Choice First, Standards Second, Part 8,364


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Rick Hess has an interesting article on NRO comparing two Common Core surveys. The first of his key takeaways:

Depending on which of the above questions one selects, it’s possible to argue that the public supports the Common Core by more than two to one or that it opposes it by more than two to one.

As I read the responses to the varying questions, the surveys are finding that parents want states to set high standards, but more than that, they want teachers to have autonomy.

Is that a juvenile have-your-cake-and-eat-it contradiction, like demanding high spending and low taxes with a balanced budget? Well, to some extent, no doubt. But there is another sense in which this circle can be squared.

“High standards” arbitrarily imposed by technocrats aren’t credible, and rightly so. School choice would create the necessary environment within which high standards could emerge with credibility.

5 Responses to Choice First, Standards Second, Part 8,364

  1. Ze'ev Wurman says:

    I wish you were right.

    Many states allow choice but insist on assessing those kids on state tests. Ignoring state standards will impact their image, and their chances for re-authorization.

    Further, with a few notable exceptions, I don’t see the curricula in private and/or charter schools being consistently stronger than in public schools. When it comes to academics, they seem to be victims of fashionable nonsense almost as much as the regular public schools. They may offer a better non-academic environment, but that seems about it.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Existing school choice programs are not tied to state testing nearly as much as you suggest here. And you’re right that existing private schooling isn’t dramatically better than public schooling. But my case here doesn’t depend on that. Private schooling has been hindered from developing by the government school monopoly. Universal choice would unleash an avalanche of innovation, and *that* would ultimately produce standards.

  2. pbmeyer2014 says:

    I certainly agree about the value of school choice, but that has little to do with squaring the circle of high standards and credibility. The market is not a cow to be milked, as Uncle Miltie would say. School choice is meant to deliver choice, not chocolate milk. As to teacher autonomy, parents love it in the abstract because they always want their kids to have a superstar teacher who will make their kids soar; and they also want high standards so that they have a better chance of getting their kid a decent education should their kids get one of the rotten apples for a teacher. And choice too, in the abstract, is cool, especially when you can choose between good or bad schools; things look a bit different if the choice is between bad and badder.

  3. allen says:

    The collapse of public faith in the public education system isn’t described by a smooth curve.

    Charters are a repudiation of the assumption that if the experts simply have enough authority and enough resources good things will inevitably follow. But it’s a political fight that the erosion of faith has kicked off which means it will proceed by fits and starts occasionally to see reverses. Authority won’t be given up easily and one form of authority is oversight.

    But charters, and indeed all independent schools receiving government money can hardly expect to escape scrutiny for the proper use of that money. Take the bait and you get the hook. There’s a legitimate case to be made for central standards if there’s central funding.

    The other factor that looms large in the future of independent schools – charters, private and religious – is that there will be competition.

    An organization’s competitive position is enhanced by credible claims to exceptional performance so the good schools are motivated to find ways to credibly frame their excellence. The obvious way to do that is to have standards against which the schools performance can be measured.

    So there’s motivation to create a bottom-up standard. Obviously, measures will be taken to ensure the standard’s credibility or why bother?

    Where the good schools go the mediocre schools will follow.

  4. pbmeyer2014 says:

    We sometimes forget that “the market” also sets standards; just not like governments do. The choice argument is that free markets set standards better (more efficiently and to better effect) than government does. This is not a a question of regulation or no regulation. It’s How do you want your regulation served?

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