But that was 30 years ago when they used to have a show

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Barry Manilow’s classic song Copacabana is a very catchy upbeat tune with a sad underlying story about a person living in the past:

Her name is Lola, she was a showgirl
But that was thirty years ago, when they used to have a show
Now it’s a disco, but not for Lola
Still in dress she used to wear
Faded feathers in her hair
She sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind
She lost her youth and she lost her Tony
Now she’s lost her mind

For reasons that may become apparent if you read it, this column responding to one published by myself and Lisa Graham Keegan in the Arizona Republic brought the unfortunate image of Lola to mind. Our opponent’s column is a pretty standard recitation of anti-choice talking points, but there is an underlying sadness to it in my opinion.

Arizona lawmakers passed charter schools in 1994 and the first private choice program in 1997.  So thirty years ago districts were effectively Arizona’s only show. We had parental choice back in those days, but it was the old-fashioned kind. If you could afford to buy a house in Scottsdale etc. or to pay for the tuition at Brophy Prep, you had choice in the lost near monopoly era of Arizona K-12. Otherwise, it was unfortunate to be you.

I’ve written on this blog previously just how awful the results were from this era. The NAEP gave us state level data from 1992 and 1994 before our policymakers began any effort to broaden the ability to exercise choice. Only 28% of Anglo 4th graders read proficiently in, er, English in 1992. Arizona still has a lot of work to do, but at least has been trending in the right direction.

I’m not going to bother to point by point this column, but rather to simply focus on a few faded feathers in its hair. Approximately 3,000 children participate in the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account program, and the majority of them are children with disabilities. Arizona has a great many individual high schools with more than 3,000 students, and yet in the fever dreams of opponents these kids should be made into scapegoats for all the problems of public education. It’s sad.

Arizona has been leading the nation in 4th to 8th cohort gains on NAEP, but rather than celebrate this fact and seek more, some would rather wallow in learned helplessness, convinced that they can’t do better unless they receive money that the state does not have. It’s sad.

Part and parcel of this complaint is to claim that districts take “all comers” while charter do not. Arizona charters however must conduct admission lotteries while district open enrollment decisions are left entirely to the schools. Fancy district schools are open to “all comers” if you can afford to purchase housing in their attendance zones, otherwise they all to often resemble Aspen vacations or shiny new German sports sedans- wonderful things if you can afford them. We started the process to democratize the opportunity to choose, but some prefer to keep choice as a privilege for the few rather than the birthright of all. It’s sad.

Charter schools have been in operation in Arizona for over twenty years. Some district educators have taken up the challenge to compete and I admire them for it. Others spend their time complaining about charter schools non-stop.  Charter school students score like a New England state on NAEP with a majority minority student population and show even an even larger advantage in the state exam, but….lawmakers didn’t include them in a seldom-read auditor general report, so ah they must be evil.

Some (not all by a longshot!) spend their efforts yearning for a near monopoly era that is never coming back.  In my youth growing up in the South I can remember a few old people who would babble about the “War of Northern Aggression” and whatnot. It’s a bad look to live in the past. There are real and very deep issues to debate when fashioning choice policy but to engage in them seriously one must broaden beyond stale talking points. Quite frankly Arizona districts deserve better advocacy strategies than complaining about the disco ball while yearning for what was more of a stone than a golden age. This “strategy” is unworthy of the dignity of the great many outstanding educators working very hard in Arizona’s improving district school system.

It’s time to lose the faded feathers.

 

 

 

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8 Responses to But that was 30 years ago when they used to have a show

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Dammit, Matt, how could you screw up something so important?

    You used the WRONG COPACABANA:

  2. matthewladner says:

    I am deeply ashamed to say that I was unaware of this but I do remember this one:

  3. Tunya Audain says:

    Seriously, Now Boys. “The suffering is real.”

    I know, and respect, the huge contribution JPG regular columnists have made to the education choice movement. While I fully appreciate the original article by Matthew, AND the pictorials, which did really help me understand the issues, the playfulness in the first two comments are quite diversionary. IMO

    If you’ve got children or grandchildren whose life chances do depend on a good education then such inside joking is a bit frustrating. From my reading of the education scene the forces of darkness are ever widening in their scope and acceleration. Mass hysteria seems to always be in open season in education. ( See my essay — http://www.parentsteachingparents.net/2016/08/how-mass-hysteria-spreads-in-education/ )

    Inspired by Matthew’s post and further reading I posted the following on Citizen Ed’s site:

    Education Is NOT A Compulsory Public Utility !

    Thanks. “Education needs fewer lambs, more lions” is a great article — http://citizen.education/index.php/2016/08/11/education-reform-needs-fewer-lambs-more-lions/

    It highlights why school choice is becoming the civil rights issue of our time. This year marked the 6th Annual National School Choice Week, That’s in the United States, but hopefully that notion will spread throughout the world — especially touching those nations that have strong compulsory schooling laws. Think about it!

    This article says that the black community experiences consistently poor results in public education — “ . . . research tells us repeatedly that our kids are in schools that just aren’t ready for them. These schools produce economic divisions and racial strife while diminishing black minds and limiting human potential. The suffering is real.”

    Education is not a public utility that all must use unavoidably. If taxes are raised for public enlightenment, such need not happen in government institutions, must it? Many groupings besides the black community are effectively limited from opportunities, which this huge tax accumulation could provide. Special needs children, those in poverty areas, the gifted and talented, new immigrants and ethnic minorities can maximize their benefits tremendously if funds can be unbundled from the check sent to brick-and-mortar schools.

    The school choice movement has many promising models to consider. Education Savings Accounts is one where funds are placed into parent accounts and spent on authorized educational programs as indicated — psychological assessments, tutoring, special devices for home learning, specialized or private schools, etc. Please see — School choice: the civil rights issue of our time — http://www.excelined.org/2016/02/04/school-choice-the-civil-rights-issue-of-our-time/
    “It’s about power. And that’s what the discussion is about—who’s going to control public dollars and for what reason.”

  4. Tunya Audain says:

    The next post after this one deals with the need for education choice among Native American children. Not to be off-topic on that thread, but on-topic about choice, I submit my comment (here) that I made on another blog earlier today on the subject of choice for the black community. I wish Matthew Ladner good progress with his Arizona newspapers debates on this topic.

    Education Is NOT A Compulsory Public Utility !

    Thanks. “Education needs fewer lambs, more lions” is a great article — http://citizen.education/index.php/2016/08/11/education-reform-needs-fewer-lambs-more-lions/

    It highlights why school choice is becoming the civil rights issue of our time. This year marked the 6th Annual National School Choice Week, That’s in the United States, but hopefully that notion will spread throughout the world — especially touching those nations that have strong compulsory schooling laws. Think about it!

    This article says that the black community experiences consistently poor results in public education — “ . . . research tells us repeatedly that our kids are in schools that just aren’t ready for them. These schools produce economic divisions and racial strife while diminishing black minds and limiting human potential. The suffering is real.”

    Education is not a public utility that all must use unavoidably. If taxes are raised for public enlightenment, such need not happen in government institutions, must it? Many groupings besides the black community are effectively limited from opportunities, which this huge tax accumulation could provide. Special needs children, those in poverty areas, the gifted and talented, new immigrants and ethnic minorities can maximize their benefits tremendously if funds can be unbundled from the check sent to brick-and-mortar schools.

    The school choice movement has many promising models to consider. Education Savings Accounts is one where funds are placed into parent accounts and spent on authorized educational programs as indicated — psychological assessments, tutoring, special devices for home learning, specialized or private schools, etc. Please see — School choice: the civil rights issue of our time — http://www.excelined.org/2016/02/04/school-choice-the-civil-rights-issue-of-our-time/
    “It’s about power. And that’s what the discussion is about—who’s going to control public dollars and for what reason.”

  5. pdexiii says:

    Unlike today’s educational landscape, this classic tune from the much-maligned disco era is a 10x better arrangement, story, and musicianship than the popular drivel served to us today!

    Recalling an earlier post, choice creating embedded constituency has been happening in the city in which I live. Inglewood, CA is the soon-to-be home of the LA Rams, and you can look up the dreadful recent history of its school system. There are several high-demand charter schools in and surrounding Inglewood that have indeed drained funding from the district, which is desperate to ‘get those students back.’ Because there are so many parents satisfied with the product we offer, the only thing the city of Inglewood can hope to do is improve the product they offer so as to attract students.

    In spite of a major remodeling of their flagship middle school about 8 years ago, and a recent remodeling of a K-8 school that is now the most architectually striking school on the West side of LA, they can’t keep students at their schools. The day we have students leaving our school voluntarily to attend those schools (versus the opposite that happens today) is when I’ll know they’re making strides to ‘get those students back.’ They tried retaining 6th grade in their elementary schools; after 2 years of that we again have a 6th grade wait list. Edu-Political tricks won’t solve the problem; a quality education product. will.

  6. Tunya Audain says:

    Back To School Savvy Tips for Parents, Students & Ed Reformers

    “Edu-Political tricks won’t solve the problem — a quality education product will.” pdexiii says

    Back to school fever is at high pitch already — clothing stores, school suppliers, newspaper stories abound.

    Wouldn’t it be so great if there was a quickly published monograph — maybe 8 pages printable on a home printer (2 8 ½ folded) — that would outline what parents & students should look for, beware of? With one page devoted to the CHOICE message and the models gaining acceptance. A good visual would capture a lot of audience on the FB, twitter networks.

    These guys with their photo and video savvies (Greg, Matthew) could probably do one, with a digest from Jay’s excellent Dummies tips. https://jaypgreene.com/2016/08/08/political-science-for-ed-reform-dummies/

    1 front cover, contents; 2 what educ is for, minimum expectations; 3 latest info from cognitive science of learning (digest/chart re Hattie direct instruction, etc); 4 academic expectations – primary years, middle, secondary, social expectations; 5 BEWARE – a) Edu-politics at play, b) some discredited or questionable practices to be cautious about — packets (remember Jeff https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBJcbISsiG4, project based programs, collaboration overload, reading methods that say it’s “caught” not “taught”, etc. online learning overkill? (See Jay’s latest); 6 problem-solving tips; 7 Choice message; 8 who you (student, parent, grandparent, taxpayer, ed-reformer, by-stander) are in the education picture — your status, expectations for responsiveness, etc. what you can do…

    sigh — dreaming of such a tip sheet

  7. […] Policy and Research for the Foundation for Excellence, posted as a guest on a conservative blog: Ladner’s attack on a parent of a 3rd grader. Here’s my […]

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