Monday, October 1, 2012

Bring on the Choice!

The current crop of reformers think that school choice will solve all of our problems. Want better teachers? School choice. Want better curriculum? School choice. Want lower costs? School choice. Want more involved parents? School choice. 

First and foremost, I do not think that school choice is the knee jerk solution to all of those problems. However, since school choice in the form of charter school expansion and vouchers seems inevitable, all I can do bring something to the bargaining table. That is, if there is a bargaining table there for teachers. I doubt it in this environment when the opinions of people who actually teach for a living are deemed irrelevant. 

In order for private schools and/or charter schools to receive public funding, the state needs to grant public schools the following privileges that private and charter schools share: 

  • The ability to pick students who meet the school's goals (like private schools).
  • The ability to dismiss students who cannot or will not perform academically and/or behaviorally (like private schools and charter schools).
  • The ability to select textbooks (like private and charter schools).
  • The ability to follow a curriculum and utilize pedagogical techniques that are best for the population and the teachers teaching it (like private and charter schools).
  • The ability to stress the importance of reasonable class sizes with credibility (like private schools and charter schools).
  • The ability to institute uniforms and provide negative consequences for noncompliance instead of only being able to reward students who participate (like charter and private schools).

The first two are the most important inasmuch as the students in a private school have to be a good match for the ideals and goals of the school. However, it is also important that public schools be freed from academic programs that are not bringing results. It is unfair to hold schools and teachers accountable for student outcomes on standardized tests while forcing them to use ineffective  materials in their instruction. 

If public schools are able to do these things or perhaps the private and charter schools receiving public funding can lose those privileges, then I say bring on the school choice!

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