Robert Reich on Education
Former Secretary of Labor; Democratic Challenger MA Governor
Uniform tests present clear goals and give students, parents and schools ways to measure progress toward meeting them. But standardized tests are monstrously unfair to many kids. We’re creating a one-size-fits-all system that needlessly brands many young people as failures, when they might thrive if offered a different education whose progress was measured differently.
In our headlong rush toward “accountability,” we seem to be veering toward two extremes-either expecting every child to pass the same test or assuming that they are uneducable, relegating them to a vocational track.
Our challenge is to find different measures of the various skills relevant to the jobs of the new economy. It’s our job not to discourage our children, but to help them find their way.
A: I’m against vouchers for private school but in favor of backing kids from poor communities and giving them a choice of public schools. I don’t want a system that drains from public schools; they need every penny. We need to raise the educational capacity of all schools so children are not sorted any more than they already are by the areas they can afford to live. And these poor children should have choices.
A: I respect local decisions but will make the case for why public school choice is a good thing, especially the extra money it can bring to schools. Poor kids are often trapped in schools with little resources. One way to help them bust out of this cycle is to come back with more funding and allow students to choose the schools best using these funds. And I don’t think everyone who lives in the city wants to go to school in the suburbs. Kids want good schools near their homes.
I wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal that was interpreted as supporting private school vouchers, but then I wrote another piece soon after, explaining that that was not my position.
[Stoneham Independent editor’s note: Massachusetts communities have the option of opting in or out of the public school choice pool. The local School Committees vote. Stoneham, for example, opted out.]
The risk of most school voucher proposals is that the poorest children--normally those with the biggest learning or behavioral problems--would be sorted together into the least-desirable schools. One way to avoid this would be to make the size of the voucher proportional to family need. Children from the very poorest families would have the largest and most valuable vouchers, thereby making the children sufficiently attractive for good schools to want to compete for them.
What would be the likely result of such progressive vouchers? Schools already in easy geographic reach of poor kids would get an immediate infusion of billions of dollars. Wealthier suburban schools would have even greater incentive to compete for students from poor families.
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