Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fighting fiction with fact & reality

By Kevin P. Chavous

Yesterday, Politico published “Vouchers don’t do much for students.” This misleading piece was based on cherry picking data and used talking points identical to those used by the NEA and AFT.

Every day, across America, in 18 states and the District of Columbia, nearly a quarter of a million children attend a school of their choice, many of those students are improving academically, and all have new options, new outcomes, and a new hope for a brighter future because of educational choice. While the outspoken opponents of educational choice and the story cited above try to protect the “system” and oppose parents from having the right to choose the best education for their child, the facts remain on our side.

To date, there have been 21 credible voucher studies conducted, 17 are positive and four are neutral to positive. In Milwaukee, the nation’s oldest voucher program, evidence continues to demonstrate educational choice works for children. As Dr. Paul Wolf sated, “School choice in Milwaukee has had a modest but clearly positive effect on student outcomes. … the addition of a high-stakes accountability testing requirement to the voucher program in 2010 resulted in a solid increase in voucher student test scores, leaving the voucher students with significantly higher achievement gains in reading than their matched MPS peers.

And, what's not accounted for is that many children in educational choice programs are already behind regardless of whether they are in Kindergarten or later, and as a result, typically, it takes 2-4 years before academic progress is realized. This sad reality, a result of the status quo refusing to reform, is often ignored or left from the discussion.

This is why many educational choice programs have embraced accountability measures – to ensure a child is not moved from one failing school to another. In Louisiana, schools that participate in the Louisiana Scholarship Program must adequately serve the academic needs of students. The consequences of Louisiana's educational choice schools that fail to increase student proficiency is a stark contrast to Louisiana public schools, which remain open, despite failing to educate children, year after year.

That’s what separates our movement with those who defend the status quo. We want to see kids succeed, no matter what school, and we’ll continue to fight to ensure children across the country receive access to the learning environment best suited to their needs.

Some children learn best at home, some at a charter school, others need a virtual environment or a hybrid of both, while others excel in their traditional public school, but no matter the school, no matter the environment, the only way to truly reform education is the act of parental empowerment through educational choice.

Kevin P. Chavous is a noted attorney, author, and national school reform leader. A former member of the Council of the District of Columbia and a former chairman of D.C.'s Education Committee, Chavous was responsible for enacting numerous education reforms in D.C. Chavous also presides as board chair for Democrats for Education Reform and is a former chair of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

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