Is leaving a kid’s fate up to his or her parents the right thing to do?

Posted: January 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

So is Race To The Top about the kids or about the money? Is the objective, lets get the money, and then we’ll fix the kids?

Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Schools, says “in this year’s Expanding Great Options recommendations to the Board… In 2010-11, we would dramatically expand the opportunity for 5th grade students and their parents to choose the middle school options that appeal to them most.”

He also says that “our parents know their children best, and they will make smart choices about which school options best meet their children’s needs.”

Will they? All of them?

Many parents are great advocates for their kids, and I’d say almost all parents want the best for their children. What about parents who are imprisoned, parents who have drug addictions, parents who are incompetent to make these important decisions for their children? Will these children be left behind in their regular neighborhood school?

Something about this plan just doesn’t seem like the best idea to me. Any thoughts?

Not all kids come from the “picture-perfect” family, especially kids from inner-city Baltimore.

  1. In most cases, parents need to work cooperatively with schools to increase the likelihood of success for their children. This is even more important if their children have learning, reading or other disabilties.To work meaningfully with schools, these parents need to become knowledgeable about a wide variety of factors, including educational evaluation, decision making, progress monitoring, and the laws governing needed services.

  2. Michael J says:

    The notion that parents with little real information will make the best decision is as silly as the idea that people should choose their doctor.

    It sounds good, but it ignores the fact that people will in fact make pretty good decisions only in the presence of real time pretty accurate information.

    Without clear sensible information about the potential outcomes of various choices, it’s worse than silly. it’s a meme used by some policy makers to make themselves seem as if they are “tough” on whatever they think they should be tough on.

    If schools would present timely data on what happened to most of the kids two and three years out, fine. But until that day, this is much more complex than it looks from 30,000 feet above the ground.

  3. Kayte says:

    If I were a parent, I would appreciate the ability to choose which school my child went to. But if ALL parents could do this, it wouldn’t work. So I’m not sure any parent, no matter how good or bad of an advocate she is for her child’s education, should be able to choose which public school her child goes to, unless the child has some sort of special need that another school can accommodate better or a special interest that a particular school focuses on (like a magnet school). If we allow this, what will happen is children with the most involved parents will be concentrated into certain schools, and children with the least involved parents will be concentrated into other schools, and this segregation will create an even worse chance for the kids whose parents are already less involved. Parents DO know their children best, but we need to focus on improving the schools. Kids need to go to their local school, and that school is responsible for meeting their needs. Having parents choose schools creates chaos and avoids the problem.

  4. mdeducator81 says:

    I think the idea of school choice is well-intentioned but doesn’t work out in the long run. I’m reading a book called The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch. She talks about how New York City tried to improve schools by creating small charter schools. Here’s what she says:

    “Most of the new small schools were theme schools, centered on a specific profession or specialty. This produced some offbeat results, such as a high school for future firefighters; a school for the hospitality industry; a school for urban planners; a school for architecture; a school for the business of sports; a school for the violin…Adults like the idea of themes, but few children starting ninth grade are prepared to select a profession or career specialty.”

    I agree that all schools need to be improved and that parents shouldn’t be sending their kids all over Baltimore City to get to their school of choice. School choice seems to add more chaos into the picture, when I’d think the main goal would be to lessen the chaos.

  5. Jeff says:

    Schools of choice are blooming in Baltimore because the status quo in public education wasn’t working. Are charter schools right for every situation? No. Do they concentrate the kids with the most involved parents? Maybe, but I haven’t seen evidence of that offered here, and I haven’t been shown why this concentration is a problem, even if it is true. I would agree that not every parent makes the very best decision every time — whether in choosing a doctor or choosing a school. But so what? The point is schools of choice make parents feel they’ve bought into the school, that there’s a sense of ownership. Don’t think it can work? Then why is Baltimore’s public school population on the rise? Why have scores edged up? Solely because of the advent of charter schools? I doubt it, but I’m convinced it has played a part.

  6. Kayte says:

    I’m not sure whether any research studies have been done regarding school choice and it’s relationship to concentrating the kids with the most involved/least involved parents into certain schools, but of course would be interested to hear about any research that anyone knows of! I am just tired of short-term solutions, and I don’t see how school choice can be looked at as a long-term solution. It might be helping right now, but it seems inevitable, in my opinion, that highly involved parents would choose the highest performing schools, leaving kids with the least involved parents in the lowest performing schools, and over a period of time the schools would become segregated in this way. But, again, this is my own theory, take it with a grain of salt as I don’t have any research to cite.

    I agree that school choice would help parents to feel a sense of ownership. However, the parents benefiting from this would, of course, be the ones involved enough to take advantage of school choice in the first place. Ideally, my vision for the future of public schools is to set up a system in which no child can fall through the cracks, and that is all I see happening when certain parents, probably the majority of course, are picking and choosing the best schools and other parents, though probably a much smaller percentage, either don’t care or aren’t capable of making the best decision. Plus, shouldn’t the long-term plan be to have great local schools in every community? Children need this stability, and school choice creates an environment where children might not know anyone in their neighborhood who attends their school, and parents/students/schools are competing with one another. In my opinion, school mobility would likely increase, and students would become harder to track. With school choice, I see a future of general disorganization and, worst of all, overlooked children. And as for school choice being a temporary solution, it’s going to be nearly impossible to ever come back from it once the doors have been opened and parents and schools have grown accustomed to it.

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