failures. Nor should some students be sacrificed for the good of other students. The responsibility of fixing a bad school should be on the school system, not on the kids. Let who can escape.

    We are not here for the convenience of the Public Schools. They are here for us. Give out vouchers, start up charters, open the religious schools, do anything that gives the public more control over their children’s education. Why are we only worried about failing schools when someone mentions letting a few kids escape? Those kids who would be left behind are there right now.

  27. I apologize for not providing more support, CF, I was under the impression that Obama’s position on vouchers was common knowledge.

    On Februrary 20th, the Obama campaign released a statement on Obama’s views on education, which included the following:

    “Senator Obama has always been a critic of vouchers, and expressed his longstanding skepticism in that interview. Throughout his career, he has voted against voucher proposals and voiced concern for siphoning off resources from our public schools.”

    Full text of the campaign release here:
    http://www2.edweek.org/media/obama_vouchers_response.pdf

    In an interview with ABC news on June 16th, Barack Obama told Jake Tapper, “Well, the problem is, is that, you know, although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you’re going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom. We don’t have enough slots for every child to go into a parochial school or a private school. And what you would see is a huge drain of resources out of the public schools.”

    Complete transcript of that interview available here:
    http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Politics/story?id=5178123&page=1

    If anyone believes I’ve characterized Obama’s position unfairly
    (“…Obamas send their kids to private school. The complaint is that they do so while opposing school vouchers, usually under the logic that allowing poor parents to pull their kids out of failing schools will hurt those schools even more.”) please let me know.

    It might be the case that allowing parents to remove their children from failed schools will make those schools even worse. I don’t believe that this is likely, but it’s certainly possible.

    But if that is a harm that justifies opposing vouchers, then why isn’t it a harm that justifies preventing parents from opting out of failed schools through moving to different school districts or private schools?

    No, it’s only the children of the poor who must remain trapped in these schools. “Hey, we’ve all pulled our kids out of there, because we can, but you guys, you just take one for the team.”

  28. Cardinal Fang says:

    Private citizens can do what they want with their own money; our concern ought to be what we do with taxpayers’ money. The issue is whether we ought to have a two-tier system of public education, where some lucky kids get to go to private school at taxpayers’ expense, but the majority of students remain in increasingly bad public schools.

    Now, you might retort, we already do have a two-tier system of public education: good schools in the suburbs and crummy schools, by and large, in the cities. Yes, but Obama opposes that and wants to change it.

    If one wants to improve public education for all public school students, vouchers are a distraction.

  29. CF

    Worrying about maintaining the current public school model even at the expense of students is a distraction from figuring out how to improve public education. The public schools fight all real change. Rhetoric about change, however, is welcome.

    I haven’t seen any studies that show vouchers lead to most students being trapped in even worse schools than before the introduction of vouchers. I have seen study after study showing many of our schools aren’t very good. Yes, vouchers might distract this mediocrity. That’s the point of vouchers.

  30. CF: It is my turn to ask about sources. You correctly predict what I’ll say about a two tier school system, but then you say, “Obama opposes that and wants to change it.” I’ve never come across any case of him addressing this particular issue.

    And while I realize that Federalism is mostly dead in this country, it is still the case that a president’s ability to change anything about education is fairly limited.

    Furthermore, he is by no means the first to promise to fix public education. I haven’t read anything particularly innovative in his policy proposals.

    There is no particular reason to believe that a president, even this one, can fix public education at all, let alone before today’s first graders graduate high school.

    There are students who can benefit from vouchers right now. If charter schools, which Obama strongly supports, are not a “distraction,” it’s not clear to me why vouchers should be.

  31. I will say at this point that it is my opinion that our current two-tier system of education gets little notice because it draws attention to the fact that it is only the poor who can’t opt out of the worst schools.

    According to a study by the non-profit Fordham Institute, 38.7% of Chicago Public School teachers send their children to private schools.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/11/obamas_private_school_shopppin.html

    My apologies to dedicated, conscientious teachers, but it is my opinion that Barack Obama opposes vouchers because the teachers’ unions oppose them, and it is my opinion that the teachers’ unions oppose vouchers because vouchers would dilute the power of those unions.

    I don’t believe vouchers are a magic bullet. I believe they are a short term solution to a long term problem, and just one of many options available.

  32. Cardinal Fang says:

    Some of Obama’s platform for improving school quality, snipped from the Obama platform:

    Obama and Biden will also improve NCLB’s accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.
    ….
    They will also work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.
    ….
    Obama and Biden will address the dropout crisis by passing his legislation to provide funding to school districts to invest in intervention strategies in middle school – strategies such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time. [my bold]
    ….
    Obama and Biden support transitional bilingual education and will help Limited English Proficient students get ahead by holding schools accountable for making sure these students complete school.

    Since good suburban schools already have good science education, parent involvement, intensive reading instruction and so forth, these proposed strategies are a way to make bad inner city schools better, thus bringing the lower tier up to the higher tier.

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