Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cheating, School Choice and Experts

The world is not short on Expert Opinions.  This is also true regarding education.  People who have "informed" and "expert" opinions about our nations schools are few and far between.  (Present company excluded of course)

"No No...switch that to  C as in"
Enter the Atlanta Cheating Scandal. I have heard from 4 different people in my personal circles about this over the past 4 days.  Each had an opinion as to the cause of the scandal and what should be done. I bit my tongue.  Do I sympathize with the teachers and officials who cheated?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  I faced the same choice but it never even crossed my mind to cheat.  It is sad many do think about it but I maintain the vast majority of good people in teaching do not.  Then this morning on the last weekend of my Spring Break I catch the opinion column by Cal Thomas.

Syndicated columnist Thomas has said tons of things to which I object since he makes most conservatives appear liberal.  So objecting to his "informed" opinion is not unusual.  This morning,  he wrote about that scandal and I agree with most of what he said. He even mentioned Eugene Robinson....but qualified him as a "pro-public school columnist" which implies he himself is not.

So a few lines stood out:
"The teachers’ unions and many Democratic politicians, who receive their campaign contributions, oppose school choice, which would improve not only public schools, but also the chances of poor and minority children to have a better life."

Ooh...the evil unions again.  I tire of this refrain.  Georgia, like Virginia, is a right to work state and public sector employees cannot collective bargain, strike or do many other "union"  type things.  To affix all the ills of education on the union is frankly beneath anyone of moderate intellect.  So I will excuse Thomas.    Educators in Atlanta can join professional organizations and donate money but I doubt they spearhead the effort to subjugate poor and minority children.  To use this to bolster the  argument for "school choice" makes it appear as if  a focus group switched your energies from "testing and accountability".  A permanent fix school choice is not. 

I'm pretty sure a brief history lesson of the South, Atlanta in particular, might remind folks like Thomas of the value of public schools.  Advocating their dismantling in favor of a private voucher driven system is short sighted and just a bad idea.  Read more about why here.   If you play this out and consider if every student were given a voucher to schools that could deny admission or remove students by a lower standard and you've compounded some issues you seek to resolve. 

"Could school choice be the answer?
Indiana thinks so. Last week, the state’s Supreme Court upheld a voucher program that gives poor and middle-class families access to tax dollars to help them pay private school tuition. Parents should decide where their children go to school."

OK.  The secular argument against vouchers falls short in Indiana.  But that ruling doesn't apply nationally yet.  Worth adding that even though Indiana has among the most far reaching voucher law only about 9,000 children used the vouchers last year. That number will certainly grow and unlike elsewhere, there are fewer income limits, meaning more middle class families can take advantage.  That seems to counter the main reason these laws are championed, to benefit poor students in under-performing schools.  Vouchers themselves are not evil. But they have "issues. " Time will tell.

Lastly this was slipped in" "It’s not the children who cannot achieve. It’s the system that fails them."   This is often true.  But let's not reduce an incredibly complex and lengthy process into "school choice."  Vouchers might do some good but would also impact many quality schools in unforeseen ways.  An expert would pick up on this.   Many of these same experts also voted now indicted Beverly Hall as National Superintendent of the Year. 

1 comment:

  1. When Students cheat on exams it's because our School System values grades more than Students value learning.

    -Neil Degrasse Tyson