From our vantage point, we saw years ago that “choice” was disrupting schools more than it was improving them, and hindering more than enhancing the academic accomplishments of students.
What we saw years ago was that choice was more often exercised for adults’ convenience – to schools closer to child care or parents’ jobs – than for students’ academic improvement. Studies now tend to prove that observation is correct.
We also saw years ago that choice was mostly a chain reaction of prickly people. Students or their parents unhappy with their local school for one reason or another would move to a nearby school where, simultaneously, unhappy people would be moving from there to another nearby school. Studies now show that about half of choice students return to where they began; whether or not they ever accept that the fault was their own and not the fault of the first school is more difficult to discern.
In July, Michigan State University reported some of the most recent research about, and some of the faintest praise for, school of choice; but because previous studies have demonstrated that students’ learning diminishes as their mobility increases, there should have been much more scrutiny of Michigan’s school of choice policy when it was introduced 20 years ago, and as it has spread to 80 percent of Michigan school districts since 1994.
As a means of improving schools, choice has failed by making poor schools worse. As a means of integrating schools, choice and charter schools have actually re-segregated schools. And as a means of destroying neighborhoods, choice has been the perfect weapon.
You want to rebuild Michigan? Then start with neighborhoods, at the center of which will be a grocery store and a school, both within walking distance for their patrons who are invested in them.
School of choice has created problems for administrators of school sports. But what’s far worse is the damage it has done and continues to do to our students, schools and society.