More Evidence School Choice Hurts Student Performance

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By Jeff Bryant, director of the Education Opportunity Network, a partnership effort of the Institute for America’s Future and the Opportunity to Learn Campaign. He has written extensively about public education policy. Originally published at Education Opportunity Network

Another week, another round of evidence that providing parents with more “school choice,” especially the kind that lets them opt out of public schools, is not a very effective vehicle for ensuring students improve academically or that taxpayer dollars are spent more wisely.

The latest evidence comes from a study of the voucher program in Washington, DC that allows parents to transfer their children from public to private schools at taxpayer expense. The study found that students “who attended a private school through the program performed worse on standardized tests than their public school counterparts who did not use the vouchers,” reports the New York Times.

This study adds to others – from Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana – finding that school vouchers have negative impacts on students.

Despite these results, many proponents of school choice contend the purpose of school choice was never about generating better results. It’s about choice for choice’s sake.

Results Don’t Matter?

That seems to be what US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos argues in her reaction to the news about the apparent failure of the DC voucher program. As the Washington Post reports, the report prompted her to say, “When school choice policies are fully implemented, there should not be differences in achievement among the various types of schools.”

That reaction struck education historian Diane Ravitch as an implication that “results don’t matter.” She writes on her personal blog, “If you parse this sentence, what she is saying is that when everyone chooses, none of the schools will be better than any others. They will all get the same results, even if they are dismal. The purpose of choice is choice.”

Ravitch points to an op-ed in a local DC paper that argues the “while point” of choice is for parents to pick schools they believe to be “best” for their children, regardless of the nature of the school or the results of its program.

The writer compares education to breakfast cereal, arguing that some parents may prefer Cheerios while some prefer other brands. What’s the big deal?

This line of reasoning aligns with DeVos’s recent comments comparing schools to all sorts of consumer goods. As the Associated Press reports, in a recent address she made at an education technology conference, DeVos compared school choice to switching phone carriers. “If you can’t get cell phone service in your living room,” she says, “you should have the option to find a network that does work.”

In another of her pronouncements about school choice, she compared education options to ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.

For anyone who’s been paying attention, DeVos’s remarks aren’t surprising.

Seven years ago, when a study of the school voucher program in Milwaukee came to a disappointing conclusion similar to the more recent studies mentioned above, it prompted Charles Murray –co-author of the eugenics-inspired treatise The Bell Curve – to respond, basically, “So what!”

Writing in the New York Times, he argued that results from the study of the Milwaukee program didn’t much matter. “Our children’s education is extremely important to us,” he wrote, “and the greater good doesn’t much enter into it.” (Point of irony: Murray argues against using test scores as meaningful measures of school performance, yet the title of his infamous book is a direct reference to how test scores are distributed on a graph.)

More recently, editors of The Economist ruminated over the DC voucher study and  concluded the negative results meant, “A parent with a voucher may increasingly think twice about using it. That is a good choice to have.”

The Ultimate Choice

All of this sounds just so sensible until you take into consideration that individuals don’t pay for public education; the taxpayers do. And the choices parents make about their children’s education don’t just affect their children; they have an impact on the whole community.

Businesses are free to create whatever demand they want in the marketplace, whether it’s for better-tasting food or for more convenient service, and how individuals choose to respond to those demands is of no concern to the greater public unless it endangers lives or infringes on freedoms. But the demand for education is a given, it’s universal, and it’s ultimately of interest to our whole society.

And no one has a right to Cheerios, interruption-free cellphone service, or a ride home from the bar. But everyone does have a right to an education.

Further, when you extend the argument of choice for choice’s sake out to its logical conclusion, you’re led to the conclusion parents should have the option to skip educating their children altogether. Don’t laugh. A newly elected Representative in the Arizona legislature recently told a local news reporter, “The number one thing I would like to repeal is the law on compulsory education.

“Education used to be a privilege,” he laments. “Now we basically force it down everybody’s throats.”

His comments prompted education journalist Valerie Strauss to write on her blog at the Washington Post, “Compulsory education has a long history in this country, actually predating it … Education has long been seen not only as a personal ticket to a better life in this country but also as essential for the health of the democratic enterprise.”

Strauss quotes a columnist for the Arizona paper who, after reading the views of her state lawmaker, responded  “Oh the horror, of trying to create an educated citizenry. Of forcing kids to actually learn something … Much better, I suppose, to let them stay home, ignorant and hungry and so not our problem. Until someday, when they are.”

Too Important For Choice

None of this is to say parents should have no education choices for their children at all.

But Carol Burris, a former award-winning New York school principal who now leads the Network for Public Education, makes an important distinction about choice in education in her recent commentary at the Washington Post. “Public school choice programs, if carefully managed, can serve students well and/or promote a social good, she writes. “Privatized school choice, in contrast, is quite different. Privatized school choice is the public financing of private alternatives to public schools.” (emphasis original)

Burris goes on to explain that privatized school choice in many instances has led to negative consequences for the community, including crippling the funding of its local schools while enriching wealthy individuals and adding additional layers of administration and bureaucracy.

“We supported education with our tax dollars not to give individual children advantage,” she writes, “but to build a nation by teaching our children about the blessings of democracy in a publicly governed community school.”

Some things are just too important for choice.

In my recent conversation with progressive radio talk show host Rick Smith, he makes that interesting point in saying, “I don’t want choice.”

He argues that when he gets sick, he wants access to a qualified doctor with up-to-date facilities, and for his children’s education, he wants to know there’s going to be a school nearby with qualified teachers who have the resources they need.

“Why would I want a bad choice?” he asks.

Why indeed.

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51 comments

  1. Malcolm MacLeod, MD

    I have frankly come to the conclusion that over a period of the past thirty or so years, the Americans
    have lost sight of what education is and how it is important. In that respect, many other nations are
    far ahead of us now. I started going to college at UVa in 1952, and I stopped going to college at CSU
    Sacto in 2010. The differences were appalling.

    1. Anti Schmoo

      Your experiences echo mine (re: present day uni). If I had school age children today, I wouldn’t allow them anywhere near public education, or private either, for that matter. Home schooling is the only viable alternative if one loves their children.
      Read John Taylor Gatto’s book; Underground History of American Education. If it doesn’t horrify you, there’s something wrong with your understanding of education; genuine education.

      1. PKMKII

        Home schooling is the only viable alternative if one loves their children.

        So I guess individuals and couples who can’t afford to have a stay-at-home parent don’t really love their children? More power to you if you do proper home schooling, but implying that people who don’t have their option are lesser parents is straight up classism.

        1. Anti Schmoo

          Oh, go suck an egg.
          I said no such thing.
          There are ways; but, since your dismissive reply was so rude, I’ll not respond further…

          1. diptherio

            PMKII is not the only one who found your statement rather tone deaf, verging on the outright offensive. You tied making a choice to homeschool to loving one’s children, and implied people who send their kids to public school are dumb (choosing a non-viable alternative) or don’t love their kids. I had to work at it a little to not be immediately pissed off when I read it, too.

            “The only….” is always a dangerous way to start a sentence, since you are implying that any other decision is somehow illegitimate. Just sayin’…

          2. diptherio

            …Adding that not sharing information you have that might be useful for people because you’re offended by one person’s response isn’t really helpful for the group as a whole. A heck of a lot more people than us are reading this, and some of them would no doubt like to hear about those ‘ways’ that you mention. Thanks.

      2. Pavel

        Sorry I missed your comment re Gatto earlier (and Alejandro’s below). See my link further down to Gatto’s Youtube channel. Lots of inspiring lectures, including one on his Underground History ideas. As you say, really shocking– basically keep the proles dumbed down and make them into efficient factory workers whilst the elite get high-quality education training them to be leaders. The German kindergarten isn’t a “child’s garden” but a “garden to raise children in” (and to indoctrinate them in various ways).

      3. MBC

        Your funny
        You remind of the vet who told my wife she did not love her dog and should not own one unless she is prepared to pay $1500 to have the teeth removed as preventive maintenance. That vet went out of business after being sued for killing someones animal giving it procedures it did not need.
        Some public schools are excellent, I know because my 14 year old goes to one. I’m lucky and also made a effort to locate in a “good” area. What exactly is your issue with “public education, or private either, for that matter.” Please explain.

  2. Pavel

    The fact remains that in the typical US inner city public “education” is an absolute failure and can cause serious harm on a child (gangs, school violence, introduction to drugs…) [NB drug use is not exclusive to inner-city public schools, of course.] If the charter schools don’t markedly improve the scores for the kids who go to them instead of the standard schools, there are other issues to deal with — poor nutrition, broken homes, lead poisoning, poor or non-existent prenatal care, etc etc.

    Whatever one’s politics, one should be outraged how appalling the US education system is. As I once heard someone say, imagine if only 20% of the items you bought at Walmart (or Whole Foods, take your pick) were actually edible and safe to eat?

    Sadly, so much of it is the culture, which is hard to change. I remember a piece in Scientific American 15 or so years ago, which tried to figure out why some groups do better than others in school. The authors looked at first-generation Vietnamese families in LA. The kids were doing very well in school despite the language issues. The authors decided it was due in great part to the family’s emphasis on learning– the kids sat home together every night and did their homework. This is all a bit of a cliché perhaps but to me this is more important than figuring out whether charter schools are successful or not.

    Having said all that, regarding the inner cities I am convinced that until all drugs are legalised the crime and school problems will never go away. Sadly the police, judicial system, politicians, money-laundering banks and prison industry all benefit too much from the status quo, along with the drug dealers and gangs themselves. Woe is U.S.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Just a point on the attainment levels of Vietnamese children – studies such as this can be distorted because they frequently look only at the race, not the family background of the children. Many Vietnamese (and other Asian) immigrants might have arrived in the US impovrished, but came originally from the upper middle classes of their society, so their supposed high attainment is actually just a reflection of their coming from generally educated backgrounds. Asian immigrants from other backgrounds – such as Hmong from Laos/north Vietnam, have very poor educational records a generation or two after arriving. Most studies I’ve seen indicate that the notion that certain cultures are better at learning is a myth, the result of immigrant selection. When you account for family class/educational background, there is very little evidence that Asians or other ‘successful’ groups do any better than any other ethnic group.

      I’m no expert on US education, but one thing I’d say is that what a lot of my Irish immigrant to the US relatives say about their kids in American schools, is that they are generally horrified at their literacy/numeracy compared to their similar aged cousins back in Ireland, but very impressed by how much more socially confident they are. For better or worse, the US system is unusual in putting a higher priority on social skills and confidence than other countries, so this may be a distorting factor.

      1. Katharine

        Thanks for the thoughtful comments, and your family perspective. The latter seems to reinforce Malcolm MacLeod’s comment above. I have nothing against social skills and confidence, but academic competence surely ought to be a higher priority than it is.

      2. Pavel

        hi PK
        Thanks for your useful comments re the study and of course that is a very good point to make (regarding the background of the Vietnamese immigrants and being generally upper middle class). I was trying to point out the value of a family stress on education, the children working together and actually doing homework (instead of playing video games or worse) more than make a racial/ethnic point though perhaps it came across as the latter.

        BTW for those interested in education in general, I recommend the books and lectures of John Taylor Gatto. I listened to 3 or 4 hours of an interview with him — fascinating commentary on the history of education in the US (hint: see “kindergarten”) and its failures and various ways to fix it. His youtube channel is here:

        John Taylor Gatto TV

        Really thought-provoking stuff. Everyone would benefit just from listening for 30 mins or so.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Gatto had some great techniques for getting his students involved in learning. Among other things, he turned them loose on the city and told them to do research projects​. And they did.

      3. PKMKII

        For better or worse, the US system is unusual in putting a higher priority on social skills and confidence than other countries, so this may be a distorting factor.

        The last few decades in America has seen a huge emphasis on extroversion in the public education system. More emphasis on group work, weighting grades via “class participation”, communal desks instead of individual ones in strict row (or, individual ones grouped together instead of separated). Idea that it’s supposed to better prepare them for the real world, where a similar shift has happened. So yeah, social skill priority, much to the torture of introverted students.

        Which has created an amazing paradox, as at the same time public schools have become hyperfocused on standardized testing, and preparing for said tests. But those two goals (standardized test prep, social skill building) are at complete odds with each other. Social projects may be good for creative problem solving, but not drilling exercises and rote memorization into kid’s heads. That requires focus, and the social orientation just provides too many distractions. We’re pulling students in two opposite directions, trying to make public schools a little Montessori, a little cram school, and it’s just creating a mess.

    2. Jim Haygood

      We supported education with our tax dollars not to give individual children advantage,” [Carol Burris] writes, “but to build a nation by teaching our children about the blessings of democracy in a publicly governed community school.

      The openly disclosed “nation building” and “blessings of [duopolistic] democracy” bits are what many of us choke on: teaching impressionable kids to worship the state, pledge allegiance to the flag, and serve as loyal consumer/depositors in a locked-down, militarized Homeland which no longer even resembles the republic they are taught about in civics class.

      As underfunded public pensions melt down in the next recession/bear market, public employees of all kinds — including teachers — are going to face fierce pension envy from a threadbare middle class asked to dig deeper to bail out generous public pensions.

      Public schools have yet to make the counterintuitive case as to why the cost-plus monopoly of K-12 public education should produce better results than the hybrid public-private system in higher education which features world class US universities.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        As underfunded public pensions melt down in the next recession/bear market, public employees of all kinds — including teachers — are going to face fierce pension envy from a threadbare middle class asked to dig deeper to bail out generous public pensions.

        It’s already happening and it doesn’t require any pension meltdown. The State of Wisconsin pension system is fully funded (by law – payouts go down when returns are low) but the teachers-have-it-too-good-envy has been in full flower since Walker began stoking it in 2010. Because, as everyone knows, teachers are like any other commodity: quality doesn’t matter, only price.

      2. Anon

        As underfunded public pensions melt down in the next recession/bear market, public employees of all kinds — including teachers — are going to face fierce pension envy from a threadbare middle class asked to dig deeper to bail out generous public pensions

        JH:

        Yesterday, your ire seemed to be directed at Chicago public school teachers and their pensions. Today, it’s all public employees–including teachers. I’ll give you ephemeral point that there is substantial wealth/pay/pension/labor inequality in the US. But public sector/teacher pensions are not “generous”. They are part of a negotiated contract between labor (teachers) and management (School Boards) and if they were more lucrative would likely attract more to the field, rather than less. The tough part for teachers is that students are not widgets, and learning is not osmotic.

      3. Kurtismayfield

        What are the results of our public-private system in higher education?

        40% 4 year graduation rates for public university
        57% 4 year graduation rates for private university.

        Is this what you want to hold up for the standard to measure high school education by?

        http://collegecompletion.chronicle.com/

    3. flora

      ” the typical US inner city public “education” is an absolute failure and can cause serious harm on a child ”

      US schools are mostly locally funded from property taxes on real estate. Inner city and poor school districts don’t have the same tax base, therefore funding levels, better off suburban districts have. Instead of throwing state level public tax money at private charter schools in poor districts it would be a better idea to put the same state level public tax money into poorer districts’ public schools. I think you’d see improvements across the board. Of course, that would cut out the privatizers’ payoff. Single-payer for schools, at least to the level of equalizing instate funding. Richer districts have the tax base to keep a high level without needing the same level of state aid that poorer districts would require.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        Something one never hears from the choice people is that the last 30 years have seen a huge diversion of resources out of “failing” inner city school districts. Often this is couched in “per pupil” payments so the absolute decline is masked by declining enrollment. But many of the costs of education are (relatively) fixed, esp in older urban districts with aging infrastructure, so the funding declines end up taking money directly out of the classroom.

        Add to that a conscious strategy to steal away the best students but none of the high-need ones and it is shocking (not) urban school districts have not seen dramatic increases in student outcomes.

      2. Jim

        In California poorer districts get boosts from the state budget. Supposedly poor districts have twice the money per student as the average but they still perform the worst.

    4. DH

      My wife teaches in an inner city elementary school. Yesterday, her neighboring teacher was bitten by one of the students – did not break the skin but apparently they could have cast dentures from the imprint. it seems like each year one of the teachers or administrators ends up needing medical attention due to injury from a student (throwing heavy objects at people is a common occurrence). However, suspensions and detentions are frowned upon as they reflect badly on the school.

      The vast majority of the behavior problems are American-born students as they are growing up in poverty with a litany of inner city issues (pick any issue and it will be present in her class). Any bullying in the class is by American-born students. for many of the kids, outdoor playtime at school is the only time they spend much time outside as their neighborhoods are too unsafe for them to be outside, so they watch TV and play video games at home.

      About half the class is made up of immigrant children, many of whom start the school year not speaking a word of English. Many of them end up going to university upon graduation from high school. They tend to have very supportive families and the children tend to be very well-behaved in class.

      1. Pavel

        Thank you. This is anecdotal obviously but bolsters my point above.

        The good news is that a strong family “spirit” can overcome local community and political deficiencies. The bad news is that in many districts these strong families don’t exist. I don’t wish to attribute blame, just to make the observation.

        1. Tim

          when both parents are working two jobs it can be pretty hard to pick up the slack of a deficient education. Even at that level it’s still about economics, not just good vs bad families.

  3. tony

    I’m not so sure that performance in standardized testing is worth all that much. If I were evaluating a school for my kids, that would not be one of the criteria I would use. Although, I would try not to put my kids into a school that does consider standardized test scores important.

  4. Ignacio

    Degradation in education almost certainly parallels degradation in living standards, setting apart migrant particularities. Whether charter schools help such degradation and further educational seggregation is the center of the discussion here.

    The effect of adding complexity and bureaucracy parallels the effect seen as large administrative costs in private health services compared to universal public systems.

  5. Carla

    “School choice” was never about anything other than creating yet a better way for corporations to stick their snouts in the public trough, just like everything else in American life.

    We well know that the academic performance of poor black and brown children from the inner city improves dramatically when they are integrated into middle class suburban schools. Here is only the latest evidence: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/03/16/515788673/try-this-one-trick-to-improve-student-outcomes

    But of course we don’t do that.

    1. Jim Haygood

      It’s nearly impossible, when school assignment is based on geographic districts. Imagine being compelled to shop exclusively at State Food Store No. 347, based on your census tract. How can you have your meat ration, if you don’t buy any pudding?

      My high school in the South, racially integrated in the late 1960s, flipped to majority African-American after the wealthier suburbs north of town created their own school district.

      Up in the great liberal North, in my town across the river from the old industrial city of Paterson (with a majority black and hispanic population), the suburban school district demanded papers from every student to prove residency.

      You won’t be surprised to learn that my school teacher neighbor had her grandson from Paterson registered as living at her house. Sistema D, comrades: you do what you gotta do. :-)

      1. Enquiring Mind

        Education might be but another brick in the wall, but what type of brick would people want to build a structure that would last through decades? The current system seems intent to churn out clinkers (some with shiny exterior but inferior thermal insulating or strength, for example), or some other bricks of inadequately baked mud that erode, or some straw-filled that suffer the elements, even some liable to be degraded in bad weather.
        I do agree that the current US system is substandard, and fails so many of the children, their families and the community.

      2. Left in Wisconsin

        Right, well when the gubmint says you can’t discriminate within a school district but it’s just fine to discriminate across districts, those borderlines become pretty important. That’s a problem that is easily solved if good will exists.

  6. jackiebass

    School choice ,vouchers, and charter schools have become the new form of segregation. A free public education for all is probably the most important reason why our country became great. Over time the term all became eroded to for some. We have many of the problems in the country because we abandoned the belief that all children were entitled to a quality free public education.In fact this concept is part of most state constitutions. When these clauses in state constitutions are challenged in court, and the people win, the court rulings are ignored by politicians. We will never be a great country again until we return to the original belief that all children deserve a quality education. Educators have done the research and have some answers on how to “fix” our educational system. All of this was known in the 60’s. Unfortunately educational experts are ignored by policy makers. As a retired teacher with 35 years on the job , I’ve had a direct experience with this. The people that know how to educate children, classroom teachers, are for the most part ignored. Working in NY state I could tell you about how new ideas were implemented compared to how the common core was imposed. You would understand why common core failed. Considering how education has been attacked for decades, it’s amazing public schools still exists. Probably due to millions of very dedicated public school teachers and supportive parents.

  7. Katharine

    If De Vos really wants to claim results don’t matter, she has destroyed the rationale (such as it was) for tying funding to test results. I’m bound to say, though, I think Ravitch’s reading of that sentence is quite a stretch. It sounds to me more like a claim that choice is some kind of fairy dust that makes actual facilities, teachers’ abilities, and peripheral circumstances like stable homes and good health irrelevant.

  8. Potato Guy

    As a taxpayer who funds the schools I am willing to stay the course to find a better way than government schools.

    There is going to be corruption. The pro government school coalition will undermine success to prove their point. Some charters will fail because of corruption and incompetence. Others will thrive because of leadership and values.

    In Illinois the schools are so broken because we lost track of what matters. Educating our children. It’s all about money and power now. Pensions and benefits. Indoctrination and control.

    Since they are throwing my money away, throw it everywhere and see who gets it done. It’s the people. The parents who can will bring their children up with education. The parents who can’t won’t. Most teachers are doing the best they can.

    Posting here won’t change anything. Get involved now!!!

    Has anybody been to the Avenues School in NYC?

  9. Chris M.

    Another anti-charter hit piece. Kids who decide to go to a charter school are not just a random sample of the public school population. Their scores do not drop because they switched to a charter school. Charters attract a higher percentage of special needs children and children not thriving in their public school. If these kids would have stayed in the public school, their scores would not have been higher, maybe even lower. Public schools are not for everyone. Some kids are more comfortable and better served at a charter school, for one reason or another. It could be bullying, could be they need a smaller environment, could mean they need to be around teachers and other students who understand them better. Public schools might be better on average but they are definitely not the best choice for each individual student.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Stop lying. The facts are the reverse. Charter schools get rid of special needs students:

      http://nypost.com/2016/08/11/charter-schools-score-well-by-excluding-special-needs-students-de-blasio/

      https://dianeravitch.net/2016/10/27/massachusetts-charter-schools-neglect-and-exclude-students-with-disabilities/

      https://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/2011/12/21/can-charter-schools-legally-turn-away-kids-with-severe-disabilities/

      Even this charter-school-friendly piece is exhorting charter schools to take more special needs children:

      http://educationnext.org/files/ednext_XIV_4_forum.pdf

  10. Steve Ruis

    Some of the comments aren’t very well-informed. Take for instance the fact that IQ tests are normed to a score of 100. These tests, btw, to not test IQ but rather learning. “Average IQ” has been 100 for the past century, but in fact the average has been climbing steadily over that time, but since it is reset to 100 every year no one notices. Also, when my college education began, in 1964, we were just beginning a major expansion in access to college. In the 1960s my home state of California was opening community colleges at a massive rate (I went to one for financial reasons even though I qualified to enter the state universities). What this has meant is a great many people who were not “college material” and who were vigorously shunted into “the trades” or other occupations are now being directed to college attendance. A consequence was that people taking the SAT, for example, who used to have a minimum of a B average in high school, were now taking that test with substantially lower GPAs. When that effect was corrected for, SAT scores showed considerable elevation over time. All of these metrics point to a school system that is more effective that the current “collective wisdom” grants it.

    Reading “The Death and Life of the American School System” or “The Reign of Error” by Diane Ravitch (mentioned above) is well worth the effort. There has been way too much spin applied to this discussion for anyone to claim any access to the “facts” gained from common “news” sources.

    1. tony

      If you teach kids to do SAT, they get better at doing SAT. That does not mean they are more virtuous, better thinkers or educated in anything worthwhile.

      Public education was brought to the US from Prussia, where it had been developed to train kids into obedient soldiers who could be ordered to die by their officers. In the US the value of the system was seen by industrialists as a way to produce an obedient workforce. Standardized testing simply a way to make this authoritarian control even stronger.

      [I] wouldn’t say that no meaningful work takes place in schools, or that they only exist to provide man power for the corporate system or something like that -these are very complex systems, after all. But the basic institutional role and function of the schools, and why they’re supported, is to provide an ideological service: there’s a real selection for obedience and conformity. And I think that process starts in kindergarten, actually.

      http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/chomeduc.html

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        And all the teachers are in on this? I will ask the ones I know. Of course, as good double agents, they will likely lie to me.

        1. tony

          It’s not a conspiracy, it’s the institutional and ideological structure the school system is built upon.

  11. flora

    “Ravitch points to an op-ed in a local DC paper that argues the “while point” of choice is for parents to pick schools they believe to be “best” for their children, regardless of the nature of the school or the results of its program.”

    shorter: “school choice” is education quackery – on the public dime. imo.

  12. PKMKII

    Wife went to one of those posh NYC private prep schools for 6-12 grades. Not quite the name recognition of, say, Dalton, but in that realm. From the people she knows who are still involved with the school, ever since they started taking vouchers the quality of the education has gone downhill. Problem is that it’s rearranged their incentive structure. Used to be, they were dependent on the tuition and donations of the well-to-do, which meant providing an education that best prepared them for getting into elite private universities so they could go on to be good bougies. Now, though, the incentive with the vouchers is, how can we maximize profit off of the vouchers? Which leads to cutting corners.

    1. Harold

      Dalton, taking vouchers? I find that hard to believe. Dalton used to be funded by the Rosenwald foundation — before it became a school for the ambitious nouveaux riches

  13. Bill Smith

    Saw an interesting comment in a local paper after the Washington Post article came out. A parent said she liked school choice because those schools where safer. They kicked out (most) troublemakers (violence / drugs).

  14. tc10021

    The “posh” schools you refer to tend to pay teachers less and give them less benefits than public, yet they routinely produce far better qualified academically kids than the same public schools down the street. Perhaps you need to stop social engineering and pushing some doctrine and instead focus on what works.

    As an aside, most public schools aim to create the same layers of workers , eg, 65% will work in factories or blue collar, 20% white collar, 10% professional and the balance managers, which is the same as in the 1950s. Schools like economists all agree the world has changed, yet the institutions dont/won’t and what they teach doesn’t.

  15. Harold

    These attacks on public schools are unwarranted. From my experience as a parent, there is not much difference between public and private schools, no matter how posh the latter. The same experienced teachers tend to circulate between both — and both follow the same (usually disastrous in recent years) educational fads. The curriculums of both are set by big for-profit multi-national publishing and testing corporations, with the results we now see.

    I believe teachers are among the finest and most dedicated people in the land, BTW.

  16. Democrita

    I am a teacher. I sent my kid to private school starting in middle school for one reason only: classes are half the size.

    We do not use taxpayer funds, though, and I am fully in favor of robust funding (and reduced administrations) for public schools. More teachers, fewer MBAs.

  17. H. Alexander Ivey

    One point that seems to be missing here, in both the posting and the comments, is the time element of learning and education. For children – learners – between the ages of 5 and 16 years of age, a year of learning is a one way ticket – it can’t be ‘redone’. Yes, they could repeat the grade, but their other learning and growing doesn’t ‘repeat’ or get put on hold. Basically, every year of poor learning is a year lost. Period. (Yes, we all know individuals who still blossom late, but really, is this how you want to run a society? Roll the dice with your children? Your neighbor’s?)

    It’s not just criminal what the “reformers” are doing with the US’s public school system (aka looting), it is just sickening how they are ruining children’s lives. Potentially all children. Once you turn 18, you can’t go back and try to learn what you didn’t in your early years of schooling.

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