Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Will Parents Really Make the Right Choice?

I want to believe that most parents will make the right choice for their children when making decisions about their education. In general I think they will. However, the Milwaukee voucher program raises troubling issues in this area:

"...parents selecting choice schools for their children sometimes are not making selections based on extensive research. Their choices are based on gut feelings and word-of-mouth. Something clicks for them, and it can be as simple as a uniform requirement, a kind exchange with a school staff person, or the fact that their sister's kids, or the children of their neighbor's brother, attend the school.

Thousands of parents are seeking - and finding - schools they believe are safer, better environments for their kids. But the informal nature of the school search process also means parents are less likely to spot troubled schools, or pull their kids from them immediately. As a result, weaker schools in the choice program manage to survive - in some cases, even thrive.
Even the staunchest advocates of school choice admit today that the marketplace theory, which held that parents would pull their kids out of bad schools, or not choose them to begin with, did not pan out.

"The reality is that it hasn't worked like we thought it would in theory," said Howard Fuller, head of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning, at Marquette University. "I don't think anyone that is truthful can say that has occurred.""

There may be many reasons that parents might make one choice over another. If vouchers are implemented here, I hope that what they saw in Milwaukee is not what happens here.

It's also interesting to note that the marketplace theory (competition benefits everyone) so often touted by voucher supports as a positive is not what seemed to occur in Milwaukee.

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