Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where do Obama's daughters go to school?

I have no doubt that there were complex reasons that went into choosing Sidwell Friends School for the Obama children.  I know for example that Sasha and Malia can not be very well protected from the media at a public school, but I also believe that was not the only factor that went into the decision.  I have never been to Sidwell Friends, and have never met a student or former student, but I’m sure I would be happy for my daughter to have the same educational opportunities that are provided there.  I’m sure most parents in the US would be happy if their public school even vaguely resembled the education received at Sidwell Friends.  I am also fairly sure that if I was in the same position as Obama I would have made the same choice.  I can be that sure just by looking at the numbers, never having set a foot in either a DC Public School or Sidwell Friends.

DC Public Schools have been under enormous pressure to improve test scores, while Sidwell Friends is so successful it is accepting only about 15% of the students that apply.  As a district DC’s proficiency levels are in the mid 40% range for math and reading.  Although, Obama’s daughters clearly took some kind of standardized test recently, these are not public numbers.  I think it is fair to assume that Sidwell Friends would have proficiency levels above 90%.  I suspect Obama’s girls would test proficient on a standardized test no matter where they went to school.  So, it is not exactly just a question of their tests scores.

I believe, that average test scores of a school tell a story about who it is that attends a school.  And I also believe that a school is a lot more than test scores.  Here are some of the other facts.  In DC the average student to teacher ratio is 12.5:1, at Sidwell Friends it is 10:1.  DC spends approximately $18,600 per student, and Sidwell Friends spends $24,600.  Sidwell Friends has a strong athletic, after school, art, music, science, English, history, Chinese, technology, math, library, community service, and counseling program.  I doubt many schools in DC could compete in even one subject.  Sidwell Friends sends 25% of its graduates to the top 10 most selective colleges, and I assume they have high school graduation and college acceptance rates close to 100%.  DC Public Schools have a 72% high school graduation rate, with 58% of graduates going to college, but only 9% of them graduating.  In DC Public Schools 75% of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch.  At Sidwell Friends only 23% of the students get financial aid to attend a school that costs $32,000 a year.

Assuming we lived in a world where any kid could get into Sidwell Friends, I would assume that on average any kid would get a better education and probably end up testing better at Sidwell Friends.  But, just any kid doesn’t get in anyway, so we can’t really know.  Only the children of Presidents, senators, and the elite generally find their way to Sidwell Friends.  And while I say I would be happy for my daughter to go there, I would actually prefer that she went somewhere with some sort of socio-economic balance.  I also doubt that an average kid from inner city DC would be very comfortable or happy amongst the children of the elite, but they would have a very different education there. 

You tell me, where would you send your daughter and why?


  1. I don't know I just checked this school out and beyond being accepted if I could afford it I would love it!!! Amazing what they do

  2. why don't we offer the same type of education for all??? Why is it that only private schools offer a better curriculum?