Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What Real "School Choice" Would Look Like

 It is amazing to me to see so many School Reformers talk about "Choice" when most teachers, students, and parents experience their policies as raw coercion.

  The best example of this is testing. States like New York are  not only imposing large numbers of new tests to insure compliance with the Common Core Standards and to insure that teachers can be evaluated on the basis of student test scores, they are witholding  funds from school districts that refuse to use tests for teacher evaluations  and are telling parents that it is illegal to opt their children out of state tests.

  That is choice? Sounds more like regimentation and intimidation to me- a one size fits all standard for all school districts, schools and families in the entire state.

  I have a better plan. Here is what New York State could do to insure real school choice and  offer many different models of how schools can function.

1. Allow any parent to withold their child from state testing without penalty to the family, the school, or the school district. Parents should have the right to decide whether state tests are developmentally appropriate for their own child.

2. Allow and even encourage school districts to create more "portfolio schools" like NYC's wonderful Urban Academy, which have exemption from state tests and use other measures of student achievement.

3. Allow local school districts, rather than the state, to decide whether they want to us test scores as a component of teacher evaluations. Leave that to elected school boards, not the Governor, the Legislature, or the State Education Commissioner to decide.

   These three simple "reforms" would do much to counteract the feeling, held by many many teachers, parents,  and school board members that they are living in a dictatorship where their own views have no weight. They would encourage a burst of creativity as new kinds of schools are created along more democratic principles and restore enthusiasm among teaching staffs whose morale has been broken by top down policies based on mistrust of their professional expertise and contempt for their input

   The only people who would lose would be test companies who see their profits go down

   It's time to change direction. Here is one way to do it.

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