Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vouching For Delusion

Although I've written about this before, thanks to a few more articles in the Journal Sentinel I find myself asking, why when the evidence shows they do not accomplish better results does the media continue to push charter schools as a viable alternative to the public school system?

The Journal is even upset that MPS won't sell their property to competing charter schools. It's not enough that public dollars are already siphoned to charter schools, now we should sell them MPS buildings, too.

The Journal previously highlighted a "study" of Milwaukee school performace by the Illinois Facilities Fund (IFF) - the study was funded by the Bradley Foundation. (I wonder why the Journal, as they always do with labor or Democratic entities, didn't label the Bradley Foundation "conservative," "business-friendly," or similar.) Basically, Milwaukee has some bad schools [insert leap of faith despite evidence here] so let's continue to funnel money to charter schools because the teacher union is mean and we'd rather the money be misappropriated by private-sector educational cranks.

A conservative newspaper spotlights a conservative foundation's study which specifies where the worst performing schools are in Milwaukee, according to their own methodolgy, and then uses this to implicitly push for more charter/voucher schools.

It's great that whatever you believe is correct, even when it's not.

Diane Ravitch - the number one debunker of the charter school boondoggle - has completely eviscerated any and all arguments regarding the performance of charter/voucher schools.

It is really unnerving that every half-wit, pea-brained scheme the right-wing comes up with is vigorously adhered to despite empirical evidence completely disproving its efficacy. This isn't, nor should it be, a political battle. This is education. It is the future of our country. If you're really a patriot and care about your country you wouldn't push for policies that waste money, which show no better results, and which harm the long-term competitiveness of the nation.

The best way to address educational shortcomings - address poverty. But this would involve higher taxes and "spreading the wealth around." And, we know the right-wing is against such altruism and long-term planning. Thus, ultimately, we know they are against improving education or helping those in poverty. Slick marketing and ineffectual privatization schemes are much easier.


I see Patrick McIlheran had to echo the conservative position on school choice. His main argument is that money spent for charter/voucher/choice schools is better than spending money on public schools.

But, the ultimate outcome of this game of moving chairs - taking public dollars from public schools and giving it to choice schools - is that students perform no better. He cites numbers to show that some public students cost $10,000 to $12,000 per year, while the choice student only costs roughly $6,400 per year. Sure it's great to save a few bucks, but the object here is actually to educate children. Let's assume the numbers are correct: so, we pay less, but the students perform no better.

I encourage everyone to read The Myth of Charter Schools by Diane Ravitch. (Much of the article dispels falsities from Waiting For Superman.) Here are just a few excerpts which completely demolish the nonsense being spewed by the choice crowd:

"Another highly praised school that is featured in the film is the SEED charter boarding school in Washington, D.C. SEED seems to deserve all the praise that it receives from Guggenheim, CBS’s 60 Minutes, and elsewhere. It has remarkable rates of graduation and college acceptance. But SEED spends $35,000 per student, as compared to average current spending for public schools of about one third that amount".

"Guggenheim complains that only one in 2,500 teachers loses his or her teaching certificate, but fails to mention that 50 percent of those who enter teaching leave within five years, mostly because of poor working conditions, lack of adequate resources, and the stress of dealing with difficult children and disrespectful parents."

"According to University of Washington economist Dan Goldhaber, about 60 percent of achievement is explained by nonschool factors, such as family income. So while teachers are the most important factor within schools, their effects pale in comparison with those of students’ backgrounds, families, and other factors beyond the control of schools and teachers."

"Known as the CREDO study, it evaluated student progress on math tests in half the nation’s five thousand charter schools and concluded that 17 percent were superior to a matched traditional public school; 37 percent were worse than the public school; and the remaining 46 percent had academic gains no different from that of a similar public school. The proportion of charters that get amazing results is far smaller than 17 percent.Why did Davis Guggenheim pay no attention to the charter schools that are run by incompetent leaders or corporations mainly concerned to make money?"

For Further Reading:

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