Sunday, February 3, 2013

False Choice

The usual suspects are out stumping for expanding school choice and vouchers.

Instead Of Lifting Residency Requirement, Let's Expand School Choice

Walker Presses Case For Expanding School Choice
School choice includes voucher programs, in which the government helps pay for tuition at private schools, including religious schools.
Tough Decisions Lie Ahead For Wisconsin's School Voucher Program
Voucher advocates have long desired an increase to the $6,442 per-pupil allotment taxpayers spend on children in participating private schools; they want at least equal funding to public charter schools, which receive $7,775 per-pupil. MPS state aid is $7,723, but with local funding the per-pupil amount is closer to $10,000, according to MPS Chief Accountability and Efficiency Officer Bob DelGhingaro.
Bringing the voucher schools into an accountability system that systematically identifies and weeds out perennially low performers is something that has gotten more attention lately. The new state report card system for Wisconsin's public schools was not obligated to include the 112 private voucher schools, and the data systems those schools use (or in some cases, don't have) do not jibe with the systems used by public schools that report to the Department of Public Instruction.
If we actually look at the data, we find that there is little difference between voucher school students and Milwaukee Public School students. Researchers at the University of Arkansas found, "City property taxes go up for each student who uses a voucher, compared to what would be the case if that student went to MPS, while state income taxes go down, as do property taxes in most of the rest of the state."

Diane Ravitch, lead debunker of all things voucher-related, elaborated in The Myth of Charter Schools:
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? Why propound to an unknowing public the myth that charter schools are the answer to our educational woes, when the filmmaker knows that there are twice as many failing charters as there are successful ones? Why not give an honest accounting?
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. Teachers can have a profound effect on students, but it would be foolish to believe that teachers alone can undo the damage caused by poverty and its associated burdens...
It bears mentioning that nations with high-performing school systems—whether Korea, Singapore, Finland, or Japan—have succeeded not by privatizing their schools or closing those with low scores, but by strengthening the education profession. They also have less poverty than we do. Fewer than 5 percent of children in Finland live in poverty, as compared to 20 percent in the United States. Those who insist that poverty doesn’t matter, that only teachers matter, prefer to ignore such contrasts.
Most recently, Ravitch wrote in the Journal Sentinel:
Milwaukee's choice program is a failure. There are now three separate systems - the public schools, with about 80,000 students; the voucher schools, with about 23,000 students, and the charter schools, with about 20,000 students. There is very little difference among the three sectors in terms of student achievement...
19% of the students in the Milwaukee Public Schools have disabilities, compared to somewhere between 7% and 14.5% in the voucher schools.
It is inefficient to run three separate school systems. Not only does it triplicate costs, but it divides civic energy. All the people of Milwaukee should work together to build a school system that meets the needs of all the children. 
Twenty years of experience with choice in Milwaukee demonstrates that it is not effective or efficient to run three school systems. It does not meet the needs of children.
For Further Reading:
Vouching For Delusion
The Myth of The Milwaukee Miracle
Charter School Riddles

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