2006/01/18

Why School ? (Part I)

Internet etiquette. The conversation "Choice, Decentralization, and other Odds and Ends" got convoluted and abstract at Jenny D's place, so the Agenda's author dragged it here. Is this hijacking or a disinclination to impose on the hostess? Anyway...

What is government ("The State")? What is "democracy"? What is
"education"? To the extent that you, individually, can influence the State's education policy, what goal are you trying to achieve? Is the instrument you have chosen (the policy you recommend) likely to achieve your stated end?

The government of a locality is the largest dealer in inter-personal violence in that locality (definition). Weber defines government as the monopoly on legitimate violence. Since monopolies are seldom absolute and the State itself gets to define "legitimate", the Agenda's author prefers the first formulation. Experts concur: "Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master" (George Washington), and "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" (Mao Tse Tung).

"Democracy" names a class of feedback mechanisms, those government policies which designate some channel by which people may influence their government. This class includes elections, initiative, recall, and referenda. These are not the only conceivable democratic mechanisms. For example, a legislature of sufficient size, selected by lot like jury duty but without peremptory challenges, would provide "democratic" feedback to an executive branch bound to obey that legislature. Federalism is a democratic feedback mechanism when people have the "right" (a promise from the State) to "vote with their feet". The market, a policy which gives to individual customers the power to take their business elsewhere, is a democratic feedback mechanism. Anti-State violence may be a democratic feedback mechanism (hence, the Second Amendment).

Education is an investment, a sacrifice of current consumption made in anticipation of greater income later. "Income" is material or "psychic" (e.g., enhanced appreciation of Shakespeare). When an individual invests in his/her own education s/he sacrifices resources (usually time and often money) in anticipation of enhanced income, from his/her education-enhanced skill, later.

Whether you see any State direction of resources as an "investment" from "the public's" point of view depends, in part, on how you compute the public's interest in (income from) the result of the State's expenditure. Practically, whether or not State agents invest "in the interests of society" depends on whether or not democratic feedback mechanisms work.

This is all just brush-clearing, preparing the ground for a discussion of education policy, and it's getting tedious, so we break here to consider a few items in earlier posts by Jenny and her guests.

Jenny begs to differ from David Friedman on the case for a State role in education.

Jenny D:"I want children who will be citizens of the US to be indoctrinated with the values of the U.S. ...(O)ne must learn to live in a democracy, it is not obvious. For proof, check out Iraq."

For proof that State-operated schools are not necessary to create a democracy, consider the US. Few of the members of the Constitutional Convention attended State-operated schools. For proof that majority attendance at State-operated schools is not necessary to maintain of democracy, check out Ireland, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The violence of some Muslims, or the advocacy of anti-social violence by some Muslim schools is just as much an argument against a voucher-subsidized free market in education as the violence of Ted Kaczynski, John Walker Lindh, or Jose Padilla is an argument against State-operated schools. Is "critical pedagogy" likely to produce citizens accepting of the existing social order?

One of Jenny's guests works as a teacher and union agent. TMAO supports the current system.

TMAO: "We educate -- publicly, nationally, compulsorily -- because... We do so to..."

"To" is a statement of intention. The question: "Why school?" has three interpretations: 1) the historical "why?", 2) the welfare-economic "why?", and 3) the political-science "why?". 1) The US "public" school system orginated in anti-Catholic bigotry. 2) We argue welfare-economic case here. 3) The system survives on well-funded and assiduous lobbying by current recipients of the taxpayers' $400+ billion k-12 dedicated revenue stream.

Ragnarok argues from a generally libertarian point of view.

Ragnarok: "Perhaps I could reiterate one of my pet themes, that the parents be required to put in some money of their own in order to give them a stake in the result? We could use a sliding scale, what's important is that I believe that people value things that they pay for."

Parent involvement is good. Not every argument for parent involvement is a good argument. Would Ragnarok not value a kruggerand found in the park? The Agenda's author will happily accept donations of any windfall readers experience. People will value a thing if they expect to realize a return from their concern for that thing. Giving to parents dollar-denominated school vouchers from which they could keep the difference between whatever tuition they pay and the dollar value of the voucher would give to parents an incentive to shop for a cheap school. Making eligibility for the voucher in the following year contingent on their child's performance at the end of the current year would create an incentive to shop for a good school.

23 comments:

TMAO said...

Thanks for taking this somewhere else; there were things I wanted to say, but the discussion moved away.

It may have been a throw-away comment, but I *don't* support the current system. I think there is a false dichotomy presented where you either 1) support school choice or 2) endorse the status quo.

I do neither. We need changes. I'm just not willing to give up bringing those changes to all students, starting with the most needy. It is what my school is during currently, it is what my principal is doing in lobbying the District, it is what I am doing in lobbying the union to support longer school days for all.

Ragnarok said...

"Would Ragnarok not value a kruggerand found s/he in the park?"

Yes I would, but I'd value the krugerrand more if I'd put some effort into finding it. Not so in general?

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Changes to the current system range upward from tinkering with the length of class periods to subsidized parent control (e.g., school vouchers, subsidized homeschooling, Parent Performance Contracting, etc.) Advocates for small changes, however sincere, defend the current system from large changes if they insist that all possible small changes be tried befoe structural overhaul.

A legislature concerned to direct reform efforts to the neediest students first could mandate that a district offer parent control options at lowest-performing schools first. 10% of schools in year 1, 20% of schools in year 2, etc., until all students have options outside the government system.

There is something to the requirement that parents contribute to the private vouchers supported by Ted Forstman and John Walton. I don't think that argument applies to State-subsidized vouchers which create options to the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools.

Ragnarok said...

"There is something to the requirement that parents contribute to the private vouchers supported by Ted Forstman and John Walton. I don't think that argument applies to State-subsidized vouchers which create options to the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools."

In both cases the parent invests in his kid's education, and I'd expect him to be correspondingly more interested.

Of course money is just a place-holder; payment in kind - by donating time to the school, for example - would have much the same effect.

Or am I missing something?

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Ragnarok,

No, you're probably not missing anything important. Here are a couple of considerations to contemplate: a) Parents alreaduy contribute something valuable to schools, their children's lives. b) Ted Forstman and John Walton donate their own money to private vouchers and they are legally to attach any conditions they like. c) Requiring parents to contribute stretches the contributions of Forstman and Walton, and so rescues more children from the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools. c) It is the State which enacts compulsory attendance laws. Whatever amount the State demands parents contribute to a school voucher is the price of school choice which parents must pay. Children of parents who cannot afford that price ramain trapped in the cartel's schools.

allen said...

TMAO wrote:

I think there is a false dichotomy presented...

Nope. It isn't a false dichotomy. Choice represents a threat to the public education system since it's built on a distinct lack of choice.

Parent's don't get to decide about the school their kid attends, what they learn, how they're taught, who teachs them or if they're to attend at all. Taxpayers, except in the broadest possible sense, don't get to decide whether to pay or how the money's to be used.

Inject choice at any point, about anything and you've reduced the power of the school district. More choice for parents means less choice/power for the school district. Try to imagine a bureaucrat who sees the value in reducing their own scope of action and power. Not easy, is it?

I do neither. We need changes. I'm just not willing to give up bringing those changes to all students, starting with the most needy.

Then you support the current system which can only accomodate parental choice and student differences with difficulty.

The changes you propose to make depend on influencing people over whom you have no direct control - administrators, school board members - to do things which, you must demonstrate, are in their interest. If you can't demonstrate that interest then your only hope of influencing them springs from their personal commitment to education.

Judging from some of the policies I've seen enacted and some I've read about, and consulting with common sense, that's a thin reed on which to base an on-going enterprise.

Either you need some objective and worthwhile metric which is not under the control of the those being measured - in the private sector that function is served by profits and at the extreme by organizational extinction - or you need to put the decision-making power into the hands of those who have the most credible claim to desiring good outcomes. In the case of education, that would be parents.

Since parental control comes at the price of administrator/board control, any power put into the hands of parents comes at the expense of the school system. That's not a stable situation. The school system will seek to regain that power and will continue to seek that power until it's regained. There's your dichotomy.

Ragnarok said...

Allen said:

"Choice represents a threat to the public education system since it's built on a distinct lack of choice. "

Bingo!

"Since parental control comes at the price of administrator/board control, any power put into the hands of parents comes at the expense of the school system. That's not a stable situation. The school system will seek to regain that power and will continue to seek that power until it's regained. There's your dichotomy."

Double bingo! but I'd add the teachers' union. As power is given to the parents, the entire public school system (administration, district, and the unions) loses power.

Therefore the system will fight it tooth and nail, pious utterances to the contrary.

Ragnarok said...

Malcolm,

"Parents alreaduy contribute something valuable to schools, their children's lives."

Some parents would pay more attention if they had to reach into their wallets, IMHO.

"Children of parents who cannot afford that price ramain trapped in the cartel's schools."

True, which is why I suggested a sliding scale.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Ragnarok,

You might be right, that vouchers structured as you suggest would out-perform simple vouchers. Means testing is intrusive, however, and invites fraud and moral hazard. A policy regime of government schools and simple vouchers would outperform the current system, so, it seems to me, your point is too speculative to justify introducing an unnecesary complication into a public voucher plan.

Some poor parents see their children's future as sufficient incentive to exercise care. Disqualifying them on some means test basis will generate hostitity which a simple voucher would not. But who knows? Does any tax-supported voucher plan work as you suggest?

Allen,

Thank you for expressing a subtle argument clearly. Parent control diffes in kind from block scheduling, middle school, Whole Math, or other reforms. Other changes, whether they percolate up from the classroom or flow down from the District Office, reaffirm the authority of current authorities. Parent choice undermines the authority of school authorities.

Jenny D. said...

You are continuing a good conversation. Any hostess would be flattered. I added you to the blogroll....

TMAO said...

Allen,

You wrote: "Parent's don't get to decide about the school their kid attends, what they learn, how they're taught, who teachs them or if they're to attend at all."

Sure they do. How many schools exist in the United States? How many in county? A city? After price, what factors into a family's decision on where to live but the quality of schools their kids go to? Moreover, the average public school is *more* responsive to parents than the average *choice* school. Yes, there exists more upfront choice based on a consumer model, but once a kid is enrolled? What's the power of choice schools? It is said again and again, "If you don't like it, leave." Citizens vote for school board members; no one votes for the CEO of Edison schools. Citizens in San Francisco radically changed the outcome of the board's decision on school closures/mergers. Who was there to offer democratic-style input when KIPP schools pulled out of Chicago Public Schools? You want to replace the most democratic of organizations with a capitalistic model (and no, contrary to all the cold war rhetoric, the two are not the same thing). Based on this, we can look to capitalism's awful track record for those outside the power structure. Seen an inner city lately? An African nation wallowing in WB and IMF debt? The Applachia region of the U.S.? A small farmer in Minnesota?

Implementing parental control across the whole system would work out fine -- in affluent, White, Southern Asian, and suburban communities (who also tend to have very small families). These are, of course, the groups for whom the American public education system is functioning just fine. But take that same model into low-income communities, Latino and Black communities, immigrant communities, and things start to fall apart. Those parents do not care any less; in many cases, they care more. Their ability to exercise social and political power are markedly less. Whether it's because three jobs are being worked, language is a barrier, immigration status is a barrier, larger families make the research necessary to exercise choice effectively a part-time job, whatever. Some would do fine; these are the families that currently populate choice schools. Others -- and these are, again, the ones who need the system the most -- would be disenfranchised. Go to Oakland when they have the school fairs, where parents can browse all the available schools, and just take it all in. Look at the effort schools now need to put into recruiting, rather than educating. Talk to the parents whose kid was at XYZ last year, ABC the year before, but this year, they're thinking about JKL, except the older boy spent a semester there before transfering to whatever...

Regarding power structures, you are right that I have no direct control over those who have decision making authority; this is not a situation unique to public education, however. I do reject the idea that there is no objective metric (you mention profit) to inform these decision making. Of course there is: test scores. In California there is a measure of school and district called API. These scores are very public, very well-known, and do drive district decision-making. Not that they make the right choices, but such a metric clearly exists.

You, and others, seem to put the idea of parental power as the ultimate priority. I believe who weilds power is ultimately far less important than who is educated and how well. Let me give you a scenario: District looks at charter school's model for success, and says let's do it. Charter school is disbanded, model implemented into every school in the district. Because the charter had it right, everyone succeeds at an incredible high rate. There are no more choice schools in existence, but the educational opportunities are equivalent to when there used to be those choice options. Do you care? Is choice a higher good in your mind than educational quality?

Anonymous said...

TMAO said "Charter school is disbanded, model implemented into every school in the district. Because the charter had it right, everyone succeeds at an incredible high rate. There are no more choice schools in existence, but the educational opportunities are equivalent to when there used to be those choice options. Do you care? Is choice a higher good in your mind than educational quality?"

Yes and no. All schools should have high quality programs, the best teachers, resources, curriculum , believe all children can learn, etc. However, looking at my children choice is still needed. Why? Because some kids will still fall through the cracks as they are not with the right group of kids that challenge them, they do not get enough art or music. The list can go on.

You will still need pure academic magnet type schools, not just an Honors/AP/IB track. You will still need art or music focused schools with a strong curriculum.

Will you need as many of them? No. Why? Because the vast majority of students will be able to get their needs met at their zoned or neighborhood schools. However, until all schools offer the same Honors or AP classes, have the best teachers who believe all children can learn we need more choice.

Elizabet

TMAO said...

Elizabeth,

I'm more or less with you up until this point: "However, until all schools offer the same Honors or AP classes, have the best teachers who believe all children can learn we need more choice."

Until the day when all schools have the best teachers, programs, etc., we should work, strive, struggle, and fight to make sure all schools have the best teachers, programs, etc. Not create limited escape pods for the few.

allen said...

Let's see, to exercise your idea of "choice", all a family has to do is sell their current house, buy another house, uproot the family, find another job...And what kind of a choice is a choice that's too expensive for most families to exercise? No choice at all.

Similarly, your unsupported assertion that "the average public school is *more* responsive to parents than the average *choice* school" requires some expansion. Since you didn't explain, I'll have to so we can avoid a "yes it is, no it isn't" exchange.

I'm going to guess that what you mean by the greater responsiveness of "average public schools" consists of art classes, drama classes, music classes, the football team and all the other "enrichment" activities that district-based public schools inconsistently provide.

Clearly, those classes are seen as distinct from the central purpose of the district-based schools since A) their availability varies wildly from school to school and from district to district and B) they're the first to go whenever there's any sort of budget crunch, real, imagined or contrived, and C) they're described as enrichment classes, i.e. above and beyond what's required.

By contrast, the individual nature of charter schools means that parents don't have to accept a Swiss Army knife of education. They can, if available, choose a school that specializes in drama or art or physical culture or none of the above, with all emphasis placed on academics. I assume it's self-evident that a specialist is likely to be more competent in their area of specialization then a generalist, right?

Oh, and lose the "running dog capitalist lackeys of the Wall Street oppressors" rhetoric. It was tiresome back when it was a staple of the late, unlamented and ironically named "people's republics" and it hasn't aged well since. Outside of a couple of pathetic backwaters like North Korea, Cuba and the average, American English lit department it's an embarressing anacronism and evidence of a preceptual deficit.

If you do manage to stagger out of the socialist smog - after you're through blinking in the daylight - you'll notice that capitalism is the most consistent, most democratic and most efficient engine of wealth in human history. That crowd you'll see is most of the rest of the human race that preceeded you in that discovery.

Considering your views on capitalism, it's also no suprise that you have the demographics exactly backwards when it comes to which set of parents is most interested in educational alternatives. It's poor parents who think educational alternatives are a peachy idea and it's the poor, especially the urban poor, who get the worst value on the taxpayers dollar. All they have to do is look back at their own time in the public education system to know their children are being shortchanged since nothing much of substance, other then the budgets, has changed.

Regarding test scores, read what I wrote:

Either you need some objective and worthwhile metric which is not under the control of the those being measured

I should have added, "and has serious and inescapable consequences".

You're not going to claim that those test scores have serious and inescapable consequences are you? If that were true then the rottenest teacher in the rottenest school in the rottenest district wouldn't have exactly the same prospects of continued employment as their polar opposite. "Ditto" for every administrator up to the superintendant of schools. But they do. So, however objective and worthwhile the testing is it doesn't result in consequences that would weed out the least effective teachers, schools or districts. What's the purpose of the testing then? Certainly not to improve the educational system.

The reason I "put the idea of parental power as the ultimate priority" is because no one else has anywhere near as credible a claim to concern for any individual child as their parent/s. That being the case, and I invite you to dispute the notion if you think you can make a worthwhile case, it's the parents who will do their best to assure themselves that their child is getting a good education. Part of assuring themselves of the validity of their choices for their child will, almost inevitably, be the engagement of a professional. Someone who's education and experience lends credibility to their opinions. But, like a doctor's opinion, the ultimate decision should rest with the people who have the most credible claim to the pursuit of the best, possible outcome for that particular child.

Regarding your imaginative scenario of a school district incorporating the techniques that lead to the educational success of the charters and then disbanding the charters as unnecessary: got an example? The hypothetical action of a hypothetical school district might make you feel good but what's it got to do with reality? There are tens of thousands of school districts in the U.S. and charters have been around for long enough, and dispersed widely enough, that the sort co-opting you're imagined could certainly have occurred. Has it?

Until your scenario occurs perhaps you should forego trying to tag me as an idealogue. OK?

I don't really care what the particular technique is or where it occurs. If something dramatic occurs to make education the priority issue in the public education system then, hey, I'm there. If, on the other hand, charters do a better job or some bright lad invents a means of directly injecting education into the kids brains "Matrix" style, then I wouldn't have a seconds hesitancy in jettisoning the entire, district-based public education system.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

In response to TMAO, four points:

1) The choice between "quality" and "choice" is a false dichotomy. As Elizabet observes, one size does not fit all, and a range of options accommodates many preferences. Further, what may appear today to be "the best" (e.g., teachers, curricula, instructional methods) today may become obsolete in five years. A competitive market is an ongoing experiment in coordinating resources to meet consumers' wants. A State-monopoly system is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a poor experimental design.

2) A competitive market is a democratic feedback mechanism. Whether this mechanism works better than the mechanisms available in government schools is an empirical question. There are solid reasons to suppose that markets outperform the mechanisms of public hearings and school board elections: a) Political control of school in a State-monopoly school system turns the contest for control of school policy into a winnet-take-all competition. Potentially, a majority, even, may lose (if there is a choice among several policy options). b) Here's an analogy: Suppose you are a self-employed handyman, making small home repairs in residential neighborhoods. Suppose you find a sole-proprietorship hardware store whose owner has a fanatical dedication to the brand of kitchen and bathroom fixtures you prefer. Wouldn't you worry if this individual developed "democratic" values and became interested in customers' input? Where before s/he was a reliable supplier of the things you wanted, without your input, now you must compete with other customers to keep the inventory you prefer on the shelves.

3) "Control", "choice", and "responsibility" are continuous variables, not matters of "yes or no". Parents have more control in one legal environment than in another. Parents have more choices in one environment than in another. Schools are more responsive to parents in one environment than in another.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Sorry, the last point:

4) State schools must operate according to the law, while independent schools must operate within the law. That is, the rules and procedures of government schools --are-- laws, in a limited sense, and "equal treatment" considerations apply. Government schools must worry about legal jeopardy if, for example, Jews, Episcopalians, and East Asians are overrepresented in college-prep classes while the vocational ed classes contain disproportionately many Blacks and Hispanics. If the divergent representation of ethnic and racial types across curricula is a matter of parents' choices, as in independent schools, taxpayers are not as much at risk as they are in a State-monopoly school system.

Ragnarok said...

Damn, Allen and Malcolm beat me to the punch. All I have is some table scraps. Nevertheless...

TMAO, you said "Let me give you a scenario: District looks at charter school's model for success, and says let's do it. Charter school is disbanded, model implemented into every school in the district."

I'm going to assume that you were serious, not going for a laugh. OK? So you seriously think the correct thing to do is disband the group that figured out how to make things work? They're the ones who know how to make the system work! Not the union droids! Most sane people would say, let them expand, disband the failed public schools. This way, the kids would have a chance of success with people who've proved that they can do the job.

What's the risk to the kids? Minimal. The real risk is to the union 'droids - they might lose their soft jobs because the expanded charter might not hire them. But that should be fine, don't you think? After all, as you say, it's all for the kids, isn't it? not for you guys who've failed for decades?

BTW, I'm still waiting for an answer to my question: How much money do you think the public schools need per pupil? I answered your question, seems reasonable to expect you to answer mine.

You also said "it is what I am doing in lobbying the union to support longer school days for all."

Fer free? or do you want to be paid more to do the job you've failed to do?

As Allen has pointed out, the most intense demand for school choice comes from the poorest section of society. Perhaps you could tell me why you're qualified to tell them that they're wrong?

TMAO said...

Allen,

You're right, I should have provided more details regarding what I meant by responsivity. The ultimate authority in any school district is elected democratically and are therefore answerable to the electorate; I consider that a form of responsivity. In many schools, including my own, parental peferences for certain educators is taken into consideration where possible. And by possible, I mean, if a favored teacher teaches pre-Algebra but the child is in Algebra, that's not a mix. Parents have enormous influence in community schools over their child's environment, much of which goes on realized. In a charter school, as I wrote before, the idea is "if you don't like it, leave." After the initial choice is made, fewer choices are offered. As for those enrichment programs, you're right on all counts. Even worse, the chances a kid benefits from those is negatively correlated with low-SES. Any ideas how to fix it?

Allen, you asked I not try to turn you into an ideologue. Pay me the same courtesy w/r/t your assumptions I am a socialist. Sure, capitalism has been a great vehicle of wealth... for an increasing tiny few. We have *feudal* wealth distributions currently, and it's getting worse. You may find it tiresome, but I guarantee you the people who live under the shadow of this failed system find it more tiresome. I guarantee that the M. family, who invited me to dinner last week, aren't comforted by all the wealth that is created for the elite when they each work 2 jobs to barely sustain necessities for their family. More to the point, what has free market capitalism done to enact a level playing field, such that we should entrust our education system to those principles?

"You're not going to claim that those test scores have serious and inescapable consequences are you?"

Administrators and district officials routinely lose jobs/ gain promotions as a result of testing. Moreover, under current law, critical funds are tied to schools meeting AYP goals. Continued failure leads to school/ district takeover. I think those are serious.

"If that were true then the rottenest teacher in the rottenest school in the rottenest district wouldn't have exactly the same prospects of continued employment as their polar opposite. "

You're right. It's ridiculous.

"The hypothetical action of a hypothetical school district might make you feel good but what's it got to do with reality?"

I want to know what's more important and what is of greater value: choice qua choice, or a quality education? Given the hypothetical situation where the school across the street meets every criteria of an effective learning environment, would you still want choice? This is not idle speculation but goes to the heart of what our goals should be and what actions to take. I believe parents want first and foremost a quality education, not first and foremost many choices. Do you disagree?

Moreover, explain to me how parents of the lowest social capital will fare. What controls exist in your system to provide their kids with the same opportunities?


Malcolm,

You wrote: "The choice between "quality" and "choice" is a false dichotomy."

In practice, usually, yes. What I was getting at is an analysis of first principles. In the presence of quality, do we strive for choice?

"A State-monopoly system is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a poor experimental design."

I think you're underestimating the diversity that exists within the monopoly. I sat in on some middle schools classes outside of Hilo and south of Kona, on the Big Island, and the structure, approach, and learning environment were pretty different than what I experienced as a student in Florida and a teacher in California. But granting your premise, I think charter schools provide the experiment variable. What is required is the mechanism that builds off those results. This worked, let's do it. This didn't or can't, leave it alone.

"If the divergent representation of ethnic and racial types across curricula is a matter of parents' choices, as in independent schools, taxpayers are not as much at risk as they are in a State-monopoly school system."

Hit me with this again; I'm missing the point.

TMAO said...

Ragnarok,

"So you seriously think the correct thing to do is disband the group that figured out how to make things work?"

No, I was just moving quickly to get to the point of hypothetical. I don't care who is in charge. If there is no choice but educational excellence (every school in the district is run on the Lighthouse charter model, for example) how do you feel?

As for your question, I'm working on it in my spare time. While we can point to funding and say the state spends $X / student, the way funds are earmarked and distributed complicates the equation. If you're willing to wait, you'll have an answer soon.

"Fer free? or do you want to be paid more to do the job you've failed to do?"

I know you think you're using the plural you, but this kind of condescending insult is out of place. You have previously demonstrated you know very little of what the job of teaching entails, and moreoever, you know nothing of the job, I personally do.

And look, on another site, you wrote something along the lines of KIPP teaches work extra hours for free. From www.kipp.org: "KIPP Schools offer a benefits package, which includes an annual salary, medical and dental benefits, and life insurance. Teaching salaries at KIPP Schools are comparable to those of traditional public school salaries and include a stipend for the longer school days." At the KIPP school closest to mine the starting salary is $56,000. I taught for three years at $41,500.

They make more money because they work longer hours. That seems perfectly just. If I work longer hours to ensure student success, why should I not be paid accordingly? Why should funds that are being used to little impact not be used to provide students with increased educational opportunities?

It's not about failure, and honestly, screw you for saying so. It's about realizing the job of closing achievement gaps cannot be done within the traditional school day and taking steps to do something about that. I know of NO choice school that does not offer a longer day, and I know of NO choice school that does not pay teachers more.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

"Equal protection": State (government, generally) operation of school exposes taxpayers to legal jeopardy. If the school system graduates more Asians and whites than Hispanics and blacks, for example, a jury might find the school liable for the damage (lost opportunity) that the system inflicts. A jury might see disproportionate representation by race in sp-ed classes compared to GT classes or vocational ed classes versus college-prep classes as evidence of racism (or disparate impact). Any distance between the State treasury and the student, such as school vouchers provide, reduces the taxpayers' exposure.

Anonymous said...

TMAO said "Until the day when all schools have the best teachers, programs, etc., we should work, strive, struggle, and fight to make sure all schools have the best teachers, programs, etc. Not create limited escape pods for the few."

TMAO -- I am confused. When 25% of the students in a district exercise choice, when choice is demanded by those that do not have transportation for their children, when choice keeps middle class families in the public schools, why can all schools not have the best teachers, challenging curriculums, programs, high expectations for all kids?

To me, your comment is the challenge that public school must overcome. All children can learn. Why is the bar not raised for all students?

I hope the schools step it up on their own as the feds are now coming into high schools to decide how rigorous a curriculum is or isn't. (Of course, the feds idea of rigor and my idea probably are not close.) Something needs to be done to get the feds out of education and improve the system. Just my two cents worth --

Thanks --

Elizabeth

TMAO said...

"To me, your comment is the challenge that public school must overcome. All children can learn. Why is the bar not raised for all students?"

I agree with you Elizabeth. My point is this: I think choice is valued less than a quality education. Choice is demanded in the absence of a quality education. We therefore need to concentrate, not on improving and broadening choices, but on improving education. For everyone.

You're right about federal controls. These have increased exponentially in the last decade or so. While the push for accountability is and continues to be 100% necessary, some of these other intrusions are considerably less so.

allen said...

TMAO wrote:

The ultimate authority in any school district is elected democratically and are therefore answerable to the electorate; I consider that a form of responsivity.

The Chinese, I'm told, have an expression - "The mountains are high and the emperor is far away" - meaning that just because someone/something is the ultimate authority doesn't preclude a more local authority from swinging a big hammer.

In a school district, the board may be the ultimate authority but the requirements of a hierarchical organization and human nature, dictate that the professional responsible for the day-to-day management of the district be given wide latitude of action. Otherwise the board is faced with the unpleasent prospect of conducting a search for a new superintendent. Unless there's a clear metric to judge efficacy and clear mechanism for implementing the outcomes illuminated by that metric, the superintendent is free to make anything of the job that they wish. The superintendant may decree that an exciting new teaching methodology, superceding the exciting teaching methodology the superintendant imposed the previous year, be implemented immediately. The superintendent may convince the board that it's vital to add a new administrative position. Oh, say assistant administrator in charge of safe, clean and healthy schools (not made up).

Given the largely unmeasurable efficacy of a district superintendant how is a board to determine whether they've made a good hire? The answer, in many school districts is, they don't. The superintendant gets a better job offer and leaves. The superintendant pisses off a particularly venal, or honest, board member and isn't politically adroit enough to survive under those conditions and leaves. The superintendant makes it to retirement age and leaves.

But if 60% of the high school graduates are functionally illiterate? Not a problem. Our superintendant stays on the job.

I can't respond to all the various points you've made so I'll have to go after the most egregious.

After the initial choice is made referring to a charter school , fewer choices are offered.

What you call fewer choices I call specialization and I don't think it's much of a problem for a parent. After all, if you drag junior up to Walter Von Braun Aerospaze academy then you probably want the tyke to grow up to be a rocket scientist. You aren't going to be all that interested in teaching him to be a junior Bob Fosse so a lack of dance classes isn't a problem, it's a plus since school resources aren't being wasted on, to you, unimportant matters.

Sure, capitalism has been a great vehicle of wealth... for an increasing tiny few.

Tell it to the Chinese who, since they've embraced capitalism with a positively embarrassing enthusiasm, have managed to vault one quarter of their population above the poverty level. Not bad for a system that enriches an increasingly tiny few and distinct contrast to the preceeding system, interestingly enough, succeeded in enriching a tiny few while leaving the rest of the population to live and die in grinding poverty when they weren't being used as cannon fodder.

We have *feudal* wealth distributions currently, and it's getting worse.

That explains why I tug my forelock everytime the lord of the manor rides by on his fierce, Arabian steed when on his way to the foxhunt. Fortunately the potato crop looks to be good this year.

You may find it tiresome, but I guarantee you the people who live under the shadow of this failed system find it more tiresome.

You're talking about Cuban and North Korean citizens, right? They still live in a workers paradise and get to enjoy its every advantage - poor diet, poverty, opression, brutalization, a two-tiered medical system, racial and class discrimination and, a dictatorship.

More to the point, what has free market capitalism done to enact a level playing field, such that we should entrust our education system to those principles?

You mean besides raise the income of a greater percentage of the human race to greater heights then at any time in human history? You mean besides increasing the lifespan of the citizens of every nation that embraces capitalism? Dang, beats me.

Oh, and there's a reason why the education should be extricated from the grasp of the system, the socialist system, in which it's entrapped. It's because socialism has a perfect record of failure. Everything socialism touches withers, dies and then rots. And as it rots it infects everything nearby. Socialism's the sort of hideous contagion that makes the Ebola virus look positively inviting.