Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Does School Choice Matter?

Does it matter where you go to school? A recent study out of Chicago and reported on in The Atlantic seems to challenge the notion that attending "the best high school" matters to a student's long term success. The idea that attending the "best school," and perhaps more importantly, having the "best teacher" is necessary for student success has been a foundational argument for the school choice movement - namely, the idea of charters, school choice, and vouchers. That becomes a problem when school enrollment has been traditionally neighborhood focused. And, I've often worried that measurements of student success on standardized tests or college enrollment equate to a school being the best and having the best teachers. For, bright and motivated students can mask rather mediocre teaching, and some of the most talented educators out there may face criticism for mediocre student performance against the norms despite making great strides with struggling populations. Here's an interesting bit of insight on "selective schools" and student achievement.

Selective schools did, however, produce a variety of non-academic gains: Students had higher attendance and lower suspension rates, and they trusted their teachers more. Students also reported that their peers’ behavior was much better and that they felt safer in school—this suggests that insofar as selective schools are beneficial, it may be because of higher-achieving peers rather than better-quality instruction.

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