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  • School Choice is First Casualty of Obama Education Overhaul

    Certainly one of the most unfortunate provisions in the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization “blueprint” is the elimination of school choice and supplemental education services for students trapped in failing schools. The school choice provisions contained within NCLB, while limited, provide an opportunity for children to escape persistently low-performing public schools. The Obama administration’s decision to cut that lifeline for families is symbolic of its educational philosophy in general. Theirs is a philosophy which refuses to acknowledge the virtue of educational choice and continues to see the federal government as the key to raising academic achievement. Education Week reports:

    In an important policy shift, schools that failed to meet achievement targets would not be mandated to provide school choice or supplemental educational services, known as SES. … Mr. Duncan’s dislike for the supplemental-services provisions in NCLB is well known.

    While the blueprint does suggest expanding access to charter schools and some public school choice, the removal of the provision effectively mandating states to provide children with an exit pass from low-performing public schools is a set back. Low-income parents with children in underperforming public schools will have few options under the administration’s new plan.

    School choice and accountability – while far from perfect under NCLB – were the flawed bill’s saving grace. While the accountability measures resulted in some unintended consequences – tests being “watered down” so that states could avoid federal sanctions, for instance – they raised awareness of a lack of academic transparency within many states. And while the school choice provisions were under-utilized, they were under-utilized because of a failure on the part of schools and districts to inform parents of their options – not because school choice lacks merit.

    Yet, in attempting to overhaul the bill, the Obama team elevates the provisions that made it problematic while discarding those that were among NCLB’s redeeming qualities.

    The Obama administration has consistently promised to do “what works” in education. Yet that same administration has embraced education policies antithetical to their mantra. They are bent on eliminating what is perhaps the most effective federal education program ever devised – the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program – while at the same time are expanding federal programs, such as Head Start, that have been empirically proven to have no lasting impact on children’s academic achievement. So the considerable talk about flexibility in the ESEA blueprint should be taken with a grain of salt. Early language indicates that, at least for parents, they’re anything but flexible on school choice.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to School Choice is First Casualty of Obama Education Overhaul

    1. KC, San Francisco says:

      Sorry, but the choice provisions of NCLB were never implemented. Its removal is more realism tan ideology. Charters were and are a more realistic approach to adding choice and diversity to the most underserved families — that that avenue toward choice is bolstered.

      And the tutoring services paid for by NCLB turned into an ineffective, expensive boondogle. Good riddance. Better to take that money and hire reading specialists or sped staff that can be more effectively integrated into the schools.

    2. Billie says:

      This doesn't seem like school aged kids are considered! Except to exploit. manipulate, indoctrinate.

      No individual achievement will be recognized, it might hurt a democrats feelings. Any "potential" will be government influenced.

    3. Billie says:


    4. john, Kentucky says:

      If they eliminate SES tutoring, parents will no longer have access to this vital tool. Rich and middle class students can receive tutoring services, but poor students must rely on what is given to them at school. Well, it looks like the removal of SES tutoring will set back many students.

      Check out the online petition for saving SES tutoring.

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    6. Alan Marks says:

      Lets take a hard look at just who is proposing this restriction on School Choice.

      Duncan's record as a Supt.

      –less than 50% graduation rate

      –unions running the show

      –30 students murdered last year

      –average ACT score = 14

      –most aldermen send their kids to private schools

      The parents take the back seat to the 'professional educators" the same folks who brought us "whole language" and " new math".The new standards tutoring and choice only for the rich. Ask the President why he sends his kids to private school no DC schools for his kids and please don't tell me that it is for security reasons that is nothing more than a lame excuse.

    7. Alan Marks says:

      KC Oh yes, lets give the "professionals"control they have done so well in the past quit being a union mouth piece

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    11. Randall - Iowa says:

      Whereas I completely agree schools and teachers have a huge impact on the education of students it has to be said that students have a huge impact on their own education and even more important is the parent and their impact on a student's education.

      It is easy to play the blame game and simply lay this off on the schools and teachers but this is simply not true. It may be true in certain situations but certainly not all situations are the same.

      Dictating wide sweeping education policy from Washington D.C. just isn't good policy. Using a one solution fits all situations is flawed with the fact schools do not have the same clients. The best teachers in the world can not educate students that do not want to learn.

      Politicians need to visit a classroom and spend a good amount of time, not 15 minutes, to educate themselves before playing the blame game!

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    13. John says:

      I would like to see the following.

      1. Provide teachers flexible tools

      2. Provide teachers incentives

      3. Increase parent choice and involvement

      4. Give parents more tools

      4. Increase afterschool programs, and keep mandates for SES tutoring

      5. Don't label a school as failing, but label the student as failing. If the student is failing, parents should have rights to tutoring, extra help, and school choice.

      6. Don't require schools to fight for funds.

      I don't see how relabeling the schools, eliminating SES and school choice mandates, requiring schools to fight for resources is going to change much.

      The problem is that many students are being moved from grade to grade without mastering a standard. If the student is falling behind, does it matter if the student goes to blue ribbon school or bottom 5%. The blue print says one thing to me. The ESEA change is not about parents, students, and the teachers, it is about labels, administrators, and politicians' desire to improve those numbers.

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    15. Carl, Texas says:

      KC, San Francisco,

      I would be amused by your clear lack of knowledge on the subject if it was not so insensitive and irresponsible. How can you imply that free tutoring and school choice is a bad thing? Most of the problems related to these two areas are a function of implementation (i.e. district refusing to implement it by putting up unnecessary barriers and parents not believing that the programs are real- free tutoring sounds untrue) not bad policy. As a parent, if my son was struggling in school, I would hire him a tutor because I can afford it. In addition, if his school was consistently ranked one of the worst schools in the state, I would move him from that school. Wouldn’t you if it were your kid? Of course, you would! The Administration’s blueprint effectively takes away the ability for low income parents to access tutoring and school choice. To your point about the school hiring, free tutoring providers are reading specialist and specialist in other subjects. As in every industry, there are bad provider, but there are also great providers. In my opinion, the Department of Education should focus on better implementation, not removing good policy.

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    18. Brady, Pennsylvania says:

      I hope that the person arguing this is not a college graduate. If he or she is the graduate of a private school, then we have to worry about the quality of education that is provided in that environment. After all, placing a period at the end of a sentence that public school students do understand.

      Corrected grammar: Oh yes, [let's] give the “professionals” control[.] [T]hey have done so well in the past[.] [Q]uit being a union mouth piece[.]

      Original: Oh yes, lets give the “professionals”control they have done so well in the past quit being a union mouth piece

      Corrected grammar: The parents take the back seat to the ["]professional educators[,]” the same folks who brought us “whole language” and ” new math."

      Original: The parents take the back seat to the ‘professional educators” the same folks who brought us “whole language” and ” new math”.The new standards tutoring and choice only for the rich. Ask the President why he sends his kids to private school no DC schools for his kids and please don’t tell me that it is for security reasons that is nothing more than a lame excuse.

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