Please Ask the Right Question

Here is the wrong question: given that charters + vouchers only serve around 5% of students in the country, how can we fix school districts?

Here is the right question: is it more likely that (a) we can fix school districts or (b) scale effective charters + vouchers to serve the vast majority of students in this country?

Here is what I do know: if you don’t ask the right question, you’re odds of getting the right answer will decrease, perhaps to zero.

Here is what I don’t know: the answer to the right question.

No one does.

I believe both data and theory point to (b) being the right answer.

But, again, no one knows.

2 thoughts on “Please Ask the Right Question

  1. Spencer

    I spend a fair amount of time thinking about barriers to transformative scale and nonprofit governance.
    Obviously public money, students, teachers, buildings, school leaders, etc. are all, in the medium-term, able to redistribute themselves between district and charter governed public schools but I wonder where, along the road to charters handling big scale, we get enough good boards and board members.
    I’d be interested in learning 1) how NOLA (and other high-charter cities) handle this and 2) what people who have thought more about this think the magnitude of this problem is, and what solutions might be…
    Seems like that’s part of the answer to “the right question”…

  2. Ed Jones

    Yah, Neerav, not so much here. I’m with you on the power of charters and vouchers; and also with the intractability of many of our districts.

    Yet I fear you’ve spent too much time inside cities, and two little time in the rest of the nation–the part where most of us actually live.

    Much as charters and vouchers can help in many of our cities, it’s not a solution that will scale to include the ‘vast majority of students in this country’.

    Of the 611 school districts in Ohio, perhaps 50 are candidates for any charter movement? Less than half could offer a meaningful number of students a choice via vouchers as they’re generally known?

    Great way of putting it for the students most in need of deep change (e.g. Detroit, …). Taking the argument to all students though, overstates the potential.


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