Saturday, February 15, 2014

Newark's Successful Charter Schools Under Attack—for Being Successful

Tom Moran's column Newark's big play on charter schools highlights the corrupting influence of bad ideas.

Moran notes the widening popularity of charter schools in New Jersey's largest city:

In 2008, traditional district schools educated 95 percent of Newark children. That’s down to 78 percent now, and Anderson expects it to drop to 60 percent within three years. It seems inevitable that charters will eventually educate the majority of Newark kids.

Moran, a supporter of charters, and school superintendent Cami Anderson, also an ardent charter supporter, are worried that charters are too successful. Moran notes:

    [Anderson] is worried, because some of the charter schools are not taking their fair share of students facing special hurdles, including extreme poverty or learning disabilities.
    That rigs the game against the district. It means the toughest cases are concentrated in district schools, a segregation that makes it even tougher to get good results. And because the charters are growing so fast, the problem can no longer be ignored.
    “The doomsday scenario is that the students in greatest need are stuck in the most struggling schools,” she says. “If you only have students who are struggling, it makes it harder. Diversity is critical.
    Her answer? The district itself is taking over the assignment of students to charter schools and will put its thumb on the scale to make sure they take on more tough cases.

Anderson is "in a rush," says Moran, because. . .

She fears that if admissions to charter schools remain a free-for-all, with each charter recruiting its own students, her doomsday scenario will become reality. The toughest kids will be concentrated in district schools, creating a new hurdle for the students.

Moran neglects to mention that the parents seek out the charters.

"The game is rigged," according to Moran:

“The easiest way to get high outcomes is to get students who can generate those numbers for you,” says Bruce Baker, a professor at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education. “That’s true for charters, and it’s true for district magnet schools.”

The perversity of egalitarianism is laid bare: Successful charter schools are under attack—for being successful! Where are the plaudits for the job the charters are doing in educating students and satisfying the parents? None from the egalitarians, who see children as pawns in a collectivist game designed to achieved some central planner's fraudulent  "diversity" fantasies. Anderson is obviously under pressure to satisfy the state requirements for "equity," or "equal opportunity," for all students—even at the price of destroying the charters' improved educational quality.

It's time for an education revolution.

I left these comments:

Baker's statement that "The easiest way to get high outcomes is to get students who can generate those numbers" is telling. What acceptance policies does one expect under a school ranking system? Of course "the game is rigged" in favor of high achieving students. With such perverse incentives, who would want the difficult students?

But their is no reason to doubt that their are plenty of educators who would willingly tackle the tougher cases, given the proper incentives such as those inherent in an education free market. What we need is to expand the "free-for-all"—another disdainful statist term for individual liberty—through true free market reforms that sweep aside centralized bureaucracies and protects the rights of parents and educators to contract voluntarily to mutual advantage.

In a free market, the focus is on the individual student, based on the fact of each individual's uniqueness. There are no arbitrary groupings like "advantaged," "troubled," "poor," etc. Freed from the straight jacket of central planners' arbitrary ranking system, educators can concentrate on educating individual students according to their best judgment. Market demand—parents seeking the education that best suits their own child's needs—would incentivize educators to offer services to cover the educational needs of all students through a rich variety of educational missions, freely chosen, without being distracted by artificial school rankings. 

The popularity of charter schools proves the power of even very limited freedom. Given the opportunity, parents are abandoning traditional public schools in droves. The goal should be to build on that success, not destroy it to conform to some egalitarian "diversity" inequity. We should move away from central planning schemes and toward empowering educators and parents. Rather than obsess over "good" performing vs. "poor" performing schools, how about focusing on the performance of students as individuals? There are lots and lots of them, which is why central planners can't do it. Only the educators and parents closest to the students can do it. I laid out a proposal for empowering educators and parents of all income levels based on universal tax credits:

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?

Related Reading:

HUD's "Equality of Opportunity" in Housing Rule Destroys Actual Equality
President Obama, Stop Damning the Achievers for their Virtues—Harry Binswanger

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