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The Trouble With School Choice


The graphic above comes from The Center for New York City Affairs' school choice report. It's a simple outline of how to navigate New York's school choice system. Only it's not that simple. Which means that it's biased toward parents with the time, inclination and ability to dive headfirst in the bureaucracy in behalf of their children.

That's a great thing for those children. But it does get to one of the problems with school choice, which is that the maximum benefits accrue to kids who are already advantaged by involved families (or, in rare cases, guidance counselors). Now, it's not the worst thing in the world for "school choice" programs to implicitly favor kids with very involved and educationally oriented parents, but it's also not enough. School choice isn't supposed to simply amplify the benefits that kids from good homes already have.

For that reason, the final bullet point of the report is pretty important. "Default schools" -- the schools where kids who aren't picked up by the school choice process go -- need heavy and serious support. And that's not always easy. There's a tendency to focus on schools that have the potential for excellence. That's important to do. Kids need opportunities to excel. But it's similarly crucial not to leave behind the schools with little potential for excellence. Those, after all, are where the children will need the most help, and where we can't rely on their parents to give it.

(Via Dana Goldstein.)

By Ezra Klein  |  June 24, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Education  
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That's just one example of the importance of parenting. If it didn't matter as liberals seem to think it shouldn't, then why bother being a good parent? Kids will have egalitarian outcomes anyway.

This is just one example of the larger picture of family infrastructure and why it's important. Life will never, ever be 'fair' and parents who care should accept this unfairness and advocate for their children.

It's a dog-eat-dog world and eveyone has milkbone underwear. Live with it and make the most of it.

Posted by: ElViajero1 | June 24, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

What do you mean by "heavy and serious support"? If we knew what worked in all cases, we would do it...too often the answer is just "money". With focused testing, we can determine exactly which things someone knows and where to focus their individual learning plans.

We need differentiated education for everyone, not just the very best and the very worst. The concept of social promotion seems quite outdated.

We have the technology to let students drive forward at the fastest pace they are capable of. Let them.

Posted by: staticvars | June 24, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

If parents and kids can't handle tests, portfolios, and application paperwork, then the college admissions process is going to chew them up and spit them out.

Also, we've been paying attention to the "default schools" for years - particularly in funding - and have reaped no noticeable increase in student achievement for it. Which, by the way, is the very reason the school choice movement started.

Posted by: MasterThief | June 24, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Even that chart has a step missing: if you qualify via 5th grade reading and math standardized scores, you can take the exam during 6th grade to get into Hunter College High School, which is a 7-12 specialized school.

Posted by: BMG42 | June 24, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, where did you go to high school?

Posted by: tomtildrum | June 24, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

"There's a tendency to focus on schools that have the potential for excellence"

I think its usually quite the opposite.
Even so, one school for the brighter, and one for the less would probably help both.

There is a lot of friction in maintaining schools 'fair'.

Posted by: tom32 | June 24, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

So should parents that care about their children's education feel guilty about that fact?

You can't have perfect equality and freedom. I prefer freedom.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | June 24, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

And this is why voucher schemes are so important, because they simplify choice.

Posted by: albamus | June 25, 2009 6:22 AM | Report abuse

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