Saturday, October 08, 2005

"That doesn't sound like choice, but fear"

I've always thought that school choice within public schools would be a good thing. There'd be no drain on overall spending on public education and a little bit of choice might force schools to be more responsive to the needs of students and parents.

But this article makes those assumptions seem suspect at best, downright wrong at worst. From In These Times:

NCLB and school choice policies are often touted as effective strategies to improve educational quality and close the achievement gap between low-income/minority and white middle-class students. But school choice in Portland has also exacerbated inequality, favoring savvy middle-class families at the expense of families in struggling communities. Theoretically, NCLB gives low-income students the opportunity to move to higher performing schools. In reality, the law means the kids who are left behind have even fewer resources than before.

“No Child Left Behind gives the illusion of choice, but it’s really about dismantling the schools,” says Elisha Williams, a senior at Jefferson High School, a predominantly African-American institution that lost more than 10 percent of its enrollment to federally mandated NCLB transfers last year. When struggling schools like Jefferson are labeled “nonperforming,” Williams says, families transfer to other schools, taking per capita government dollars with them. Williams also argues that high stakes testing mandated by NCLB fuels negative stereotypes about African American communities and encourages families to pull their kids from low-income minority schools. “That doesn’t seem like choice to me, but fear,” Williams says.

This makes the Raleigh program the NYT wrote about last week sound even more attractive.


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