School “reformers” love to promote “choice.” Charters. Vouchers. Tuition tax credits. It’s all about giving parents choices, right?
Well, not always.
Reformers don’t actually like choice quite so much when:
* Parents decide they want to opt their children out of taking a high-stakes standardized test that has little or no value.
– In many states, parents — and some students — are being harassed by school administrators not to opt out out. These administrators fear they will be held accountable under federal regulations that require a certain percentage of students to take the test.
– In California, state officials decided they didn’t want to force students to take the standardized test given annually for accountability purposes because it no longer measures the curriculum, which is now centered on the Common Core State Standards. Core-aligned tests are still in development. Education Secretary Arne Duncan threatened to withhold several billion dollars of federal funds from the state, but his department ultimately backed down.
* Parents prefer that their neighborhood school stays open and gets the resources to improve it rather than have it closed as a failing school.
– Around the country school districts, with support from the Obama administration, are closing neighborhood schools for a variety of reasons,- including low test scores, under-enrollment and to make way for more charter schools.
– Chicago, for example, closed nearly 50 traditional public schools last year over strenuous objections from parents, saying they were under-enrolled and had low test scores. Yet many of the displaced students went to schools with scores at least as bad, and now charter schools are being planned for neighborhoods where traditional schools were closed.
* Parents want to elect school boards to govern their school district but local education authority is given to mayors (though only to those mayors that agree with policy-makers).
– When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had the audacity to tell a few charter schools that they couldn’t co-locate in a traditional school building, officials in the state capital began talking about taking steps to remove his authority to oversee charters.
* Parents want to see their child’s standardized tests after completion.
– They can’t. The tests are proprietary.
* Parents don’t want their children to take any on-line courses.
– In a growing number of states, including Virginia, Michigan and Florida, students are required to take at least one virtual course to graduate.
* Parents want their local public school to have a well-rounded curriculum that includes history, science, the arts and physical education.
– Sorry, in the high-stakes standardized testing era, the emphasis is on math and English language arts.
* Parents don’t want their children’s teachers evaluated on the basis of student standardized test scores because they know it is unfair.
– Encouraged by the Obama administration, states now have teacher and principal evaluation systems that include test scores. Unfortunately, many teachers wind up being evaluated on the scores of students they don’t have or subjects they don’t teach.