Education, Politics

Fixing Schools: Two Schools of Thought

School Number One, brought to you by MLive/The Grand Rapids Press, a wholly owned subsidiary of a friend of The Mackinac Center and all things choice and charter.

If it’s Sunday, it must mean it’s time for MLive to run a guest “column” on education. Today’s writer: State Rep. Bob Genetski (R) of Saugatuck, who just happens to have ten years of experience as an alternative education teacher. This is a plus in MLive’s column; it proves they aren’t biased because Genetski must have some kind of educational credibility as a former teacher.

Rep. Genetski’s bailiwick is also One Tough Nerd’s: the Educational Achievement Authority, a plan to help kids in the worst districts – which, Rep. Bob wants you to know, aren’t in his neck of the woods, so he must be a caring person to push for this bill – via loads of educational choices. Bells! Whistles! Bright and shiny technology! Virtual schools!

And how much of this has been proven to be a valid educational strategy, you know, by research?

Zip. Nil. Nada.

Rep. Bob also wants us to know that “doing nothing is not an option.” He writes this twice, just to make sure we understand.

Let me ask you this, Rep. Bob, are all of these poorly performing districts “doing nothing”? Do you think they haven’t tried to improve with the resources they’ve been given (or have had taken away)?

Rep. Bob, once you step away from what the Mackinac Center is paying feeding you, take a look at School Number Two. In Union City, New Jersey, where the kids are poor, and many of them new to this country, the reform doesn’t involve choice, doesn’t involve closing schools, doesn’t involve Teach for America, and certainly doesn’t involve whatever Michelle Rhee, the Mackinac Center, or ALEC has to offer.

Instead, Union City makes sure that ALL children begin their school years with prekindergarten. They made sure that educational choices were based on “evidence, not hunch.” Their graduation rate is well above the national average, and 75% of their grads enroll in college.

It’s taken Union City 25 years to make this happen for all of its children. It’s no quick fix, like choice, charters, and vouchers. As David Kirp writes in today’s NY Times:

To any educator with a pulse, this game plan sounds so old-school obvious that it verges on platitude.

It should be so old-school obvious to former teachers-turned-legislators, too.

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