Jersey Jazzman: The Summer of Choice Love

Jersey Jazzman, aka teacher Mark Weber, reviews the blossoming of choice-choice-choice this summer.

Behind it, he says, is a failure of honesty and will.

In recent weeks, we have been besieged with testimonials and heartening stories about choice.

“The clever thing about this construction is that anyone who challenges the narrative is immediately put on the defensive: Why are you against helping people get a better education? Why don’t you care about these children? It must be that you care about your own interests more than theirs…

“There is little evidence that the fraction of “choice” schools that appear to get better results do so because they are “innovative” in their educational practices. But the “choice” schools that do get gains all seem to have structural advantages, starting with resource advantages — gained through a variety of strategies — that allow them to offer things like longer days, longer years, smaller student:staff ratios, and extended educational programming.

“By all appearances, we seem to be able to adequately fund our schools in the affluent, leafy ‘burbs, even as we shrug our shoulders at the prospect of doing the same for urban centers enrolling many students who are in economic disadvantage. Millburn has what it needs; Newark does not. Gross Point has plenty; Detroit doesn’t. New Trier is fine; Chicago is not. Lower Merion thrives; Philadelphia withers.

“It’s a story that plays out across the nation. Somehow these affluent communities manage to scrape together enough to provide adequate educations for their children, even when burdened with unionized teachers and step contracts and democratically elected school boards. Somehow they manage to get their schools what they need without giving up transparency and governmental accountability and agency for all of their citizens through the democratic process.

School “choice” is the result of a failure of honesty and will.

“The failure of honesty comes from failing to fully acknowledge that structural inequities — inequality, chronic poverty, racism, inadequate school funding — lead to unequal educational outcomes. It also comes from failing to acknowledge that the advantages a select few “choice” schools have accrued to themselves are directly responsible for their outcome gains.

“The failure of will results from a failure to act collectively in ways that would move adequate resources to all schools where they are lacking, without giving up democratic governmental control.

“Neither Kristof nor Lemmon nor Hardy nor anyone else has given us any reason to believe that the only way to get more resources into schools that need them is to abandon governmental control. There is, however, plenty of reason to believe shifting school control to private entities will reduce transparency, student and family rights, and efficiency — both here and abroad.

“When children live lives free of want and attend well-resourced, government-controlled schools they do very well. Certainly, there are problems and room for improvement. But communities don’t need to give up control of their schools if the pre-conditions for success are in place.

“Instead of upending the entire system, why don’t we try that?”

from novemoore http://ift.tt/2vSCYiV

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