Monday, April 05, 2010

Vouchers Do Not Harm Public Schools

Opponents of school choice worry that public schools will suffer when competition is introduced. They cite the diversion of money away from public schools and the “creaming” of the best students into private schools, leaving the neediest children even worse off than before. But how realistic is this scenario?

A new report from the National Center for Policy Analysis marshals powerful evidence that school voucher programs do not hurt students who remain in public schools, and they may even help.

From 1998 to 2008, the Edgewood Voucher Program (EVP) offered private school tuition support to all families in the Edgewood school district, which is located in a low-income section of San Antonio, Texas. Since EVP was privately funded, no government money was diverted from public schools. However, large numbers of students did leave the public schools for private ones. EVP serves as a case study, therefore, on whether public school students suffer when some of their peers transfer away.

The answer is a firm “no.” Test scores and graduation rates went up in the Edgewood school district during the course of EVP. Whether these gains were directly caused by EVP is difficult to ascertain, since vouchers were open to all comers rather than subject to a randomized lottery that would have provided the “gold standard” experiment.

Nonetheless, the empirical debate is over whether EVP’s effect on public schools was zero or positive. When the progress of Edgewood public schools is compared to similar districts that had no voucher program, the data do not plausibly support any negative effect of EVP.

With school choice increasingly looking like a “no lose” proposition for private and public school students alike, will the Obama administration take notice?


Britain: Children running the schools?

Pupil 'spies' are attempting to rid schools of strict teachers by sabotaging their promotions and snitching on their lessons, it has been claimed. They are being allowed to rate members of staff through observing their teaching, filling in anonymous questionnaires and even sitting on interview panels.

The Government has put greater emphasis on schools allowing the 'voice' of youngsters to be heard in recent years. In Ofsted forms, school heads need to illustrate how the views of pupils are taken into account. From September, headteachers will have a legal duty to consult pupils on major changes to school policy.

Now teachers say that increased pupil power means youngsters 'seem to be running schools' and feel no guilt about 'putting the boot in'.

Some pupils are complaining about strict teachers and ruining their chances of internal promotion by sitting on interview panels. They are also using their positions on these panels to humiliate staff by asking silly questions such as: 'If you could be on Britain's Got Talent, what would your talent be?' Headteachers stress that pupils only make recommendations on interview panels and their views are useful.

But the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers has warned of widespread abuse following a survey of more than 200 members. At its annual conference in Birmingham today, teachers will call for ballots of industrial action to stop 'inappropriate use' of the 'student voice'.

One teacher told how he was 'culled' from the interview process for a new job because the pupils on the panel thought he was 'too strict'. The teacher said: 'I felt upset that two out of three of the adults liked me enough but that the pupils had that much sway.'

Another claimed: 'Before you know it, students are choosing to keep "easy-going" teachers who let them do as they like and getting rid of the more strict ones.'

Other teachers complained about the unprofessional questions that pupils ask on the interview panel. They included: Can you sing your favourite song? What fancy dress character would you dress up in to go to school and why? What rewards/trips would you provide for pupils?

The survey also found some bizarre reasons why pupils voted against teachers on interview panels. One teacher took a snowboard along to impress a group of five to seven-year-olds as part of the interview but failed to get the job. The youngsters preferred two other applicants who brought in balloons and a didgeridoo. Another teacher lost out for supposedly looking like 'Humpty Dumpty'; another because he didn't allow the pupils to email him at home.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: 'Children are not small adults. They are in schools to learn, not to teach or manage the school.'


Student arrested over desk doodle to sue

No school discipline so police have to be used -- in a gross misuse of authority and resources

A 12-year-old New York schoolgirl who was arrested and handcuffed for doodling on her classroom desk is suing police for US$1 million, the New York Daily News reported. Lawyers for Alexa Gonzalez claim police used excessive force and violated her rights in the February incident at Junior High School 190 in the Queens neighbourhood.

Alexa's mother, Moraima Camacho, told the newspaper the schoolgirl scribbled "I love my friends Abby and Faith" - in washable green ink when teachers pounced on her and dragged her to the dean's office.

Police were called and officers cuffed and arrested the girl. At the police station she was handcuffed to a pole for more than two hours, according to the lawsuit against the police and education departments.

Miss Gonzalez said she broke down as she was led out of the school in handcuffs. "I started crying, like, a lot," Gonzalez told the New York Daily News. "I made two little doodles... It could be easily erased. To put handcuffs on me is unnecessary."

New York City officials have agreed better judgement should have been used by the arresting officers but could not be reached immediately for comment.

"The whole situation has been a nightmare," Camacho said.

Alexa was also was suspended from the school when an offending item - Wite-Out - was found in her pockets, but the suspension was later lifted.


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