Rees On SES

The eagerly awaited Nina Rees missive on Supplemental Education Services is now out in Gadfly. It’s less about the significance of the SES program and more about its practical shortcomings. Rees says yes there is a quality problem, but then appeals to the school choice community to solve it! I buy the diagnosis but not the cure. The school choice community certainly can bring a lot to the table in term of lessons learned, but there is a fundamental disagreement about the role of choice v. quality, or public interest v. private interest there. Rees points to DC, for instance, as a model but the choice crowd couldn’t even bring themselves to swallow common assessments for kids and schools in the publicly funded program. In other words, if, as Nina says, part of the problem with SES is a lack of accountability then how exactly is the voucher crowd going to help us solve it? It’s like saying we have a problem with pilots flying drunk and then asking the scotch manufacturers to help us get on top of it. To the extent there are models for accreditation, accountability and quality in school choice they’re mostly around charter schools (with some exceptions in Milwaukee’s voucher program thanks largely to Howard Fuller) and the voucher crowd has largely been dragged kicking and screaming to what accountability there is.

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