I finally figured out why I have a problem with the idea of school choice and vouchers as they are currently presented. It occurred to me as I pondered the recent cases of Black mothers jailed for “illegally” trying to send their children to better schools than the ones in the neighborhoods in which they lived.
Why, in these United States of America, should ANY parent have to choose between sending a child to a bad public school versus a good one? Every public school should start at good and scale up; if anything we should have to choose between good and great. Instead, we point at schools that have been intentionally underresourced, in some cases for decades, and label them failing.
One of my favorite passages from our book, TEACHING 2030, addresses this problem squarely:
Without adequate teaching, supports, and resources, students taught in high-poverty schools have lower achievement. Why are we surprised to learn that many of these schools have become ‘dropout factories’? They are stark evidence of our society’s frequent failure to do what it takes for every child to succeed. And while many choose to blame students or families for the problems in these schools, we now have research documenting that even non-poor students who attend high-poverty schools have lower achievement than their counterparts in low-poverty settings. Plainly put, these are the schools that affluent America has been willing to ignore. (14)
Did you catch that? It’s the poverty of the school, not just of the students, that’s keeping too many of our students from achieving at their highest potential.