Charters, Vouchers, NCLB penalties, etc.

I just read an article by George Will (article) that was published by the Washington Post and republished in Erie Times on Thursday. Let me start by saying I normally agree with most things Will writes about and enjoy his perspective. He starts the article off by talking about the famous Sumner School in Topeka and the denial by the board of educators to create a charter school there that would target

“Topeka’s 23-point gap between the reading proficiency of black and hispanic third-graders and that of whites.”

While he doesn’t give any facts about this occurrence he uses it as a jumping off point to discuss the problems with the non-competive nature the public school system and advantages of school choice. He calls out Liberals in Arizona and gives kudos to Newark’s mayor, New York’s Governor, and NYC’s Mayor and the steps they have taken toward school choice. I am all for the idea of school choice and I was quite outspoken about it as well until I saw the effects it can have on a public school. Will makes some good points and it sounds like New York City’s approach could be quite successful.

Here in Pennsylvania though it is nothing more than disastrous. The problem occurs when government doesn’t want to risk or pay for full reform of the public school system. Instead they implement consequence with no solutions. This causes a catch 22 and two fold damage. The school looses student’s with motivated parents and have to pay for their education. This drags down the school’s scores. Also, home schoolers, which the district knew nothing about and hence not budgeted for, declare that they are attending cyber charters and the school has to pay for them as well. So, what is left is the kids that need the most help but now the district has less money in which to do so. Also, now the school is in testing mode they are no longer teaching children how learn, but teaching them how to take test. Higher order thinking is taken out of lessons, physical education is limited, art, music, and theory classes get dropped. This is the reality of vouchers and what happens when the government has one foot on each side of the fence.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding Bloomberg’s plan for New York City schools as would be expected many people don’t like change. Going full hearted with a single plan of attack though makes a lot more sense than then temporary band aids PA seems to come up with every four years. In depth article on Bloomber’s plan Reorganizing the Schools (Again) (Gotham Magazine)


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