Richard Posted: Feb 3, 2007 1:31 PM >So, Haim, are you saying: >A) States shouldn't be giving diplomas?
States do and will grant diplomas. I would like to see the diploma granted on the basis of one or several tests, not on the basis of years endured in a state facility.
>or >B) Schools receiving voucher $$$ will have to adhere to >State standards?
Some will, some will not.
Whenever we have talked about vouchers and charter schools, I have rightly emphasized the issue of money, on the principle that "he who pays the piper will some day call the tune". Money is power, and by transferring power from educrats to parents I hope and expect significant differences in the decisions. Change the decision makers and you are bound to change the nature of the decisions being made.
You have now touched upon one, very important, consequent of this structural change. The issue hinges on the difference between inputs and outputs. Historically, most American public schools were (and mainly still are) organized and operated around inputs. Policy and contracts deal with details like how many school days in the year, what will be the qualifications of teachers, which textbooks to adopt, and so on. These are all inputs into the schooling process. Yet, little, if any, attention has been paid to results. (How else to explain the chaotic condition of school testing? After all, we have had over 100 years to work this out.)
Precisely because this is starting to change, and more and more people are shocked and horrified at what results from twelve years of schooling (not to be confused with education) and many billions of dollars spent, that more attention is now being paid to outcomes. And why more and more people are looking for fundamental structural change --- which vouchers and charters surely constitute. In other words, charters and vouchers are much less about inputs and much more about outputs.
First, charter schools are public schools and there never has been any doubt that charter schools would be measured in precisely the same way as all public schools. The point of charter schools is that they are relieved from the input constraints. Instead of specifying the precise credentials of teachers (an input), for instance, we precisely specify our expectations for students. For instance, if a school thinks it can teach better science with teachers who have bachelors degrees from academic departments instead of education schools, they are welcome to try. If they think they can teach math better with Singapore books instead of Everyday Math, they are welcome to try. Their ideas and methods will be tested by testing the content knowledge of the students.
The issue of vouchers is more complicated, and depends entirely upon the way a state wants to implement them. It is perfectly possible that in its voucher program, the state can stipulate that a school is eligible to receive vouchers only if their students can be tested by some standard, state test. Alternatively, parents can choose to spend their vouchers only at schools that present their students for state testing. This allows for the possibility that some parents will choose schools that are not measured by standard state tests.
Now that I think about it, a state might impose voucher eligibility upon the family, instead of upon the school. I.e., a family is eligible to receive school vouchers only if the child submits to state testing once or twice a year. In this way, the family still has maximum school choice, but they had better choose wisely or they lose their voucher.
Personally, I am ambivalent on this point. My political inclination is to allow parents maximum choice. However, I would not feel too bad if state testing were a condition for the voucher eligibility of the school or the family. My personal choice on the other hand, if I had a voucher to spend, would be to avoid schools that do not submit to state testing. But that is my personal choice.