In response to one of my recent blogs, a colleague took issue with my concerns about choice in Education: “I just don’t see school choice creating a segregation or social class issue,” she wrote. “In fact, it puts quality schools within reach of everyone—not just the wealthy who can afford private schools, and opens the door for everyone to become part of a school community that blends their local demographics. Hmmm…it actually sounds quite…equitable.”
My response to my colleague follows:
It does sound equitable, doesn’t it? But let’s look at numbers. According to the Kids Count Data Center, in 2016, there were over 6 million kids in deep or extreme poverty (living at 50% of the national poverty level). 6 million. Let’s focus on a city: in Philadelphia, there are almost 70,000 kids in deep poverty, the vast majority of whom are in the School District of Philadelphia. There are 214 private K-12 schools in Philly, most of which are religiously affiliated, that serve approximately 48,000 students; unfortunately, the average acceptance rate of those schools is 62%, which means each school is “full.” It also means it is likely that “quality schools” are harder to get into, and the admission process for all schools, even public charter schools, requires access to and literacy with technology, something that is unlikely for a family with an income of $12,000 or less per year.
Bottom line? Your scenario may sound equitable, but it is anything but.
There are millions of kids denied a decent education because, frankly, our society collectively does not give a damn about them. The answer is not vouchers and charters et al, which DO segregate by class (which often equates with skin color). The answer is a massive moral war on ignorance that begins with requiring teachers to apply what the research has proven, time and time again, works with all students.
Over four decades in the profession with an opportunity to observe and work with hundreds and hundreds of teachers has confirmed for me that the majority of teachers believe their individual scientific samples of one have more value than, say, the meta-analysis done by Marzano et al that involved over 4000 pieces of juried research. Another example: in training nearly 2000 teachers and administrators across Pennsylvania, I discovered virtually none had heard about Self-Determination Theory, which is deeply researched and accepted by education professionals in nearly every developed country in the world accept for the U.S. American teachers, in contrast, are still practicing Skinnerian psychology and treating kids like pigeons. American teachers and administrators have atta-boyed, gold-starred, candy-barred, and student-of-the-weeked the intrinsic motivation to learn out of virtually every American kid by the time they reach the fifth grade.
If you are poor in America, the reality of inequity is deafening.
Oh, and I’ve spent over forty years as a teacher, administrator, and bureaucrat, with the greatest portion of those years working with and on behalf of disadvantaged kids. I have done my best as an individual to address what you have suggested, but unfortunately, there are millions of Americans—many of whom claim to be Christians but who would not recognize a truly charitable and compassionate opportunity if it smacked them in the face—who just don’t give a damn about the poor, and trying to move those millions amounts to nothing more than tilting at windmills. If I sound frustrated, I am. Turning around at 70 and looking back and seeing the universal failure of education to create a sophisticated, critical thinking populace, which has resulted in the dysfunctional political atmosphere currently poisoning our country, will do that to you.