Tuesday, April 8, 2014

WI's worst public schools are doing a better job than their for-profit, religious and "school choice" peers

Since Scott Walker took office, with the prodding of a Republican dominated legislature, the state push toward voucher schools has expanded from select areas & low income residents to squarely middle class families, and families statewide.
[S]tudents can come from a family making about $78,000 annually and qualify for a private-school voucher in Milwaukee and Racine.
For the statewide program, students can qualify for a voucher if they come from a family of four earning up to almost $51,000 annually.
Some of the voucher funds have been undeniably and completely wasted, but proponents argue that voucher schools offer free-market competition, "school choice", that improves students' chances.

Turns out, not so much. Even WI's worst performing school districts -- for whose students the program was initially introduced -- outperform their for-profit peers by several percentage points (data is limited on a state-wide basis, but public schools rate twice as high for competencies there). In mathematics, 4.5% more students from Milwaukee's public schools (compared to "Milwaukee Parental Choice Program" enrollees) were ranked proficient or advanced; in reading, almost 3% more. Both are below public school state-wide averages. Of note,
The percentage scoring proficient or advanced among Milwaukee choice students increased 2.6 points in mathematics from last year and 1.1 percentage points in reading. Achievement is up 6.5 percentage points from the 2010-11 school year in math and 3.5 points in reading for students in the Milwaukee voucher program.
These low rankings are actually improvements form previous years for the "school choice" programs (by contrast, Milwaukee public schools have remained fairly consistent). While neither the public nor private schools in these disadvantaged areas are performing well, it's worth noting that the so-called solution to problem schools is actually performing worse than the "problem". We're throwing money the way of institutions that are doing a worse job than those we're supposed to be countering.

Which brings me to a crazy thought. Maybe, just maybe, funneling school funds toward for-profit, often religious, institutions that are not even held to the same standards as public schools isn't a way to improve our schools.

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