Monday, September 27, 2010

Vouchers again

Voucher results mixed
Overall, public-school students did better on state tests
By Jennifer Smith Richards / Columbus (OH) Dispatch

On the whole, Ohio students who used tax-funded vouchers to attend private schools last school year did no better on state tests than public-school students.
One commenter wrote:
"That's not the issue, is it? What we want to know is whether private school students did better than they would have in a public school. That's the issue. The only way you can come close to answering that question is with random samples and control groups--neither of which were used here."

Very true. In fact, random samples and control groups would tend to eliminate the selection bias inherent in the voucher system and make the comparisons even worse for the voucher schools. Add to that a size bias - the small voucher school that randomly does well is used as a club over the heads of the public school.  At the same time, the small voucher school that randomly does poorly is ignored .... until next year's random increase means that you can trumpet "Its huge improvement is the result of vouchers."
When the one with all the advantages doesn't win,
there is usually a reason.

Fundamentally, public schools should be the recipients of public school money. They are run by the town for the benefit of its citizens, are controlled by a School Board elected by the citizens, use a budget that is voted on by its citizens, and by and large are staffed by its citizens. Accountability is to the town.  At least in Vermont.

Private schools are not accountable to the town, do not have to make their finances public, do not have to answer to the taxpayers, and are run for the benefit of the school. Private and charter schools do not have to follow federal mandates for the education of all students, can dismiss or expel students for disciplinary or educational reasons without refunding the town, and can send kids back to the public school if their academic performance isn't up to par. Private schools can skim the best students off the top, "recruit" from other districts, include I20 students rather than IEPs or 504s, offer "scholarships," and do many other things to "win."

What's the real issue? If the charter and private schools cannot out-do the public schools despite their very real head start, we shouldn't be blaming the public schools.

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