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So I have an article in today’s Baltimore Sun defending the good work that Michelle Rhee did during her time as Chancellor of the D.C. public schools. Recent allegations of cheating during her tenure have caused status-quo apologists like Diane Ravitch to call into question everything that she did. Now, other than just the generally nasty and hostile tone taken against a woman who worked tirelessly to improve educational options for students in D.C. (who by the way supports vouchers, just btdubs), these critcisms are generally unfounded. Ravitch and hamfistedness with data is now about as guaranteed as death and taxes, so I’ll leave it to Paul Peterson (my mentors’ mentor at PEPG) to dismantle her argument.
I do want to direct your attention (as most of the article is about how to do testing right) to the fourth lesson that we state can be learned from the tenure of Michelle Rhee:
“Fourth, regulation without choice is tinkering at the margins. We have learned through years of data on schools failing to make adequate yearly progress that if students lack the power to leave their schools, centralized accountability mechanisms can only do so much to regulate school behaviors. Using data to help parents make informed decisions about where to send their children could combine the best of both systems to ensure the highest quality education for students.”
This is why the more I read and study, the more I support school choice. Regulating the monopoly of traditional public schooling is simply an impossible task, and the standardized tests and testing procedures necessary to do so are not what we want to use to govern our education system. By combining a system of regulation with market mechanisms (informed and empowered families picking where their children go to school) we can go light-years farther in ensuring a high quality education for every student in America.
Oh, and I failed to mention that in all of this budget strum und drang in D.C. it looks like the Opportunity Scholarship Program is surging back to life. It is going to be a part of a fresh infusion of money into the “three-sector solution” for D.C. schools (traditional public, charter, and voucher schools) and given the success of the program in it’s previous incarnation, this news bodes well for the children of the District.
This morning the Supreme Court Ruled in favor of tax credits supporting private school scholarship organizations. Couple this with 2002’s Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, and it looks like-Constitutionally speaking- private school choice is safe and here to stay. Or, as the great MC Hammer would say to school choice opponents- U CAN’T TOUCH THIS!!!