Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mr. President--Be a Man.

I voted for President Obama. I believed he could bring "real change" that our country needed. One of the drawing factors was his willingness to explore merit pay and school choice, at least in the limited sense of charter schools.
Mr. Obama sends his children to Sidwell Friends School, which has a hefty price tag. Okay, fine. Send your kids to a private school because being the daughters of the president comes with some challenges, like all those Secret Service people. But two stories via Joanne Jacobs here and here get me to wondering what kind of man Mr. Obama will be.
There is no one-size fits all savior of public education, but vouchers and school choice can and do work. So I hope that Mr. Obama stands up for school choice because he said he would. And truthfully, I'm just tired of public officials not sending their children to public schools. Here is what I can promise you, ToddlerTate will grow up and go to public schools. And why is that this current reign of Democrats who think they know better than us and want to equalize everyone don't want equal education opportunities for all students?
So, Mr. Obama, be a man of your word and change the way things have been done.


At 8:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you point us to where it shows that well supported, well led charter schools work better than well, supported, well led public schools? Or that poorly conceived charter schools work better than poorly run public schools? Can you explain the version of school choice that is working--that is, that is making a significant difference for large numbers of kids from economically disadvantaged areas?

At 3:22 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Joe, I've finished reading Sweating the Small Stuff by David Whitman. He details six charter schools which are finding great success compared to the local schools they draw from.
The KIPP schools have been well-researched and most honest researchers believe these schools are successful.
In the end, as I wrote, there is no absolute savior for school reform.
But I would ask you a similar question: Where is the evidence that our current urban schools are making a significant difference for large number of kids?
I think we have to be honest and say that they aren't.
Of course this bothers me, I chose public education because I believe that a well-run school can make a difference. The problem is that we don't have enough well-run schools. If small charter schools can fill that gap, why not take advantage?

At 12:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What will help public urban schools is splitting them into smaller learning communties. I think it is a reform worth considering. This may provide the more individualized attention and focus that many students need.

At 7:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, if a school is run poorly, you think the answer is to send the kids with promise out? So, that leaves just the kids who will not perform? What about just fixing the schools that they are in, such as the little girl in the article. What about using some of that money to fix the walls, and the way the school is ran, instead of shipping her out to her "school of choice"?

At 10:28 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

anon--you make a common mistake when considering charter schools. You believe that only the kids with promise attend charter schools; and I suppose you believe that kids with promise are only the already academically sound. That is not true. All students have promise. I believe that parents deserve to choose where their child attends school.
Now, typically parents choose schools by choosing to live in a certain town or city or within the boundaries of the school they want.
When circumstances prevent that, parents should be able to find a successful school in their area. I agree that reformation of that school should happen, but very often, public schools that are failing lack the ability to make the fixes.
Sometimes that lack of ability is the fault of the school board. Sometimes that lack of ability is the fault of the local taxpayers. Sometimes that lack of ability is the faullt of the teacher's union. Sometimes that lack of ability is the fault of the school's leaders.
When a school conisistently fails, parents should have the ability to find a school that works. Charter schools can fill that gap.

At 6:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

“But I would ask you a similar question: Where is the evidence that our current urban schools are making a significant difference for large number of kids?
I think we have to be honest and say that they aren't.”

I strongly disagree with the second sentence of this quote.
Mr. M., the overwhelming majority of students who attend our urban public schools regularly receive a good education, pass their classes and graduate. In schools with 95% attendance graduation rates are 87%. One of the big differences with the students whose parents put them in charter schools is that they make sure they go to school. It’s not as some people seem to assume that the students are somehow better or smarter than those who do not go, the biggest difference is the effort the parents make to ensure attendance.
In New York City, the mayor and schools chancellor have made many bonehead moves because of their lack of understanding of what happens in classrooms, but one of the best things that has come out of their move towards smaller schools has been the rise in attendance rates. Our large urban schools allowed too many cracks for students to fall through and they were intimidating to many parents. Large, impersonal, policy-bound, they do not invite participation (even when they ask for it). What our smaller schools have done has been to follow-up on students who have missed even one day. They both invite and require parental involvement in getting the students to school. Our public schools do a darned good job with the students who actually get to the seats. In addition, they are open to the public in ways charter schools do not want to be (if they wanted to be, they'd be public schools). There is a cost in this, of course, when political considerations outweigh educational ones, but there is also an accountability factor that is vital in a democracy.
There are carter schools, private schools, parochial schools of all kinds, and, on the whole, they do a fine job with the students they have. I hope they will continue to do so, but I don’t want our public dollars to support them. As you point out, there are all kinds of reasons for things to go wrong in schools, but parents of public school children always do have a choice, that choice is to get involved or not. Get the kids to school, the public schools will educate the vast majority of them as they always have.
My attendance info come from: (


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