This Thursday, September 13, has been designated by School Choice Week as School Choice Facts Day on Twitter. Tweeters the world over will be offering data, testimonials, and comments using the hashtag #SchoolChoiceFacts. I'll be joining in the discussion.
"School choice" is a broad term that refers to a set of policies meant to give families far more control over decisions about where their children attend school. Our present educational system is essentially a government-run monopoly for most families. Only the affluent can afford private school options, which are exceedingly rare in many communities. And many of the issues we face in public education, including our one-size-fits-all approach to both educational delivery and accountability, and the seeming impossibility for schools to innovate in ways that lead to more substantial gains in student achievement, can be easily explained, in part, by the government's monopoly on schooling.
School choice policies usually preserve the public good of education by letting money follow the student, rather than being doled out to local school districts. This allows private schools or public charter schools (where they are legal; in Kentucky there are not) to compete with local school districts for students. New educational markets can be opened up, with a much richer variety of schooling options available to all families. And schools can face the ultimate form of accountability: if they cannot draw students because families choose to send their children elsewhere, those schools go out of business.
Most people in the educational establishment - public school teachers (and their unions), administrators, and my colleagues in higher education - oppose school choice. I find that their views are usually misinformed about how school choice works, and I hope #SchoolChoiceFacts Day can help to dispell some myths and shed light on why a growing number of veteran educators like me are concluding that school choice is a good policy direction for Kentucky and for the nation as a whole.
Among the things I'll be tweeting about tomorrow are the following:
- Read my debate with James Harvey in Educational Leadership magazine here and here.
- Kentucky is currently one of only nine states that prohibit public charter schools. Here's why charters would be good for Kentucky's families.
- Kentucky's new "districts of innovation" bill is no substitute for school choice.
- Most research studies on charter schools have serious methodological flaws. The ones that are rigorous and sound, however, show that charter schools kids do as well or better than their traditional school counterparts.
- Research indicates that teaching conditions are as good or better in most charter schools, though charter teachers report higher levels of participation in schoolwide decision making (and longer work hours).
- There's nothing "magical" about charter schools. Some will be great and some will fail. But school choice is nevertheless a good thing and leads to better living in every other segment of the economy. As the Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey has pointed out, to oppose school choice means to endorse something that looks like the old Soviet economy - applied to schooling.
- School choice could open up innovative educational approaches like the Montessori method to more kids. Read a review of Trevor Eissler's book Montessori Madness and how public schools in Jefferson County are giving the Montessori method a go. See Trevor's interview series on Montessori here.
- Why school choice might be the only thing that can change the structure of schools, and why the structure of schools is actually opposed to its mission.
- What does school choice have to do with super-size softdrinks: a meditation on educational paternalism.
- How school choice could be a substitute for high-stakes testing and other ill-conceived ideas.
- How acting like parents have a choice - even when they don't - could improve education.