If you were wondering when conservative voucher supporters would prominently pick up on the futility argument so in vogue in some circles (that public schools are sort of helpless to do a lot because of poverty and schools doing really well just have really smart kids in them) — that day was today in the NYT.*
Charles Murray makes the libertarian case for radical school choice, and it’s a case you hear on the left and the right, but he again mischaracterizes what the kind of tests widely in use today show and don’t show. He writes,
…The day after the Milwaukee results were released, I learned that parents in the Maryland county where I live are trying to start a charter school that will offer a highly traditional curriculum long on history, science, foreign languages, classic literature, mathematics and English composition, taught with structure and discipline. This would give parents a choice radically different from the progressive curriculum used in the county’s other public schools.
I suppose that test scores might prove that such a charter school is “better” than ordinary public schools, if the test were filled with questions about things like gerunds and subjunctive clauses, the three most important events of 1776, and what Occam’s razor means. But those subjects aren’t covered by standardized reading and math tests. For this reason, I fully expect that students at such a charter school would do little better on Maryland’s standardized tests than comparably smart students in the ordinary public schools.
Actually, at the K-8 level the tests are general knowledge tests so kids getting a good education tend to perform better — Core Knowledge schools are a good example of this in practice. Meanwhile, there are even some schools with average kids that do a lot better and a lot of research showing that different things schools do matter to achievement. As for Occam’s razor, they don’t teach it…
In fairness, school finance litigator Rocco Testani was on this a few years ago but not in The Times!