School of choice, or a revolving door?

Michigan students are finding that the grass isn’t always greener in the next school playground.

More and more families are opting to move their children out of the schools they would attend by residency to neighboring districts through Michigan’s popular school of choice program. But a new study for the first time reveals that fewer than half stay in that neighboring district. And the students who most often bounce between schools are the students most likely to be hurt academically by the instability.

That churn may add fuel to the contentious issue of school choice. “There’s a bit of a revolving door (between schools),” said Joshua Cowen, associate professor at Michigan State University and lead author of a groundbreaking study of Michigan’s school of choice program. “That’s surprising.”

School choice explodes

Michigan’s school of choice policy officially began in 1994 as part of the Prop A change in school finance, allowing school districts the option of allowing students from other school districts to enroll in their schools. The same policy change allowed the creation of charter schools.

You can see Michigan’s school of choice policy here.

Today, more than 80 percent of school districts allow school of choice students to enroll. About 100,000 kids – one in 16 Michigan K-12 students – attend classes in traditional school districts outside their communities. Another roughly 136,000 students are enrolled in charter schools.

Charter schools have gotten a lot of research attention, but little notice has been paid to Michigan’s massive movement of kids between traditional school districts, said Venessa Keesler, deputy superintendent for accountability at the Michigan Department of Education. Keesler is listed as a co-author of the study, but the study was conducted independently by MSU researchers.

“We need to understand what is going on there (in schools of choice),” Keesler said.

Choice has given families more freedom to enroll their children where they think they’ll get the best education, but critics of the program say it’s also wreaked havoc with district budgets, as schools struggle to determine how many students will show up in their classrooms each fall. State funding of at least $7,176 follows the student, whether they enroll in their home district or in a school of choice.

While the economic impact of the state’s schools of choice policy has been well documented, less was known about the school-of-choice students themselves. The just-released MSU study is the first to offer conclusive answers about who is leaving their home school districts, and for how long.

The records of nearly 3 million students between 2005-06 and 2012-13 were analyzed in the study, conducted by two Michigan State researchers at MSU’s Education Policy Center and Keesler. The study focused on students who left their home districts for other traditional public school districts, not charter schools.

Michigan’s most vulnerable students are most likely to use school of choice, the study found. According to the report:

  • Low-income students are more likely to opt out of their home schools for classrooms in neighboring districts than their higher-income classmates in their schools.
  • African-American students use school of choice to switch school districts at a greater rate than other students.
  • Students who are struggling academically are more likely to switch schools than their classmates who are earning good grades. “If families feel they’re being ill-served by their school, they look for better options,” Cowen said. “If you’re doing well, you don’t leave.”

But those same at-risk students are the ones who are most likely to give up on their schools of choice, according to the study.

Among students who enrolled in kindergarten at a school-of-choice district, only 40 percent remained in a school of choice program by fifth grade.

The average length of stay at an out-of-home-district school: under three years.

“It’s not a program that kids make an academic career out of,” Cowen said. “It’s a pattern really similar to general mobility within an urban district. It’s the same kids who are bouncing around.”

In 2012-13 alone, 26,305 students transferred from their home districts to school of choice districts. That same school year, 16,138 transferred out of school of choice districts, most of whom likely returned to the schools they would attend by residency.

That’s one-in-40 Michigan kids shuttling in or out of school of choice programs every year.
That matters, because studies show that the more students bounce between schools, the less they learn.

The newly released study of Michigan school-of-choice students does not include data on the impact of the transfers on student learning, but previous studies from other states show that “Kids do worse in their first post-transfer year, even if it’s a better school,” Cowen said.

MDE’s Keesler said student mobility and its impact on learning is an issue Michigan needs to study more. While this report offers initial insights, more data needs to be analyzed before any policy implications can be considered, she said.

The report does not take a position on whether schools of choice are a net positive or negative for Michigan students.

What’s going on?

The high level of school of choice churn doesn’t surprise Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, a nonprofit that advocates for quality education choice in Michigan.

“We can’t support choice without supporting their desire to return to their home district if it’s not working out for them,” Naeyaert said. “People are looking for a better outcome, and they think a change of scenery might be better. But the grass isn’t always greener.

“Parents have to be good consumers,” Naeyaert said. “National studies show students who exercise choice, the vast majority go from a lower performing school building to a higher performing school building.”

MSU’s Cowen agreed that most studies conducted in other states show students move to higher-performing schools, but the Michigan study didn’t look at that question.

Those higher-achieving schools, however, don’t appear to be a permanent answer for the majority of school of choice students in Michigan. The same low-income, mostly African-American students who were struggling in their home school districts are the students most likely to switch back out of school of choice, according to the study.

“The results are fairly unambiguous,” Cowen said. “There’s a difference between those who switch and those who don’t. Something’s going on.”

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Tue, 07/28/2015 - 7:41am
“The results are fairly unambiguous,” Cowen said. “There’s a difference between those who switch and those who don’t. Something’s going on.” Like nearly all "Social Sciences" research, this is worthless. The authors were supposed to investigate an issue with what the Dept of Ed in Lansing found irritating, and, A Miracle! They found that the issue was irritating! The fundamental problem here is of a selection bias. The kids who were failing, troublesome and "the same kids who are bouncing around” will likely not improve by some administrative wizardry. I could assert that these kids would have done much worse if they had stayed in their home schools and who can gainsay me? Our authors, both those writing the report and our reporter are befuddled because they pay attention to only one side of a correlation, and conveniently supply the verbiage that is required to buttress their ideology (and purses.)
7screamingdizbusters
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 8:25am
Parents are looking for some kind of a magic bullet that will solve all of their kids academic problems in the most easy way possible so they think that going from what they think is a "bad" school district to a "good" school district is all that is needed. Success or failure in school is more more complicated than that.
Syd
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 8:45am
I bet many times the ongoing cost and difficultly of transportation factors very high into the decision to stop using the school of choice and return to the original district. It is a struggle to be part of a school community located many miles from home, regardless of how good the school district is run.
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 8:50am
The people I know who exercised School of Choice did it for childcare reasons. And I know a lot of people who did this. It had absolutely nothing to do with their children not performing. It had to do with if there was an after/before school program in place at the new school - or if their sitter or grandparents - were in that area.
7screamingdizbusters
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 9:16am
It varies as to the reasons, the ones I am familiar with did it for academics and the results have not been good especially at the high school level. East Lansing has really struggled with this.
Patrick Shannon
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 9:59am
The market system relies upon rational consumer choices based upon reliable information. Unfortunately, many education choice decisions are based upon emotion rather than reliable information. The academic information in the public education "market" is confusing and marginal at best. The meaningful application of market concepts to the selection of public goods like education is limited. The consumer is not choosing to purchase a toaster or a refrigerator. In other words, public school choice by the consumer parent is not rational because the parent is not equipped with information upon which to make the best decision. The system of public education in Michigan is like big box shopping; too much choice with too little quality assurance.
Martha Toth
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 11:27am
How many times does the Chicago School's notion that consumers and voters choose rationally in their own self-interest need to be disproven by experience before we admit that the theory is simply wrong? Our decisions have an emotional component that cannot be divorced from the facts -- and the "facts" are often wrong, anyway.
Todd
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 11:55am
Dear Martha, I'll take a market based solution everyday of the week rather than a centrally planned and controlled system. To support the argument that parents are too stupid to make the choice for their children is both ignorant of the facts and insulting to the parents. If you are a supporter of the establishment, then yes, school choice is bad. However, I would say that based on a variety of assessments, you cannot in good conscience state that the public school system in many areas serves the students well. Without an alternative, low income parents have not power to effect positive change in their children's lives.
Eric
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 12:57pm
If you are a supporter of education, then yes, school choice is bad. It simply doesn't work. At best, it's a way for parents to shop around for a school that will give their children the best grade for the least learning. At worst, it's a tool for destroying school districts.
James
Wed, 07/29/2015 - 7:57am
You have exaggerated her comment to create a false dichotomy to make your choice more palatable. She never accused parents of stupidity, but that given limited data and the emotional element in choosing for their kids, rational choice breaks down.
Charles Richards
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 2:43pm
It is true that some consumers make mistakes, don't act rationally and would benefit from what Richard Thaler, in his book "Misbehaving" calls a well-designed "nudge." Still, we have little choice except to provide consumers with as much relevant information as possible and let them make their own choices. If nothing else, School Choice puts pressure on school districts to improve. And, as the article said, "MSU’s Cowen agreed that most studies conducted in other states show students move to higher-performing schools, but the Michigan study didn’t look at that question." There is certainly nothing irrational about moving your child to a better school.
Martha Toth
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 4:21pm
An earlier Michigan study did look at that. "Approximately one-third of elementary and middle school students move or transition to a better school, 25% move/transition to a similarly ranked school, and 25% move/transition to a lower-ranked school." (The data for high school students was not adequate for valid summarizing.) And the results of all that choice? "There remains a gap between the proficiency rate of students in public school academies and in traditional public schools. The gap does not diminish the longer students remain in a PSA." "In 5th, 8th and 11th grade, students in traditional public schools are much more likely to be proficient on MEAP and MME in all subjects." http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Student_Mobility_in_PSAs_January_2...
Keith Warnick
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 5:14pm
Just because students opt to move to higher performing school districts does not mean that those students perform higher than they did while in their home district. That would be something to investigate.
ArtZ
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 10:37am
A minor unintended consquence - any concern of good athletes concentrating or being recruited to successful programs/coaches.
7screamingdizbusters
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 10:56am
Yes. I feel that a certain school district in the mid Michigan area has been actively recruiting athletes from other districts through school of choice. I don't have any proof and the local media has been silent about it, I have no smoking gun, just a suspicion.
James
Wed, 07/29/2015 - 8:01am
St. John's High School seems to have developed an All Michigan All Star wrestling squad!!!!
JR
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 11:52am
Yes, this is an open secret in my community. Parents admit that they have moved their child to a smaller school where they'll likely get more "playing time" because the athletics are less competitive. They are chasing the dream of athletic scholarships and media attention. For their part the smaller school coaches have been known to encourage this practice, which is a form of recruitment.
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 10:52am
This is a subject definitely worth studying. However, this study only skims the surface and creates more questions than it enlightens. 1. Competition tends to encourage higher standards. Did the competition from schools of choice encourage poorly performing school districts to improve their service enough to entice students to return? 2. The issue of transportation and possible child care is significant. Within my family, I have seen the commitment it takes to personally provide transportation to a school district further away. This needs to be part of the overall family decision. 3. The study should perhaps have been broken down where there were no competing charter schools as an option so a family's only choice was another government school district and to those where families chose another government school district in lieu of an in-dstrict charter school option. You probably also need to consider that many charter schools operate at capacity and have to turn away many would-be enrollees. 4. The expectations of parents needs consideration. Merely switching schools to find a better one will not by itself be sufficient to provide a better education. Parents who leave it all up to the schools are more likely to fail than parents who step up to do their part. Also, do the better schools do an adequate job of helping students whose learning is behind the curve catch up? If they don't, switching to a different government school district is not likely to succeed. This just scratches the surface of questions worth asking.
Eric
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 1:02pm
Since when does competition tend to lead to higher standards? The competition between restaurants has led to McDonalds being the most successful; are those the standards you're talking about? When parents shop for schools of choice, they're looking for higher grades. You think schools with higher standards are going to attract students? In reality, to the degree that competition between schools accomplishes anything, it tends to lower standards. They're competing for students and funding, not for the highest standards.
Joe
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 1:03pm
Why is education treated like such a mystery in this country? Patrick's fourth point regarding parents addresses the real reason for most academic failure. In the best-selling book "Freakanomics', more than 200,000 Chicago public school students' data were analyzed. Guess what? The two factors most highly correlated with student academic success is the income and education level of the parents. A student's background follows them wherever they go. I'd like to see a study on cities that have raised the minimum wage to $15 and how it may be affecting their children's' academics along with free job training and free college classes?
LAS
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 12:05pm
In my experience as a school administrator most students choose other schools for reasons other than academic ones. Often the stated reason is the desire for a better program or school. However the reality is that often students make the change in a desire for a better social environment, a safer experience, better athletic opportunities, etc. I believe that sometimes schools of choice students are learning the lesson that it is best to "run from their issues" rather than to learn to advocate for themselves. I am so grateful that schools of choice was not an option when I was a K-12 student. I came from a lower middle class family but I attended school with students whose parents were of all levels of wealth and education. Those parents with wealth and education demanded rigor from the school. That rigor enabled me to pursue educational and career goals beyond my family experience.
Chuck Fellows
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 12:08pm
The choice movement and number of parents making a choice is a symptom of a far larger issue - a dysfunctional "system" of education. Hargreaves and Fullan in their most recent book, "Professional Capital" provide a clear indication of what the root cause is: "We know that, to change teaching, we must truly understand it and the people who do it - rather than forcing through simplistic solutions based on or justified by one-sided stereotypes of what the job entails. When the classroom door is closed, the teacher will always remain in charge. Where the students are concerned, the teacher will always be more powerful than the principal, the President, or the Prime Minister. Successful and sustainable improvement can therefore never be done to or even for teachers. It can only ever be achieved by and with them." Hargreaves and Fullan, "Professional Capital" Pp 45. So instead of endlessly opining about the symptoms read the book and get to the heart of the matter - and act. In any organization of any type in order to succeed you must listen to the people that do the work. Those who would "reform' or "fix' education appear to be totally incapable of listening and therefore are insuring dysfunction forever. As an old plant rat stated many years ago to his boss, "We take care of the job. You take care of us." The wisdom of the worker! We certainly cannot all choose to send our children to Finland!
Chris
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 12:11pm
Patrick is correct. Parents who leave it all up to the schools fail. Manners matter. Have you ever watched an old Andy Griffith when Miss Krump addressed Opie or another student and she said, "please rise". There used to be respect for teachers. Today, teachers are being asked to not only teach (with not much respect from students) but teachers are also being asked to be co-parents. Our culture has changed and not for the better.
Matt
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 12:28pm
No great discovery! I work with many people in poverty every day. Modern poverty and instability (in all senses of the word) go together hand in hand. Why would anyone be surprised that this instability would extend to schools? People really aren't all that likely to change just because you change the address of their school. Why would someone think this needed study? Like needing a study to determine that the sun sets in the west. Clearly a slow news week.
Marjory
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 12:41pm
Some schools set your child up to fail by not meeting their standards. It's more about performance reports for school to give the state. The kids that don't meet the criteria get their self esteem stepped on that they're not "good enough". Rather than feeling like a failure, because they work hard to keep up, get tutoring whatever it takes, switching to another school may help with a fresh start. It should be about the best interest of your child. Being bullied, especially in jr high, and having the "choice" to go somewhere else is worth it. New friends, environment and chance to show what THEY can do on their own merits builds self esteem to be successful. Social environment needs to be included in the study as well.
DLB
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 12:44pm
Working in a school system for the past 15 years I have seen this first hand. School choice is a good option for some, although it takes needed dollars from the poorer districts resulting in continuing decline. However for many students, particularly those in spec ed or who present behavior problems they discover the new school presents the same challenges as the old one. These seem to be the kids who move from district to district in search of the ideal, never to find it.
Earl Newman
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 1:39pm
The sad fact of the matter is that these outcomes were all predictable based on educational research knowledge that existed at the time that schools of choice became a popular fad. Unfortunately the politicians who make decisions affecting our educational system do not ask what research says; they ask what will sell to key publics. The consequences these various schemes might have for students are rarely a part of the discussion.
KG-1
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 2:35pm
Is it just me, or does this report gloss over the effects on local school districts when large numbers of students from failing districts are taken in? Schools of Choice are a disaster, and I'll give you Exhibit "A" to prove my point: Just look at every district surrounding Detroit, except for The Pointes which knew exactly what would happen if they did adopt a SoC policy. Show me one district where discipline problem are not on the rise? Show me one district where test scores are not cratering? Show me one district where school districts do not need to reallocate staff and resources from students who reside within the district, towards the transplants to get them up to some semblance of their grade level. The genie is already out of the bottle and the damage is already done. To the feel-good social planners who just love to play with people's lives: Enjoy the end result of your actions.
John Q. Public
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 10:34pm
Cases in point: Waverly, East Lansing, Holt. They got all those Lansing students, and watched their high schools experience exactly what you describe. And who fled those districts to go to Haslett, Mason, Eaton Rapids, Grand Ledge, Williamston? Why, the better in-resident students, of course, whose parents didn't want to suffer the replacement of enrichment and AP courses with remedial ones to accommodate the ill-prepared transfer students from Lansing. Dewitt avoided this with a pro-forma-only policy of one SOC student per grade level in the high school.
Linda
Sun, 08/02/2015 - 5:10pm
So because of where their parents live, these students who are not getting a comparable education at a failing district should be forced to stay there? It seems rather elitist to me to say a neighboring district should not accept students from other districts because it might somehow drag down the district they transfer in to. Heaven forbid that a kid from a failing district have a chance at a better education in a safer environment. Like any other choice in life, there will always be those who employ faulty logic. But because of that, do we take away the option from everyone?
John Q. Public
Wed, 08/05/2015 - 8:56pm
Nope. Those parents should be able to avail themselves of those choices. Just saying the door swings both ways.
7screamingdizbusters
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 4:59pm
"Schools of Choice are a disaster, and I’ll give you Exhibit “A” to prove my point: Just look at every district surrounding Detroit, except for The Pointes which knew exactly what would happen if they did adopt a SoC policy.: Snyder tried to push through a policy of school choice for every district whether they liked it or not, it got nowhere in the legislature due to heavy lobbying by The Pointes, opposition within his own party was so strong that eventually he backed down and gave up.
Wayne O'Brien
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 8:10pm
Which concepts or theories underpin the meaning of this so-called "study"? Whatever the "study" may be attempting to "communicate" is as comparably puzzling as what the writer has written about it....."The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." This George Bernard Shaw quote appears an appropriate corollary.....If the so called experts are filing things like this "study" under the heading of "helpful information to inform public policy" and reporters are not able or willing to ask the old fashinioned news-reporter probing questions needed for clarity and actual "communication" how can readers possibly benefit? Commentors are left with trying to guess what this story "may have been about" --- what it "seems to have found" and what it "might mean".....accordingly, reactions are diffused and problem-solving thought is in need of focus. Alternative: What do the most successful educators in the world do to earn their world-wide status and regard? Does anything they do relate in any way to this "news" story about education "policy/practice" in Michigan? If the answer is yes, explain. If the answer is no; why is time, heartbeats and printer toner being wasted on what is not leading Michigan policy makers, legislators and educators to the cutting edge of actual improvement and ultimate success? What is being communicated here? And what is being totally missed or completely ignored? In the highest achieving schools world-wide, EVERY child gets a great professional teacher in whichever community they reside....NO CHOICE! Public Schools are funded with public money for only high-quality student experiences as John Dewey philosophically established decades ago. Clear unambiguous communication -- no illusion.....and no need for money-wasting and heartbeat-wasting obfuscatory studies. If we keep our eyes on the real world-wide education leaders, we''ll catch up.
JR
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 9:27pm
Well said! Stop trying to have winning and losing schools. The goal needs to be that all schools are successful schools.
Chuck Jordan
Tue, 07/28/2015 - 10:20pm
People need to read and evaluate the study and how it was conducted. No offense to journalists, but you need to get your information first hand. Then judge. I'm can't be philosophically against schools of choice, but the negative effects on high poverty, minority districts is unmistakable. We can't afford to ignore the students in these schools who are left behind through no fault of their own.
Concerned educator
Sun, 08/02/2015 - 9:22am
The education system in Michigan is designed perfectly to get the results it gets, declining performance related to other states. The legislature and governor tinker around the edges trying to save money on education for their priorities and friends. There are also many well known wealthy people in this state who work at destroying public education. Look at states that are winners like Minnesota and find out what they are doing. Copy their model. My advice to parents is be knowledgeable about your school and school district. Parents are part of each child's education. Keep in mind that high grades and knowledge are not necessarily the same and it is knowledge and skills your child needs. Make good performance part of the household culture.
Duane
Mon, 08/03/2015 - 3:35pm
Concerned, Why is we about everyone else's responsibilities but there are no responsibilities for the students in their learning/education? Do you really believe that if the parents are involved, if the teachers apply everything they have been taught, the school administrators provide a stable school setting, that the State provides all the funding people are clamoring for, etc. this will change the student learning success if the student doesn't care about learning, wont' make the effort to learn, and has their social circle not interested in learning? How can we expect learning success when not even a concerned educator talks about the student's role and responsibilities in their learning?
CSF
Wed, 08/05/2015 - 11:08am
A few other considerations about SOC that I would like to see properly studied, as a resident of an affluent school district that embraced SOC years ago and has witnessed the good and the bad of it on our schools... 1. Given the transportation challenge for non-resident students (no busing, limited ability to car pool), I wonder how attendance statistics look for the non-resident vs. resident students. Truancy and tardiness have been shown to correlate to achievement. I wonder if our SOC kids are having trouble getting to school on time, which could have a negative effect on their academic achievement. Also when a student consistently arrives late to school, the disruption affects the entire classroom. 2. Only residents of a school district can vote on school district elections. If 50% of the student body comes from homes that don't contribute to the school bonds, hold-harmless, or sinking fund assessments, what affect will that have on the success of those elections? I can easily imagine a Vote No campaign that complains about being taxed to pay for non-residents. 3. Only residents of a school district can run for the local school board. Parents of non-resident students can only watch and hope as others run for and lead the school district. No matter how personally invested that parent is in their chosen district, they can't run for school board. 4. The quality and reputation of the schools only affects the property value of the homes inside the district. I maintain that if you are really invested in your community, you'll get involved, work on improvements in the local government and/or schools, or at least elect leaders whom you feel will serve your community's interests well. Non-resident families have the option to retreat from their chosen school district. If they don't like what they see happening in the schools they can leave. Resident families can leave, too, but have more incentive to get involved in improving what they don't like, in my opinion. 5. Non-Resident families can move their household as many times as they want, and stay enrolled in their chosen school district. Resident families who want to move outside the school district boundaries cannot keep their kids enrolled in their original district. 6. Neighborhood schools bind people together through common geography. Kids go to school with their neighbors. In a traditional public school system, geography may be the only common trait families share. Seeing your schoolmates at the library or at the local park, volunteering alongside parents who go to your church or shop at your stores, setting up play-dates with kids down the street, all serve to galvanize a loyalty to the school system. Pride goes a long way to supporting your schools. Parochial schools share a common set of religious values, in theory. Private selective schools can admit students with common academic aspirations. Traditional public schools take in anyone, no criteria required. When you dissolve the only common bond -- local geography -- you risk dissolving the sense of connectivity and community that helps identify and strengthen the local schools.
John Q. Public
Wed, 08/05/2015 - 10:18pm
1. I have no way of knowing, but if offered a chance to wager on the results, I'd bet that "choicers" as a group have attendance rates on par or better than residents do. 2. A house with a taxable value of $100K (i.e,. a market value of roughly $200K) in a district levying five hold harmless, five debt, and two sinking fund mills generates $1200. A "choicer" typically brings about $7,000 with her--usually all from increased state aid. While the uses of revenue from voted millages are limited, not so state aid revenue, which can be used to supplement voted millages if it exceeds operating costs. The incremental revenue minus the incremental cost is a good financial deal for nearly every district. Many districts make the number of seats available for choicers based on an aggregate incremental cost study--e.g., if an eleventh student makes it necessary to hire another teacher for $60K in combined salary, benefits and payroll taxes, the number of available spots is cut off at ten. The 50% figure is purely hyperbolic; nobody approaches those numbers. I know I'm a rarity, but when my kids were choicers, we took the taxable value of our house, multiplied it by the total non-operating voted millage rate in the district they attended, and contributed that amount to the booster clubs of the extracurriculars they participated in. Not an exact mirror of where the residents' money went, but a reasonable enough substitute to avoid the "freeloader" accusations. 3. True, but if you can point me to five people who lament their inability to run for the school board in the district their kids attend because they're a non-resident, I'll eat not only my hat, but my boots--and yours, too. 4. Most people outside of small towns aren't "invested in the community;" when it comes to schools, they just want the best education that can be had for their kids at the least expense and inconvenience. And choicers can't just easily leave any more than residents can; assuming their home district isn't an acceptable option, else they'd probably already send their kids to it, they still have to find another SOC district to take their kids just as a resident would. 5. In many--and I'll venture in most--districts, the SOC policy is that where admission is competitive (i.e., there are more applicants than slots open), those who were in-resident students the year before, but who moved out and want to remain in their old school, get first priority for the available SOC spots. Those who have a sibling who is a SOC student already typically get second priority. 6. Agreed, but most parents are still going to put their individual interests ahead of communal or institutional ones. It's quite common to live in a district where the majority have a vision for the schools that you don't share (athletics over academics or the arts, for example), while an adjacent district has one that you do. SOC disagreements come down to an argument about whose interests ought to be superior: the institution's or the individual's. My choice weakened my "home" district financially--no doubt about it--but I moved to where I did because it gave me a really short commute to work, not to be a "member of the community" or to help ensure the financial viability of the school district.
TRC
Tue, 08/11/2015 - 11:54am
Interesting discussion here, and it's always clear in these discussions that people do care deeply about education and getting things right. First, to comment on the study and the reporting on it: seems that many of the comments were inspired by the lack of depth of this study and its conclusions. Neither in support or defense of the study, I think it's important to remember that these were stated to be preliminary findings. Also helpful to remember what the goals of the study were: they didn't set out to or declare they would solve the entire question of Schools of Choice. All of that said, from my years of studying/experience in education in various roles, I have found that a productive discussion of educational issues can never be divorced from discussing broader societal or complex social issues. This is because EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS MIRROR - OR ARE THE OUTCOME OF - SOCIETY AND OUR CHOICES AND VALUES - and not the other way around. Therefore these conversations never seem to go deep or broad enough, and often begin from the wrong premise. And so we go round and round about the many policies that have been implemented. My conclusion (influenced and informed by many great thinkers and leaders): The day we decide to seriously confront and improve income inequality in society is the day we will begin to truly solve issues in education. Why have none of these comments so far included a discussion of FINANCES among school districts? People loosely use market terms - competition, etc - but don't discuss or understand entrenched poverty or the sociology or psychology of it (which would in turn better enable us to understand decision-making, like SoC, of parents from low-income communities). MORE and SUFFICIENT resources ($$) used and directed appropriately in school districts designated as 'failing' are necessary. In other words, they need comprehensive reform: higher/appropriate salaries to attract more well-trained teachers/administrators, good benefits, adequate technology and classroom supplies, adequate staff support, parent engagement and training, adequate nutrition programs, strong before-and-after-school programs --- overall increased support in EVERY aspect to overcome the differences between affluent and low-income communities (note: these differences even go beyond access to equitable resources). Further, in order to truly overcome differences these resources must be provided from the very beginning, meaning early childhood. As with any other aspect of life, the effects of inequitable conditions, lack of opportunities, poor quality of education, and more, compound over time. Financial reform and elimination of poverty will solve most problems we debate in education. An infinitude of one-off policies that we discuss here will not. This is not idealistic, and it IS technically possible. (*See well-funded systems such as Finland, which everyone loves to point to. They don't have 'poor schools'. Their teachers are highly trained and well-compensated, etc etc etc.) Financial reform does not happen, though, because our decision-makers, budget-makers, and taxpayers with the most power (read: money) are unwilling to pour the money/greater resources necessary to do this into the communities which are in need. Unfortunately "take from the rich to give to the poor" is still considered socialism, soft, irresponsible, and idealistic instead of not only morally and ethically correct but also fiscally - in the long-term - more beneficial for EVERYONE (again, see Finland). Besides it being unconscionable, poverty is a drag on everyone's wallets and quality of life (refer to: any study conducted on the impact of income inequality, or just look to the multitude of examples throughout history of countries whose divided societies led to rebellion, revolution, demise, etc). Instead, or until the day we more collectively learn this, it seems we will continue to debate ad nauseum which band-aid and isolated policy will be the silver-bullet and will applaud ourselves for being well-read, informed, and capable of considering lofty matters such as education.