Is school of choice good for education and our students? With roughly 7% of Michigan students participating in school of choice program, how is it impacting schools? How does it help students? These are questions the state board of education and education researchers. School of choice may have benefits but many think tanks and so called education reformers are using it so that for profit charter schools can enter the market place taking money meant for students and placing it in the hands of corporations. School of choice is having a unstabilizing impact on most schools budgets. Here are a few myths around school of choice that need to be addressed.
- School of choice improves schools: The idea prompted by most proponents of choice is that with choice schools will improve because they are competing for the students. It is sold as a win for schools and students. This is a pure business idea and schools are NOT businesses. Sure schools compete: but not to create better school but to MARKET their school so more students chose THEM. This has forced many districts to hire marketing firms, purchase advertising and divert funds meant for the classroom to attract student. Students equal funding form the state. Many schools create fancy names to SELL the idea that they are better. Names like Leadership Academy or University School draw more attention than the traditional public school named after a president (or local leader). Schools with better test scores market them to attract students but socioeconomics is the leading reason scores are better.
- Choice will improve students test scores: Educational researchers here in Michigan have recently looked at this issue and found NO connection of choice to test score gains. Families might pick a school based on test scores, but that doesn’t mean it will improve their students performance. Students don’t grow just by being with students who perform better, they have to improve their efforts. Parents also need to remember test scores don’t make a school better.
- Parents know how to chose a school: Parents often make choices based upon hearsay and marketing tactics. Parents often share negative experience more than positive stories. One negative school experience can greatly impact a school. Even if 100’s of parents have had positive educational experiences with the school. Parents often feel that grades and test scores make a quality school. In reality best schools are created by a community culture built on positive relationships. Parents choose schools for many reason, but often the primary reason is not academic.
- School choices create stability for student: School of choice often creates an unstable learning atmosphere for students. Students who chose to attend a school outside their district often chose to move again later. This unstable, inconsistent learning environment can harm students.
- Choice = Different: Often times parents feel that choice will mean they are choosing a different educational process. This occasionally is the case but most of the time they are choosing the same education plan. Many districts attend the same trainings and use the same curriculum materials to teach.
Advocates of choice argue it is parents money, so they should choose what is best for them. That works for business but not in our current educational system. For school of choice really to work, districts and charters need to work together. Offer true choice differences in programing. Then counselors could work with families, taking stock to students learning styles and educational goals to assist students with the choice.
As school of choice works now: The best scoring schools and best marketing programs win. This takes funding away from students and learning. IT NEEDS to end.