Monday, December 12, 2011

Natalie Hopkinson’s Weak Root Against School Choice

And here's RiShawn Biddle, correctly pointing out why Hopkinson's op ed is "spectacularly flawed and shortsighted":

Of course, Hopkinson's piece proved to be the kind of clip that education traditionalists — who do know better — use to argue that expanding school choice is not worth doing. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, in a debate on Twitter between herself, CNN commentator (and Capital Prep Magnet School principal) Dr. Steve Perry, and yours truly, declared that the piece was "heartbreaking", she latter declared that Hopkinson's piece proved "the terrible effects of closing rather then fixing schools".

…Then there is the fact that Hopkinson's argument doesn't square with the reality that D.C. residents can easily access high-quality middle schools (traditional, charter or otherwise) within their own areas. If you live on the Northwest side of town near the Shaw metro (and not so far away from Rock Creek Park), you can avoid sending your child to the zoned district school, Alice Deal Middle (which is in its second year of official status as being in improvement) or the bottom basement Shaw Middle School (where as many as three out of every four kids don't exceed the District's reading and math standards). Instead, you can enroll him in Howard University Middle School, one of the Center City Public Charter School branches — a former Catholic school converted into a charter just a few years ago — a Community Academy charter school, or  even one of KIPP's charter schools. All of those choices are just minutes away from the Shaw metro, and, unlike Alice Deal, don't require a (still easy) 16 minute commute.

This is also true if you live in the District's southeast section, including Anacostia.

…Certainly the options are nowhere as extensive or robust as they should be. D.C. Public Schools is still undergoing systemic reform. The fact that parents have to wait on lotteries instead of simply enrolling their child into a charter school points to the need for the District to do all it can within reason to authorize more high-quality charters and bring in top-notch charter school operators such as Green Dot and Rocketship into communities. It also points to the need to expand the D.C. Opportunity voucher program, which only serves 1,615 of the District's poorest children.

At the same time, the reality is that D.C. families  have greater opportunities to provide their kids with high-quality education than they did when Virginia Walden Ford lived in the district back in the 1990s.

…Contrary to Hopkinson's assertions, the problem lies not with school choice. It is the lack of choice that relegates families to schools that aren't worthy of their children's futures. Thanks to Zip Code Education policies such as zoned schooling (along with restrictions on expansion of school choice that are supported by the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and suburban districts), families throughout this nation are denied opportunities to help their kids succeed in school and in life.

…Contrary to Hopkinson's myopic, flawed piece — and the disingenuous assertions of Weingarten and other education traditionalists — the lack of widely-available school choice is what is truly heartbreaking. When we tell four out of every five children that they must stay in schools that fail their futures, this is not only a tragedy, it is morally and intellectually reprehensible. And it is especially heartbreaking that poor families have wider choices in restaurants than in high-quality schools that can nurture the proverbial soft heads of their young geniuses.

We need more high-quality choices for our kids so they can have brighter futures in an increasingly knowledge-based economy in which what you know is more important than what you can do with your hands. And that's plain and simple.


Natalie Hopkinson's Weak Root Against School Choice

December 6, 2011 2 Comments by RiShawn Biddle

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