Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A little choice goes a long way…

Save the Charters!

Dave Roland takes issue with my criticism of an effort to close "failing" charter schools in Ohio. He writes:

A fundamental principle of school choice is that some schools will succeed and endure, but others will do poorly and close.

I agree completely — but the mechanism that closes schools should be choice, not state fiat. If parents aren't happy with the failing charter schools, they can always send their kids back to the traditional public schools. But in the absence of the charters, the traditional public schools are for many families the only choice. If the charter schools are that bad, no one will send their kids there and the charter schools will close of their own accord.

This controversy illustrates one problem with evaluating schools based on standardized test scores. Parents might want their kids to attend a charter school, even if it doesn't improve their test scores. For example, they may feel that the charter school is safer or inspires their kids to be more creative.

So why am I always complaining about bad test scores at traditional public schools? Well, since many families don't have educational choices beyond the traditional public schools, I suspect that some of them would choose other schools if they had the chance. The bad scores hint that for families interested in academic achievement, traditional public schools would not be their first choice.

But if parents prefer charter schools to poorly performing public schools, why should we deny them that choice?

Posted by Sarah Brodsky at 03:22 PM in Education | Permalink

Sarah Brodsky reminds me that school choice is not only about failing schools, but about the right of parents to choose the appropriate school for their child. In fact, my younger brother chose a technical institute that was adjoined to our high school for some of his classes—not because of test scores, but because he had an interest in culinary arts that my parents and I encouraged him to pursue. I think if everyone examined their experiences, they would find small instances of choice that made a great deal of difference.

Test scores are significant and take a serious role in why school choice is a necessity, and how we compare progress between charters and public schools, but the real issue of school choice comes down to parents understanding the needs of their children better than a lumbering, many-tentacled school administration. It comes down to children as individuals with futures fertile with potential.

No comments: