Choice & Accountability

Kevin Carey has an interesting post up over at Q & E about the recent The New Yorker profile of Arne Duncan.   Like Kevin I bristled a little at the writer’s division of the school reform world into free market types and liberal traditionalists.   Where, for instance, would someone like Ted Sizer fit in that typology?  To be fair though the author was writing for a general audience so a long unpacking of the Byzantine alignments within education was probably out of the question.

But perhaps more than Kevin I think the education world can be delineated pretty well by viewpoints on two dimensions:  Choice and accountability.   Rhee, for example, is as Kevin says a big government reformer but she’s also very open to choice schemes and pluralism in the delivery of educational services so she’s not strictlya government reformer.   The simple 2 x 2 below looks at the two dimensions and you can see where various policy actors and interest groups fall along the two continuums.   And it’s the actors in the upper right corner combining choice and markets via ideas like charters with a strong dose of public oversight and accountability (Duncan, Rhee, etc…) who seem to be driving the agenda right now. 

choice and marketsgif

8 Replies to “Choice & Accountability”

  1. “Status quo”? Why not just call them “dinosaurs” in the grid? Objectivity, maybe?

    The camp you’re referring to is not actually advocating for keeping everything the same. That’s what makes your grid so disingenuous. For example, they are advocating for public accountability in a way that your grid does not represent: parent voice and involvement.

  2. “Status quo” means ‘the existing state of affairs.’ Does anyone except perhaps commenters here think the existing state of affairs in education is not low choice and low accountability?

  3. I would agree with the assertion that markets and choice are currently driving the ed market. Charters, cybers and even school district run distance learning initiatives currently are a testimony to that. Why should the field of education be any different than other fields ? Maybe it will take the push and pull of disruptive market forces to bring the best out of stagnating districts and administrators.

  4. It will be interesting to read Diane Ravitch’s new book The Death and Life of the Great American School System. Ravitch claims two forces are destroying the school system – testing and choice. Do Americans ever notice that many more successful nations in the education field, Finland as an example, don’t follow the American reform model even a little bit?

  5. Yeah, Doug, because not one of the successful education systems like Singa— I mean Jap—I mean Belg—Hung–

    Well, Finland. Yeah, Finland doesn’t have high-stakes tests and strong tracking. Too bad just about everyone else DOES.

    There’s a very easy solution to school accountability. First, have very well-developed standardized tests. Second, have EVERY school child take the test and give a school two scores–one, its raw score of total student achievement, and two, its most important score, a score based on the difference between how the school should be expected to score, given its demographics, and how it actually does. Call the first student quality–and the second, school quality!

    The tests would have to have a great difference in the level of challenge to be able to separate out the 99th %ile from the 99.99th very accurately, so that even very exclusive schools could be compared head-to-head. But simple numbers on a 100-point scale could communicate effectively to parents when they compare schools and give them a basis for judgment other than a glossy ad.

  6. Oh, and the school’s score would be that of its terminal grade (so that schools with, say, non-academic Kindys but great success aren’t penalized–it’s where you go that counts, not how you get there), and low scores would come with no authority of the state to control a school. End the school system, as such, and destroy the multilayered administration that drives up schooling costs. Make all schools independent and voucher-based.

    The only reason this does not work is because the US has come to believe that it is the responsibility of the public to transport children to school, and so any system that can’t be accommodated by the big yellow bus is thrown out. In other countries, though, private schools have busing; why require that every area be served by at least one voucher-cost-only school with school-provided transportation with transportation times not in excess of 30 minutes, wherever practical? Different schools would come up with different solutions. And even the most indifferent parents would often have more than one school to choose from.

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