It’s Not Just Government, It’s Schools, Too

January 15, 2014

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Responding to Fordham’s latest straddle, here on JPGB Matt has pointed out that we shouldn’t trust the job of judging school quality to government, and no one knows this better than Fordham (some of the time, anyway). At Cato, Andrew Coulson and Jason Bedrick point out that the existence of school choice programs inevitably crowds out non-choice-participating private schools, so if choice programs become engines of uniformity, we can kiss educational entrepreneurship and innovation goodbye. First Fordham demands state tests must bow to Common Core, then it demands private schools must bow to state tests, all the while insisting Common Core both is and is not a powerful tool for reshaping curriculum!

At the Friedman Foundation’s blog, Robert Enlow points out that Fordham is also playing both sides of the fence on whether the tests will have to be given only to choice students or to all students in the school:

Fordham even implicitly shows how its testing approach will eventually impact non-voucher private school students: “[i]f a private school’s voucher students perform in the two lowest categories of a state’s accountability system for two consecutive years, then that school should be declared ineligible to receive new voucher students until it moves to a higher tier of performance (emphasis added).”

If a private school accepting voucher students loses those students because of their low performance on state tests, how can it rejoin a school choice program without forcing all of its students to take, and perform well, on the state test?

Here’s another issue that I haven’t seen raised yet. Fordham backs up its position by pointing to the results of a survey of private schools that don’t participate in choice programs. State testing requirements came in seventh on the list of reasons why they don’t participate; demand for universal eligibility and higher choice payments were the top answers.

Once again, Fordham is operating out of a top-down, anti-entrepreneurial mindset. Existing private schools are not the voice of entrepreneurial innovation. They are the rump left behind by the crowding out of a real private school marketplace; they are niche providers who have found a way to make a cozy go of it in the nooks and crannies left behind by the state monopoly. They are protecting their turf against innovators just as much as the state monopoly.

Milton once used the analogy of hot dog vendors. If you put a “free” government hot dog vendor on every street corner, the real hot dog vendors will all vanish. The same has happened to private schools. If we extend the analogy, we could say that a few hot dog vendors might survive by catering to niche markets – maybe the government hot dog stands can’t sell kosher hot dogs because that would be entanglement with religion. But the niche vendors would not be representative of all that is possible in the field of hot dog vending.

And the private schools that don’t participate in choice programs are probably the least entrepreneurial. Notice, for example, that their top complaint is that choice isn’t universal. Why would that prevent them from participating in choice programs? Wouldn’t they want to reach out and serve the kids they can serve, even as they advocate for expansion of the programs to serve others? The private schools participating in choice programs are doing so; they may not be paragons of entrepreneurship, but they are at least entrepreneurial enough to want to help as many kids as they can. The demand for bigger choice payments is also not a sign of hungry innovation on their part (even if the choice payments are paltry in may places).

Basically the attitude revealed by the Fordham survey of non-choice-participating private schools is “we want choice, but only if it doesn’t require us to change.” Funny thing; the public monopoly blob gives us pretty much the same line.


“You shall not deny the Blogger.”

November 8, 2013

Strongbad using technology

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

T.S. Eliot and I would like to welcome a new blog, launched by my colleagues at the Friedman Foundation. They’ve decided to start out with something relatively simple and uncontroversial: the foundation’s stance on Common Core. Robert “The Barbarian” Enlow lays it out:

School choice is a far more effective way to improve educational outcomes than centralized standards imposed from above. A main concern with Common Core is that it could restrict entrepreneurship in education, so that parents will have fewer and less diverse choices. By contrast, universal school choice can provide a more vibrant system of schooling so that parents will have numerous and more varied high-quality options.

Check the blog next Wednesday for Friedman’s new report on how private schools use standardized tests in response to parental demand: “More Than Scores: An Analysis of Why and How Parents Choose Private Schools.” As Robert comments:

Do we need to ensure our children are competitive in a global economy? Definitely. Do we need to test our children to help parents understand their proficiency and growth? Most parents think so, and that’s why virtually all private schools use privately developed, voluntary standardized tests.

And keep your eyes on the blog for regular updates on the latest data, developments and derring-do. Embarrassing childhood photos are a free bonus.


Vouchers from the Hell Planet

February 5, 2013

Vouchers from the Hell Planet

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

If you value your productivity, do not click here.

Also, to keep this rolling, I made this:

A Theory of Justice from Space

Your move, Matt.


Enlow the Barbarian Teams with Reason to Talk Milton Friedman

March 7, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Kung Fu Panda of the School Choice Movement talks Friedman, 2011 and more in this Reason TV video:


School Choice Researchers Unite in Ed Week

February 22, 2012

Pictured (L to R): Rick Hess, Jay Greene, Greg Forster, Mike Petrilli and Matt Ladner

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Today, Education Week carries a joint editorial signed by nine scholars and analysists. We came together to agree that Mom and apple pie are good, Nazis and Commies are bad, and the empirical research supports the expansion of school choice:

Choice’s track record so far is promising and provides support for continuing expansion of school choice policies…Among voucher programs, random-assignment studies generally find modest improvements in reading or math scores, or both. Achievement gains are typically small in each year, but cumulative over time. Graduation rates have been studied less often, but the available evidence indicates a substantial positive impact. None of these studies has found a negative impact…Other research questions regarding voucher program participants have included student safety, parent satisfaction, racial integration, services for students with disabilities, and outcomes related to civic participation and values. Results from these studies are consistently positive…

In addition to effects on participating students, another major topic of research has been the impact of school choice on academic outcomes in the public school system…Among voucher programs, these studies consistently find that vouchers are associated with improved test scores in the affected public schools. The size of the effect in these studies varies from modest to large. No study has found a negative impact.

We have diverse viewpoints on many issues, but we share a common commitment to helping inform public decisions with such evidence as science is legitimately able to provide. We do not offer false certainty about a future none of us knows. But the early evidence is promising, and the grounds for concern have been shown to be largely baseless. The case for expanding our ongoing national experiment with school choice is strong.

This may well be the most important part:

The most important limitation on all of this evidence is that it only studies the programs we now have; it does not study the programs that we could have some day. Existing school choice programs are severely limited, providing educational options only to a targeted population of students, and those available options are highly constrained.

These limitations need to be taken seriously if policymakers wish to consider how these studies might inform their deliberations. The impact of current school choice programs does not exhaust the potential of school choice.

On the other hand, the goal of school choice should be not simply to move students from existing public schools into existing private schools, but to facilitate the emergence of new school entrants; i.e., entrepreneurs creating more effective solutions to educational challenges. This requires better-designed choice policies and the alignment of many other factors—such as human capital, private funding, and consumer-information sources—that extend beyond public policy. Public policy by itself will not fulfill the full potential of school choice.

Although I also feel particularly strongly about this:

Finally, we fear that political pressure is leading people on both sides of the issue to demand things from “science” that science is not, by its nature, able to provide. The temptation of technocracy—the idea that scientists can provide authoritative answers to public questions—is dangerous to democracy and science itself. Public debates should be based on norms, logic, and evidence drawn from beyond just the scientific sphere.

Signatories:

Kenneth Campbell is the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, in Washington.

Paul Diperna is the research director for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, in Indianapolis.

Robert C. Enlow is the president and chief executive officer of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Greg Forster is a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Jay P. Greene is the department head and holder of the 21st-century endowed chair in education reform at the University of Arkansas, at Fayetteville, and a fellow in education policy at the George W. Bush Institute, in Dallas.

Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington, as well as a blogger for Education Week.

Matthew Ladner is a senior adviser for policy and research at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, in Tallahassee, Fla.

Michael J. Petrilli is the executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in Washington.

Patrick J. Wolf is a professor and holder of the 21st-century endowed chair in school choice at the University of Arkansas, at Fayetteville.

Our color-coordinated mechanical lion battle chariots that join together into a giant robot are still under construction.

Defender of the empirical research universe!


Enlow’s Year of School Choice

July 29, 2011

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Yesterday Robert Enlow had a piece in Education Week heralding the “year of school choice”:

Sixteen years ago, as students were enjoying their summer break, Nobel laureate Milton Friedman issued his own report card on the American education system. In a guest commentary in The Washington Post, he described it as “backward,” often producing “dismal results.”

Not much has changed in 16 years.

Friedman noted that education had been stuck in a 19th-century model for decades, producing results that hadn’t kept up with our fast-paced world…

The explosion of new and expanded school choice programs shows that Milton Friedman got it right when it comes to mounting frustration with monopolies.

“Support for free choice of schools has been growing rapidly and cannot be held back indefinitely by the vested interests of the unions and educational bureaucracy,” Friedman wrote in the Post in 1995. “I sense that we are on the verge of a breakthrough in one state or another, which will then sweep like a wildfire through the rest of the country as it demonstrates its effectiveness.”

In 2011, that wildfire broke out.

Let’s keep rubbing it in!


MJS Showdown: Enlow Annihiliates

March 10, 2011

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

I’m late getting this up, but check out yesterday’s battle royale on the op-ed page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In this corner, the title holder – the champion of choice, the vizier of vouchers, the BMC of ESAs – Robert Enlow!

And in this corner, the challenger – the canard kid, the defenestration of education, the unionbomber – O. Ricardo Pimentel!

The subject: Gov. Walker’s proposal to lift the income restriction on the Milwaukee voucher program from 175% of the poverty level to 325%, or $72,635 for a family of four. Walker has an eye toward eventually lifting both the income restriction and the cap on the number of participants – which would make Milwaukee a universal voucher program.

They’re getting mental in the Sentinel!

There’s the bell, and here comes the champ!

CHOICE PLAN PUTS KIDS FIRST

Looks like he’s confident. Now we’ll see what the challenger’s got.

YES, YOU WERE ALL DUPED BY CHOICE

Ouch! That snooty condescention is going to cost him. But he’s on fire and the hits start coming: 

Now, $72,635 is not what it used to be, but it’s not low-income…

 The champ fires back:

There are almost 210,000 households in Milwaukee, with more than 90% of them earning less then $100,000. That’s less than the average Milwaukee Public Schools teacher earns in annual compensation, according to the Journal Sentinel.The point isn’t to attack teachers but to show that what many consider “poverty” to qualify for a school voucher is not the same amount of income it actually takes to survive – and thrive – in America.

The challenger’s reeling under the punishment. But he comes back with another attack!

If schools need fixing, the community needs to pull together to do that. Walker’s budget cuts $834 million in school aids. MPS says it will have to cut $74 million from its preliminary budget.

This prompts a round of stunning brutality from the champ:

School choice saves taxpayers big bucks. The per-pupil cost to educate a child in Milwaukee is $13,229, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Yet the voucher program funded by the state is about half that at $6,442, which covers a good portion of tuition at many parochial and private schools.

The challenger’s down! No, wait, sorry, he’s just looking for his teeth.

Okay, now he’s back in the fight.

Bet on it: If families that aren’t precisely low-income “need” help here in Milwaukee, it is just a matter of time that he’ll reason they need help in other communities with challenged school districts or perhaps even those in higher-performing districts.

So, this begs the question: Were low-income students – mostly youngsters of color – just useful pawns for the right?

Wow, he must really be hurting to play the race card so flagrantly. Still, there’s something vaguely resembling an argument in there somewhere. Let’s see how the champ handles it.

With a ceiling on the number of students who can participate, the program’s impact has been limited although still positive. That’s why Walker’s plan to open the program to all students is welcome news, as unrestricted freedom will work even better to improve MPS and increase the academic achievement of children.

For example, if a large grocer has a monopoly in a neighborhood and a convenience store opens on the corner selling milk and bread, there isn’t enough competition to force the large grocer to offer better products. However, if three convenience stores and two other larger grocery stores open, customers suddenly will see an improvement in the products available. The same happens in education, as parents always win with multiple education choices. Such will be the case in Milwaukee when all parents have the choice of a private or public school.

How is the challenger still on his feet? An amazing sight, ladies and gentlemen!

I never would have thought Robert Enlow was capable of brutalizing another human being so totally. Why isn’t the ref putting a stop to this inhumanity?

It looks like the challenger can’t even see where he’s punching. He’s just flailing now.

Gov. Scott Walker is on the cusp of making the much desired entanglement of public dollars and private schools – many of them religious – an unassailable reality.

Yes, unassailable. See what happens if middle-class folks are given vouchers and some subsequent governor or Legislature tries to take them away. Won’t happen…

Choice made sense as a matter of equity for low-income children with no options in a district that demonstrably served them poorly…

Yes to choice – but for those who really have none. And if extended for families beyond that? We can consider ourselves duped.

Did I hear that right? Vouchers violate the separation of church and state – but only when rich white kids use them. When poor black kids use them, they’re fine. And remember, it’s voucher supporters who are using poor black kids as political props.

And, sure enough, the challenger’s self-contradictory idiocy has prompted the ref to step in. Clearly this is one fighter who’s taken a few too many hits.

Enlow is carried out of the ring by a cheering throng of supporters!

No, wait – that’s the mob of union protestors who were bussed in from Madison to watch the fight. I guess Robert is headed for an “undisclosed location.”

And now over to Jay and Matt for the post-match show.


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