Are certain educational policies effective? Depends on what your goal is

Discussion in 'General Education' started by EdEd, Nov 30, 2017.

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  1. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    With all of the discussions around school choice, charters, etc., I think it's helpful to bring up something we don't often consider: What's the goal of the policy/strategy? For example, I often hear that vouchers don't improve public education, or that state tests don't result in higher achievement levels. That could be true (or not), but it's also possible that the initiative was never meant to have an impact on achievement.

    First, an easier example: We don't just have arts programming because it improves academic achievement. We may try to sell those programs to funders or the community because they impact achievement, but we also (and probably mostly) value arts programming because of goals unrelated to academic achievement - perhaps because we simply value the arts. There is intrinsic value in the program - it aligns with our ideals or our values about how things should be done.

    Same can be said with social skills training - sure, it impacts student achievement, but we also believe in the mental health of students and creating a positive community. Those don't have to translate into academic achievement or state test results to be of importance.

    Moving on to vouchers, charters, school choice in general, etc. Some politicians will sell the voucher idea by explaining that one of its benefits is improved academic achievement. However, in reality we can't simply measure the "effectiveness" of vouchers by looking at achievement data. It's entirely possible that vouchers have another benefit, and therefore another way of measuring vouchers.

    So....my question for you all: What benefits could we see in school choice initiatives, and how would we know they were working aside from achievement data?

    As a side note, I think it's helpful to remember that we can debate both whether an initiative is effective with a particular goal as well as if the goal itself is worthwhile. For example, we could debate whether a school bathroom policy is effective at promoting gender neutrality, but we could also debate whether gender neutrality is something to be valued/sought after in public education.
     
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  3. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Devotee

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    School choice initiatives are sold to the public as superior to "failing" public schools. Looking at charters and vouchers, there are many specific examples of successful schools, but as a whole, they've failed to raise achievement levels above the public sector and resulted in the decimation of neighborhood schools in poor areas.

    Since the stated purpose of these schools is to raise achievement, I don't see how they can be judged in any other way.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    What do you think the goal of voucher programs is if not student achievement?
     
  5. a2z

    a2z Phenom

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    Voucher can help students be more emotionally healthy if their base school is a behavioral mess with a weak administration. They may not learn more, but they may be in an environment that is healthier.
     
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  6. Backroads

    Backroads Enthusiast

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    Most of the people I see who are in favor of vouchers are in favor of nothing but vouchers... a system where schools are doing their own things, and each and every family/student/whatever is given the voucher to attend whatever school. It's less about kids or academic performance but literally school choice.
     
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  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    In my district most of the families applying for vouchers want to use them at the "white schools".
     
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  8. a2z

    a2z Phenom

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    But why? Why are they more appealing?
     
  9. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Because they are less brown and black.
     
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  10. a2z

    a2z Phenom

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    Well, yes, white schools are less brown and black, but what makes them more appealing?

    Even in our diverse schools that have all types of student-run programs about diversity, you walk into the cafeteria on any given day and the students segregate themselves. There are groups of tables with a great mix, but the majority are segregated by culture. Koreans with Koreans, Indians with Indians, etc
     
  11. Backroads

    Backroads Enthusiast

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    Funnily enough, I hear many people clammoring for charter schools for the same reason, despite the fact that, at my school and apparently nation-wide, charter schools tend to have a minority-as-majority population.
     
  12. Backroads

    Backroads Enthusiast

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    Intriguing. If I may ask and if you know, what is the social/political view of these people?

    The ones I hear wanting nothing-but-vouchers are very much conservative/libertarian bent, seeking a way out of "government schools."
     
  13. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Devotee

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    Good point. I'm sure this is exactly what's happening sometimes.

    Meanwhile, the public schools are getting fewer resources to work on this problem. Would you say vouchers are the best way to address the problem of these so-called messy and weak schools?

    Also, many of the Milwaukee voucher schools are a bigger behavioral mess and certainly have weaker administrations than the public schools.
     
  14. a2z

    a2z Phenom

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    Maybe I should ask you what the schools were doing before vouchers and charters when they had more resources? The public lost faith and trust in the schools.

    May I ask you, how will the public schools restore trust?
     
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  15. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Devotee

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    The public who've lost faith with their schools are the ones who uncritically accept the steady drip, drip of, mostly false, information about public education. Public schools are not failing. This is a myth pushed by the privatization movement. In the article I linked to by Dean Paton, he starts out with this quote:
    "In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students."

    I would urge readers to check out this info-graphic on the issue.

    Perhaps we could start restoring faith by telling the public that they have great schools.
     
  16. a2z

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    If they all were great they could say that and people would believe it, but they aren't all great. People don't typically flee places that are fantastic, especially when that means they have to be inconvenienced by additional transportation.
     
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  17. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Devotee

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    Your statement is backed up by solid research. Voucher programs result in segregated schools. It turns out that putting all the brown and black kids in the same school results in completely preventable bad academic performance.
     
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  18. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I mean that what is appealing to many of these families is that there are fewer brown and black students.
     
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  19. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I think that it has a lot to do with the vision and directors of the charter. We have charters in town that actively recruit brown and black students, students with behavior problems, etc. with the advertised goal of providing an alternative educational philosophy and style that reaches these students where they are and embraces their strengths. We also have charters that bill themselves as educational programs intentionally different from the public school model because public education is bad. These charters seek out students from families with far right-leaning political views. These charters tend to be mostly white.
     
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  20. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Yep, very conservative. In my town, that also usually means very religious, of a particular religion that is prevalent in the area.
     
  21. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sticking with the original question, one idea that has been throw out so far as to "other goals" of charters would is a "better social/emotional environment." Does anyone have any data on this? Asking the essential assessment question, how would we know if this were true? Or better yet, how would parents - without doing extensive school visits or planning extensive schoolwide assessments - be able to determine the quality of a school's social/emotional environment?

    Related to this, but perhaps leaning in to the argument about conservative-leaning parents seeking private choices, is it possible that conservative-leaning parents have become disappointed with the social values or structures being promoted by schools? The most obvious "go-to" demographic when I mention this idea would be smaller-town conservative Christian parents who are seeking a more religiously aligned educational environment (or proxy/equivalent such as a school that doesn't teach evolution), but I also personally know many Black families who are quite conservative (socially, if not politically) who want a more "traditional" school environment, however they define that - discipline, etc.

    To respond to a few other points raised:

    - Family motivation: I think we need to be careful with always assuming an underlying motivation for why families choose charter or private schools, or why they may support school choice initiatives. My perspective is that - in 2017 - while there are certainly people who are outright racist and simply do not want to interact with people of certain backgrounds, it's often more complicated or nuanced. For example, younger parents in intown, urban environments may personally find raising their children in multi-racial environments to be quite desirable, but they may simply look up their neighborhood school's state test scores and not want to send their children there. We can argue about whether data from schooldigger, greatschools, etc. are valid ways of evaluating school quality, but my point is that many parents aren't unimpressed with their neighborhood schools simply because of the racial composition of students.

    - Quality of public schools: I'm always interested in this debate, but this is less of my focus with this thread. We can debate whether public schools are failing and whether charters are successful with improving achievement, but I'd like to keep this thread focused on other reasons why people may value school choice, and how we might measure those goals.

    Finally, I might continue to encourage everyone to think even broader than just educational outcomes of education. I know, that sounds a bit silly, but I think many people don't just think about whether a school is effective, but how the institution of education is structured in America - almost more sociologically or from a political philosophy perspective. For example, neighborhood schools - this has been a debate that hasn't just been related to achievement or event practical value such as bus ride length, but the general societal value that "education should be local."
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
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