Memphis teacher Jon Alfuth writes a compelling piece arguing against the adoption of vouchers in Tennessee.
Here’s an excerpt providing some very good reasons why vouchers should be looked at skeptically by Tennessee lawmakers:
Voucher programs also struggle to achieve their mission of providing low-income students with a way out of failing schools. For example a critical study of the Milwaukee program found that it overwhelmingly helped those already receiving education through private means. Two thirds of Milwaukee students using the voucher program in the city already attended private schools. Instead of increasing mobility for low-income students, the program primarily served to perpetuate status quo.
Voucher programs have also caused to students inadvertently attending failing schools, thereby maintaining the very problem they are meant to solve. It’s often difficult to determine the quality of the schools serving voucher students because private schools are not required to make public the same amount of student data as public schools. An example of this occurring can be found right next door in Louisiana where approximately 2250 students were recently found to be attending failing schools through the state’s voucher program.
Alfuth writes from the perspective of a teacher at a charter school who supports much of the current education reform agenda, including expansion of school choice. His concerns about vouchers are reasonable, fair, and insightful.
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Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) recently released their 2014 legislative agenda. They have three key areas of focus for the upcoming legislative session.
1) Teacher Licensure. PET is asking for a straightforward, common sense appeal process to address concerns regarding the proposed changes to teacher licensure. PET has also been asking for the suspension of the use of TVAAS data until Common Core is fully implemented. The group also mentions a need to focus on teacher remediation and targeted professional development.
2) Student/Teacher Data. PET is seeking legislation that will ensure the privacy of both student and teacher data. Specifically, they want to ensure no personally identifiable data on students and their families religion, political affiliation, psychometric data, biometric information, or voting history is collected or otherwise tracked and that such data is not provided to either the federal government or private vendors. They are also seeking limits on who may access teacher evaluation data.
3) Testing. PET notes the “overuse of testing in our schools” as a key area of concern. While PET notes that testing comes with good intentions, the result of an increased focus on testing is now a “detriment to public education.” PET suggests policies that find a balance between the need to assess in order to gain knowledge about what’s working and what’s not working for kids and the over-reliance on tests for uses beyond their intended, useful purpose.
For more on Tennessee education policy and politics, follow us @TNEdReport