Public schools are neither cars nor boxes of cereal - let's stop treating them like they are

Via Alternet

We Americans love choice. Just look at the cereal aisle in Giant Eagle. You could choose a different box every day of the month and still have more varieties left to try. But public schools are not corn flakes. Here’s the problem with “choice” when we’re talking about public education.

When we’re in the cereal aisle, we are consumers looking for our favorite brand, the best price, or perhaps grabbing a box of sugar filled junk with a toy surprise inside to appease our screaming two year old who won’t stay in the cart (been there). But schools are public goods, not consumer goods. Think about other public goods and services that you use, such as public safety. We don’t want to choose from different police providers, we want our local police department to be great: to offer high-quality service that meets the needs of our local community.

We don’t need more choices in public education. We need great public schools in every community, that any parent would be happy to send their children to, and that meet the needs of local families. We don’t really have any choice at all if our local public school is not a high quality option.

Choice is a free market ideology. Markets do a good job making stuff and selling it. But they also create extreme inequality, with winners and losers. Choice alone doesn’t guarantee quality: you can stick five kinds of dirt in those cereal boxes and offer them as a “choice,” but nobody wants to eat that. Pennsylvania teacher and blogger Peter Greene compares school choice to the drive to mediocrity in the cable TV industry and explains, “Market forces do not foster superior quality. Market forces foster superior marketability.”

The parent-as-consumer model promotes school choice as an individual choice, abrogating our responsibility as citizens to provide great public schools for all children. Public schools are community institutions that must meet the needs of communities.

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Poll conducted by corporate Ed backers, backfires

The Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice, a corporate education booster, ran a poll. They didn't exactly get the results they were hoping for.
How does a policy of school choice compare to other reform initiatives in their perceived efficacy for school improvement?
Figure 8(below) includes the average perceived efficacy for each type of school reform after controlling for covariates. School choice in the form of vouchers is in the middle of the pack, with smaller class sizes, technology, and accountability perceived as more efficacious and reducing teachers’ unions’ influence, merit pay, and longer school days as less efficacious.

Even after an attempt to goose the results (pg 5 "source comes from a poll conducted by the Friedman Foundation that included a nationwide sample and an oversampling of mothers of school- age children (“school moms”)."), respondents didn't think much of merit pay, busting teachers unions or vouchers. What they cared most for was smaller class sizes and better technology.

If those results weren't bad enough for our corporate reformers, they had more bad news in their poll

Only 29% of respondents liked the idea of tax payer funded vouchers to pay for private schools,

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Too Many Bad Choices

The school "choice" expansion in Ohio from $0 to $1.1 billion annually is having a draining effect on traditional public schools. With most of money lost to lower performing, unregulated charter schools. This rapid unregulated expansion is also taking a tremendous toll on "choice" schools themselves.

The Columbus Dispatch reported in January that 17 charter schools in the city had failed this year alone.

Nine of the 17 schools that closed in 2013 lasted only a few months this past fall. When they closed, more than 250 students had to find new schools. The state spent more than $1.6 million in taxpayer money to keep the nine schools open only from August through October or November.

The problem is not isolated to Columbus, as the Toeldo Blade reports
Secor Gardens Academy’s short tenure in Toledo came to an abrupt end, as the school closed its doors over the weekend because of financial struggles.

The charter school, which opened in the fall, was based in the back of the Armory Church, 3319 Nebraska Ave. School Superintendent Samuel Hancock and others involved with the school realized the school’s finances had become untenable, said James Lahoski, superintendent of North Central Ohio Educational Service Center, the school’s sponsor.
Comically, the leader of this "school" couldn't even provide an enrollment figure. According to the Department of Education FY 14 Detail Funding Report this charter was receiving $220,952.70 for FY 2014. We wonder if the leader of this school is unable to account for that, too.

According to the dispatch 29% of Ohio's charter schools have closed, and the pace of opening and closing is accelerating

It took 15 years for Ohio’s list of closed charters to reach 134; then that number grew by almost 13 percent last year from charters closing in Columbus alone.
We expect the acceleration to continue, as the Cincinnati Enquirer notes, Forty-five new charter schools opened in Ohio this academic year, but with only 600 new students. That isn't sustainable. Schools cannot properly run with just a handful of students attending them, and they certainly shouldn't be ran out of the backs of churches. Students need a stable learning environment, with quality facilitates in order to thrive.

Charter schools in Ohio have been allowed to epxand faster than the pool of students wishing to attend them, and the oversight of the quality of the schools being opened has been cast aside.

The School Choice movement and the legislature in Ohio needs to step up and put an end to this train wreck, and take a long hard look at the charter school authorizing process.

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Teacher to lose $250 school supplies tax break

According to a survey by the National School Supply and Equipment Association, teachers spent $485 of their own money, on average, on supplies during the 2012-13 school year.

Most teachers say spending personal money on supplies is just part of the job. But while teachers could deduct as much as $250 of that from their taxable income in the past, they won't be able to going forward.

"We love our jobs too much just to worry about that tax thing," Foster said. "We're going to do our jobs whether we get the tax break or not."

"You need supplies to make sure to enhance what your kids are learning," he said. "If the parents don't have money to buy kids a lot of supplies, that's where teachers come in and make sure they have enough."

Congress let that tax break expire at the end of 2013 along with a bunch of others. Some lawmakers are working to bring it back, but for the moment, it's gone.

Mary Kusler, director of government relations for the National Education Association, said this isn't the first time the tax break has expired. Each time, it has come back, she said, and it probably will again.

Until it does, local teachers will make do with that they have.

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Reliability and Validity of Inferences About Teachers Based On Student Test Scores

A report titled "Reliability and Validity of Inferences About Teachers Based On Student Test Scores" by Edward H. Haertel of Stanford University, published by ETS Research & Development Center for Research on Human Capital and Education Princeton, becomes yet another paper that casts grave doubt on the use of Value-add for the purposes of evaluating teachers
Policymakers and school administrators have embraced value-added models of teacher effectiveness as tools for educational improvement. Teacher value-added estimates may be viewed as complicated scores of a certain kind. This suggests using a test validation model to examine their reliability and validity. Validation begins with an interpretive argument for inferences or actions based on value-added scores. That argument addresses (a) the meaning of the scores themselves — whether they measure the intended construct; (b) their generalizability — whether the results are stable from year to year or using different student tests, for example; and (c) the relation of value-added scores to broader notions of teacher effectiveness — whether teachers’ effectiveness in raising test scores can serve as a proxy for other aspects of teaching quality. Next, the interpretive argument directs attention to rationales for the expected benefits of particular value-added score uses or interpretations, as well as plausible unintended consequences. This kind of systematic analysis raises serious questions about some popular policy prescriptions based on teacher value-added scores
The whole report, included below is worth a read, or at least a skip to the conclusion
My first conclusion should come as no surprise: Teacher VAM scores should emphatically not be included as a substantial factor with a fixed weight in consequential teacher personnel decisions. The information they provide is simply not good enough to use in that way. It is not just that the information is noisy. Much more serious is the fact that the scores may be systematically biased for some teachers and against others, and major potential sources of bias stem from the way our school system is organized. No statistical manipulation can assure fair comparisons of teachers working in very different schools, with very different students, under very different conditions. One cannot do a good enough job of isolating the signal of teacher effects from the massive influences of students’ individual aptitudes, prior educational histories, out-of-school experiences, peer influences, and differential summer learning loss, nor can one adequately adjust away the varying academic climates of different schools. Even if acceptably small bias from all these factors could be assured, the resulting scores would still be highly unreliable and overly sensitive to the particular achievement test em- ployed. Some of these concerns can be addressed, by us- ing teacher scores averaged across several years of data, for example. But the interpretive argument is a chain of reasoning, and every proposition in the chain must be supported. Fixing one problem or another is not enough to make the case.

Reliability and Validity of Inferences About Teachers Based On Student Test Scores

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Kasich Has Pushed Ed Beyond Breaking Point

At the onset of the great recession, Ohio employed 107,047 classroom teachers according to the ODE Teacher Information Report for 2008-09. The figure for 2012-13 stands at 100,156. That's a decline of 6,891 teachers during Governor Kasich's tenure. Barely less than the number of teachers in Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati - combined.

Beyond this massive attrition due to austere budget cuts made by the Governor and his legislative allies has also come onerous new requirements, most of which have been unfunded.

The implementation and execution of an evaluation system so crippling that the Ohio Senate recently passed a bill to fix it - unanimously, before OTES has even fully come online. A 3rd grade reading guarantee, common core, PARCC assessments - all with little or no money to fund implementation.

Not satisfied with draconian cuts to districts forcing a reduction of almost 7,000 teachers, the Governor and his allies have also expanded the choice failure. Combined, failing charter schools and unaccountable for-profit private schools are now draining over $1 billion dollars a year from traditional public schools.

If the Governor's goal was to push Ohio's public education system to the breaking point, he has succeeded.

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