Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Quick Opinion on Vouchers, School Uniforms and Charter Schools

There are many who believe the solution to our public education deficiencies are those ideas offered up by conservative think tanks and politicians who have little interest in studying their effectiveness.

There are even more Americans who are beginning to believe, with justification, they’ve been the victims of snake oil salesmen promising a cure all without costs. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution article by Maureen Downey is an example of the media finally catching on:

All dressed up with no urge to learnIn one of the largest studies on the effects of school uniforms, sociologists David Brunsma and Kerry Rockquemore concluded that uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral problems or attendance and may actually hurt academic achievement.

In effect, the study found, uniforms are akin to throwing a new coat of paint on a crumbling building. The building may well look better, but it’s still falling apart.

In 2006, the Legislature fell victim to the 65 percent solution, enacting a law mandating that schools spend 65 percent of their revenue in the classroom. Trouble is, there’s no proof that such a rule makes a bit of difference.

“Student performance does not noticeably or consistently increase at 65 percent, or any other percentage spent on instruction,” concluded a Standard & Poor’s review of student achievement in nine states. “Interestingly, some of the highest-performing districts spend less than 65 percent, and some of the lowest-performing districts spend more than 65 percent.”

Last session (in Georgia), the magic bullet du jour was charter schools, which are public schools that operate independently of the central office under performance contracts.

A recent study out of Minnesota has discredited that now failed experiment.

This session, the snake oil salesmen of education will be peddling vouchers. Step right up to a private school, they’ll say, and see your child reach never-before-seen heights of excellence.
Again, experience tells a different story. Even viewed from the most positive angle, the results of voucher programs are mixed. Research shows that vouchers improve neither the academic performance of the students who use them nor the public schools they leave behind.

Just a note: I am not against new idea’s and experimental attempts to improve educating our children. I am against for profit and “nonprofit” businesses trying desperately to reach into taxpayer pockets, which we have seen over time, becomes a never ending source of unlimited amounts of money i.e. the defense department.

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