Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Siphoning off Motivated Students

From The Death and Life of the Great American School System, by Diane Ravitch:

Our schools cannot improve if charter schools siphon away the most motivated students and their families in the poorest communities from the regular public schools.

FedUpMom again: One of the claims of the charter school movement was that charter schools would improve the public schools, through the magic of competition. This was always a ridiculous idea. You could throw me into a race with Michael Phelps, but would I suddenly become an Olympic-quality swimmer? Of course not.

What the charter schools can provide is an escape hatch from the crummy public schools. People with enough money have always had an escape hatch, namely private schools. Those with less money can escape to Catholic schools (which Diane Ravitch seems to like), or, with a great deal of luck, a good charter school.

If this means that the public schools lose some of their best students, too bad. It is their own fault if the best families in their district are desperate to keep their kids out of public school.


  1. A fuller quote -
    “Our schools will not improve if we entrust them to the magical powers of the market. Markets have winners and losers. Choice may lead to better outcomes or to worse outcomes… Our schools cannot improve if charter schools siphon away the most motivated students and their families in the poorest communities from the regular public schools. Continuing on this path will debilitate public education in urban districts and give the illusion of improvement… Our schools will not improve if we expect them to act like private, profit-seeking enterprises. Schools are not businesses; they are a public good.” (p. 227)

  2. Anonymous, thanks for the fuller post. There are so many issues here.

  3. Schools are NOT a public good. And the idea that schools are a public good that improve only when the best students remain shows me that it's all about keeping good students and building empires, NOT about what is in the best interests of each student.

    Obviously by this accounting, the schools HAD the "most motivated students" and did a crappy job with them if they want to leave ... but (somehow, magically) they will improve if the children aren't "siphoned" off... but it stands to reason they are doing a crappy job if the students want to leave... going in circles here...

    And btw, charter schools ARE public schools.

    Um... and "debilitate public education in urban districts?" HA HA HA HA. Name somebody who thinks public schools in urban districts are any good in the first place, and then we can talk about "debilitating" them.

    How about we defund public education entirely? Seriously. Right now there is no "market" deciding diddlysquat. They take my money in taxes and then offer "free" education. That's not "market" anything, whether I get a "free" charter school option or not.

  4. Mrs. C, I have a question. What's your ideal solution? If the public schools worked well enough that you could send your kids there, would you be OK with paying taxes for them?

  5. Mrs. C, No publicly funded schools whatsoever? No college grants? Nada?

  6. Hey, if you folks don't know him, I'd love to turn you on to John Taylor Gatto. He's a radical in the truest sense of the word- He goes to the root of the issue- How and why compulsory education rose in our country, and others, why it's so bad.

  7. Anonymous, I've read some John Taylor Gatto, but I'm no expert. Thank you for the interesting link.

    I'm sure we'll come back to Gatto on this blog. Would you like to write a post?

  8. Hi, FedUpMom. I don't think that looking for a government "solution" is really productive if the only "solution" is a particular school that everyone must attend. I do have a severely disabled non-verbal son and do use schools because that's where our government funnels money for therapies, but that's another post. Or maybe not...

    It would make more sense to me to provide that money through the Regional Center and allow ME to pick therapists who would best be suited to my son. It's hardly a free-for-all situation as there are therapists that contract out through the center, and the case manager must approve everything.

    But almost no child, really, NEEDS a public education. The world did just fine without them for thousands of years. :)

    I see that we're spending nearly half the state budget on education and not getting much back for it considering the expense.

  9. People who want public schools to cease, just have a little more patience. They and the libraries will be closed soon enough. But don't expect your taxes will come down even a dollar...if you do, the you are missing the point. Instead of being taxed for schools and libraries...The owners want us taxed for no return at all. Then we can look forward to the call to end publicly funded police depts and the rise of the private police /fire industry... and so on