Friday, April 16, 2010

What passes for school choice

Nine years ago, Stanford University started a charter school in East Palo Alto, to try to bring the benefits and resources of a great university and “state of the art instruction” to a struggling school district. This week, though, the local school board voted to close the school because of low test scores.

Unlike other nearby charter schools, which focus “primarily and almost exclusively on academics,” this school “focused on academics and students’ emotional and social lives.” The school’s supporters protested that test scores are “not the most accurate measure of student achievement, particularly if you have new English language learners.” The school “puts a lot of attention on a variety of skills and opportunities that don’t necessarily promote higher scores,” its president said. “If you’re just looking at test scores,” one student said, “then you don’t see what we’re learning.” Although the school’s high school completion and college acceptance rates were impressive, the board was unswayed by the school’s arguments.

This is why I have no faith in the “school choice” movement. Under the prevailing conception of what “school choice” means, families will have a choice among several schools that are all being measured by the same criteria -- which are, inevitably, based on standardized test scores. If what you want is a school that would aspire to fulfill a different set of criteria, forget it. No choice for you.

..How can I comment?