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Education Policy: "Adequate Public Schools" for Assignees

Education Policy Observations and Advice:

Do You Have a Methodology for Determining "Adequate Public Schools" for Assignees?

Part Two in a Series by Timothy Dwyer, President, Bennett International

Several years ago, one of my clients asked me to help define the word “adequate” as it applied to schools.

Her company’s long-standing assignment policy called for reimbursing schooling costs for expatriates except in those situations where the public (state) schools in the host location were “adequate.” Up until that point, oddly, no one had ever actually asked her how the company determined that a school was “adequate”.

And it turned out, that the company didn’t have a methodology for making that determination, but instead relied on some combination of parental word of mouth, the opinions of realtors, and gut feel. You won’t be surprised to learn that I urged them to devise a more methodical approach to assessing the quality of the schools they expected their employees’ children to attend.

Incredibly, only one-third of the participants in Bennett’s recent policy survey believe that any objective evaluation of host-location schooling is important. The other two-thirds are mistaken.

There are many ways to evaluate the quality of a school. In an ideal world, one would evaluate the school’s leadership, parental and teacher communities, culture, curriculum, facilities, statistics, and performance metrics. But such a study is often not possible given the sheer volume of schools in play.

It is possible, however, to get a good sense of the school through the examination of some carefully selected metrics. Obvious data points, such as student performance in standardized assessments/exams should be looked at alongside less obvious ones like graduation and drop-out rates, percentage of children going on to higher education, spending per pupil, teacher-student ratio, percentage of teachers with advanced degrees, and disciplinary incident statistics, in order to get a fuller picture of a school’s quality and culture.

It’s also worth noting that a school deemed adequate for a local child is not necessarily the right place for children of expatriates. Children coming from another country confront a new culture, new curriculum, and often a new language. In order to make the “adequate” determination for them, a little extra work is required. Certainly, a public school offering the International Baccalaureate—1,100 of them in the US do, for example—might be more globally-focused and therefore more welcoming. Robust support for English language learners is another important indicator, as is the percentage of students studying a foreign language.

Many American employers, in particular, have assumed that assignees coming into the US can simply put their children into state schools, perhaps because they assume that if US public schools are good enough for American students, they will work fine for the children of assignees. While this is often the case, an organization with a truly global mindset recognizes that each host location has its own set of challenges for students coming from abroad. We owe it to employees to give more thought and analysis to the policies designed to support them…and their children.

Timothy Dwyer, President

Over the years, Bennett International Education Consultancy has worked with hundreds of corporations across the globe, many of them Fortune 500 companies, providing domestic and international school advisement & placement services - preschool through university - to the dependents of relocating employees. In addition to education placement, our team provides customized consulting for corporations with a range of education issues: education policy writing & benchmarking, tuition studies, group move advisement & planning, and remote education solutions.


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