Monday, February 11, 2013

School choice no panacea in New Orleans

Posted By on Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 11:18 AM

This finding is truly from the stuck record of reports on education research. Nobody has yet demonstrated that charter schools, school vouchers or any other Billionaire Boys Club flavor of the day has yet demonstrated on any replicable basis that they best real public schools in educating children.

But this finding is particularly important because it comes from a group explicitly supportive of the miracle of "school choice."

NEW ORLEANS — A new report by the Scott S. Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University that focused on the success of school choice as a policy of educational reform concluded that the current environment of choice, particularly from the perspective of parents, falls short.

The authors of “Spotlight on Choice” wrote “Based on the focus group discussions, we conclude that, due to limited seats at high quality schools and a complicated application process, school choice in New Orleans currently does an inadequate job providing all parents with access to the best schools for their children.”

The 42-page study, released late last month, focuses on the experiences of 81 racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse families representing approximately 132 students.

... Choice is a two-sided coin, said Jill Zimmerman, research manager at the institute and one of the report’s authors. When choice works, and parents indeed have the opportunity to send their kids to a good school, it’s a great concept. But when the choices of great schools are limited, especially in a landscape where 66 percent of schools received either a “D” or an “F” as their latest state-calculated school performance score, it can be very stressful for parents to take on the responsibility of choice, Zimmerman said.

New Orleans has gone to an 80 percent charter model. The experience in Arkansas is much smaller. Some high-quality chart schools, with the help of additional money and tough participation rules that tend to weed out families with kids least likely to succeed, do well. Many more don't. But the Billionaire Boys Club wants to put laxer regulators in charge and open the floodgates on charter school creation in Arkansas. Sympathetic researchers in Louisiana — Louisiana! — suggest that might not be a good idea.

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