Should School Choice Programs Require State Testing?
Jay Greene has an interesting piece on his blog about school choice and accountability testing. He writes:
There is a legitimate diversity of views on what constitutes a good education. We should be no more willing to impose the “right” kind of education on people than we would impose the “right” religion or the “right” political preference. Reasonable people disagree about what constitutes the good life and the government in a free society should not be in the business of severely restricting that range of disagreement.
Some argue that charter schools or private schools should not receive state funds unless they teach the state’s prescribed curriculum and administer the state-prescribed accountability tests. To this, Greene responds:
So, the state only pays for its own vision of a good education but you have to pay extra if you want to pursue something else. This is roughly comparable to the status of Dhimmis (non-Muslims in an Islamic state) who are allowed to practice a different religion as long as they pay an extra tax. Doesn’t feel compatible with a free society, does it?
In Missouri, opponents of school choice programs often state this very argument. In a recent position paper, the Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis wrote that charter schools should have the “same accreditation process and accountability requirements of all public schools.” The same has been said about private schools in a school choice program.
These opponents of choice must not realize that we can have a “legitimate diversity of views on what constitutes a good education.”
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with a group of parents at New City School, a private school in the Central West End neighborhood of Saint Louis. I asked them what they looked for in a school and why they chose New City. Of the seven parents, not one listed performance on standardized exams as their top reason and only one indicated it was in their top three considerations. The most cited reason for picking New City was the school’s commitment to diversity.
In their recent report, “More than Scores: An Analysis of Why and How Parents Choose Private Schools,” the folks at the Friedman Foundation found the same thing that I’m hearing from parents — they are interested in much more than just test scores.