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Wednesday, January 25, 2006 

More Voucher Responses

My post about Doyle's plan has gotten a little attention. Jay Bullock over at Folkbum has taken issue with a few points, and I would like to address them. Bullock states...
This is something I'm toying with calling the "Accountability Paradox": Conservatives who cannot mandate standards and testing fast enough for the public schools absolutely abhor the idea of applying those same standards and tests to private schools that take state money.
He then quotes part of my post and responds...
A lot of this testing talk is just a means to control the private schools. Let's say that Doyle gets his way and his chosen test is used to measure the quality of the private schools. The private schools don't want to look bad based on these test results. They will abandon their chosen curriculum in order to "teach for the test" as it has been called. That kills the whole idea behind school choice: parents should chose the kind of school that they want for their kids. The private schools that once offered a diverse range of educational programs will now be forced to teach for Doyle's test or look like they are "failing". And believe me, if they look like they are "failing" based on the test, school choice opponents will be happy to claim that as proof that school choice doesn't work.
This is different from the way people use the test to label public schools as "failing" . . . how? Steve himself complains that he doesn't want his "tax money being wasted in the public school system as it currently is." How does he know it's a waste? Could it perhaps be because the test data (or other data collected by MPS but not voucher schools) show that the schools are "failing"?
My views on MPS come primarily from personal experience. I spent nine years in three different MPS schools. Two of those schools were considered to be excellent MPS schools. The workload was light, the classes were easy, and good grades came without much effort. Then I entered a private high school and everything changed. First, I had to catch up to my peers because I was way behind in areas like math and English. Second, I actually had to study and apply myself to get good grades. Every night, I spent hours studying and doing homework. I was constantly challenged (I hadn't been at any of the MPS schools). My friends who stayed in MPS were shocked at the amount of time that I spent studying. They didn't have nearly the workload that I had. While I hated my private school while I was there, I was better off in the end.

Then I got to college and saw even greater differences. I spent a lot of time freshman year helping classmates proofread and edit their papers for English 100. I couldn't believe what they were giving me. There were people who were high school graduates that weren't writing in complete sentences. They had no idea how to form paragraphs, let alone a coherent essay. I was shocked. In my last job, I was in charge of a lot of high school aged kids. These products of public schools couldn't do simple math in their heads. They needed a calculator to do basic addition and subtraction. One of them couldn't read a non-digital clock (No, I'm not kidding). No employer is going to want to hire someone who lacks these basic skills. I'm not claiming that every kid in public school is this bad or that every kid is below average. However, there are enough of them out there that I keep running into them. Call it anecdotal evidence if you want, but my lifetime exposure to MPS has affected my view of it.

At the very least, I hope I can expect to see Steve and Professor McAdams at the next anti-NCLB protest.
As a general rule, I don't go to protests. It's just not my kind of thing. But I am no fan of NCLB or any other unfunded federal mandate. Schools should be run at the local level, and the feds should stop interfering. The Department of Education hasn't done a whole hell of a lot for the quality of education in this country. I agree with you about standardized testing across the board. I think it is a poor system of accountability. An improperly written and administered test could provide us with poor data. I don't want that. That wastes money and class time.

I'll give Bullock credit. That post is the best argument that I've heard to support the Doyle plan. His post is long but well thought out and worth your time to read.

Thanks for sharing your story. As an MPS teacher, I find that students almost always get out of the experience what they are willing to put in. I have students who do study two or four hours a night (often on top of their athletics) and far outpace their classmates.

I also have students have never done homework in their lives, and no matter the pressure I put on them, they will not, and I do the best I can with them for the short time I have them. Does the presence of those students, and their affect on testing and the graduation rate and so forth mean that a world-class education is impossible in MPS? Of course not. So the next time you get upset about your tax dollars supporting the slacker student, remember that they also support the National Merit Scholars, too.

The MPCP as it exists now has schockingly little in terms of required accountability, and the Republican-proposed "study" of performance will add little useful.

I know that there are a lot of good kids and good teachers in MPS. I like to think of myself as one of those good kids who was once in MPS. I didn't spend hours studying every night because it was never needed. All I had to do was show up, turn in my work, and I got straight A's. I was just never challenged.

Part of the reason that I wasn't challenged was that the teachers had little time to actually teach. They had to serve as disciplinarians way too often. While I was in MPS, I saw my classmates absolutely torture teachers. Probably the most disrespectful incident was when a student (and I use that term loosely) threw a teacher's shoes out the window and into the courtyard. Pretty classy.

The tax issue is really a value issue with me. I just don't understand why MPS needs to spend $11,334 per student per year. As I have said before, 4 years of MPS high school costs as much as my 4 year private high school and 4 year undergrad college education combined. Why must MPS be so expensive?

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  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
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