I met Dr. Ben Scafidi, the co-author of the study pictured on the right, in
a few months back at a conference on School Choice. Every parent and policy-maker in American
Public education should read his report-it’s an eye-opener. (The electronic version can be found here.) Milwaukee
Dr. Scafidi’s presentation on School Choice blew the lid off of the conference room, a perfect mix of credibility and humor. His intelligence, passion, and command of the subjects of economics, statistics, and school choice were clearly evident in his presentation.
Additionally, he was extremely gracious as he fielded individual questions from many conference participants (myself included) long after his portion of the presentation had ended—something we all appreciated.
The research paper Scafidi wrote focused on the detailed results of a parent survey about why these same parents chose to send their students to private schools over public schools. As a sitting school board member on the front lines of the business of education, this presentation confirmed many of the suspicions I harbored about why parents choose to send their students to one particular school over another.
From the report:
From the report:
“Beyond their long-time concern about the quality of the education their children are receiving in public schools, parents are as, or even more, concerned that children in America are facing a plethora of social and cultural challenges that can have a significant negative impact on their lives and futures. As a result, an increasing number of parents are seeking to enroll their students in private schools and are taking advantage of tax-credit scholarship and voucher programs where
available. Based on the results of the 2013 GOAL Scholarship Parent Survey, GOAL scholarship parents had many reasons for choosing a private school for the K–12 education of their children. The top five reasons why those families chose a private school were all related to a safe school climate and effective classroom management, including better student discipline…..The surveyed parents
placed low emphasis on the results of standardized test scores.”
My takeaway as a public school policymaker: We must improve or we will be gone, we will cease to exist
in the next two to three decades—because parents want choice---- and changes are coming either of our own doing or as legislative mandates from above us.
Parents who are engaged will find the very best schools they can for their children. These parents are concerned about safety and school climate and discipline---- if public schools are to survive we as the leaders of public schools must provide real choice options to parents and we must address their concerns regarding safety and discipline.
Otherwise-these parents will continue to leave.
We can’t and shouldn’t say we’re “for school choice” while actively restricting choice options by capping popular programs like magnet schools.
We can’t and shouldn’t say we’re “for school choice” while actively working to restrict the growth of proven charter schools in our district.
We can’t and shouldn’t say we’re “for school choice” while actively working to restrict the growth of successful and effective opportunity scholarship programs.
We can’t and shouldn’t say we’re “for school choice” while we make reform decisions in large part based upon how they will impact “our existing schools”—instead of how they can provide better opportunities to students and parents.
We MUST eliminate the political correctness in our discipline strategies and do whatever it takes to maintain orderly classrooms and safer facilities—even if some “groups” are critical; these two concerns, safety and classroom discipline, evidenced in the survey responses, are the biggest factors that are driving parents away from public schools and toward private schools or home school as our society continues to change for the worse. We have to make schools safer and we have to convince parents that our schools are safe.
We must do these things. We have to improve, innovate, and evolve or else we as the American Public School System as we know it today will go extinct.