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Voucher Apprentice Speaks Out Against Vouchers


Josh Cowen of Michigan State University has been studying vouchers for two decades. He began studying, believing that vouchers could help children. Now he thinks it was a terrible mistake. He hasn’t given up on charter schools yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time. Michigan statutes have a very poor record. A very large part is under the control of commercial organizations. Their results are bad. Michigan needs to rebuild its public schools and make them great for all students instead of funding bailouts that lead to nowhere.

He writes:

In recent years, almost half of all states have created private, publicly funded K-12 education plans, collectively known as school vouchers.

This summer, proponents of the plans are pushing to expand their coverage, bolstered by a Supreme Court decision in Carson v. Mackinthat states that allow vouchers cannot exclude religious schools.

Arizona just expanded its already large voucher program; in Michigan, former US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and allies proposed a voucher scheme modeled on plans elsewhere. In June, Republican supporters in Congress reintroduced the creation legislation federal funding voucher programs.

Vouchers are dangerous to American education. They promise an oversimplified solution to difficult problems like unequal access to high-quality schools, segregation, and even school safety. A few years ago, vouchers looked like they might work, but as more states create larger voucher programs, experts like myself have learned enough to say that the balance of these programs can seriously hinder academic growth — especially for vulnerable children.

I’m a professor of education policy who has spent nearly two decades studying programs like this and trying to follow the data to see where it leads. I began this study with cautious optimism that vouchers could help.

But in 2022, the evidence is too strong to justify using public money to fund private education. Especially when other choices like charter schools and interdistrict registration is available for families and have a better track record.

There is also a moral argument to be made against voucher programs. They promise low-income families solutions to academic inequity, but what they deliver is often little more than religious indoctrination to go along with academic results that are worse than before…

Vouchers are not delivered to children who are often most in need.

The end of the Milwaukee estimate coincided almost exactly with the circulation of a the report shows shockingly poor early test scores for students in Louisiana’s voucher program in the years after Hurricane Katrina.

Over time, these poor test scores are for vouchers got upand were replicated by other studies.

Too random, a group of defendersformerly known for supporting test scores on standards and accountability, began pushing for parental controls pleasureschool safety, character and “a grain of sand” — it would seem, anything to push back the bar on the academic outcomes that have been disastrous under Louisiana’s voucher program.

Now, as parents, we want more for our children than the reading, math, and science skills we can measure on tests. And those of us who make a living teaching also want to give our students more. But not at the cost of disastrous academic results. Especially not for children who struggle in school.

Today we know that these poor educational outcomes in Louisiana were not a fluke and actually began to show up in places like Indiana and Ohio.

All of these results have a simple explanation: vouchers don’t work on the large scale that advocates insist on today. For now small first pilot voucher programsshowed at least modestly positive results, the statewide expansion was terrible for students. That’s because there aren’t enough decent private schools to teach at-risk kids.


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