by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Joseph Bast, Lindsey M. Burke, Andrew J. Coulson, Robert Enlow, Kara Kerwin, and Herbert J. Walberg published a must-read joint letter on school choice and accountability. Their letter, “Choosing to Learn: Increasing compliance to the state reduces accountability to parents,” appears on the National Review Online website.
Here is a sample passage:
Americans face a choice between two paths that will guide education in this nation for generations: self-government and central planning. Which we choose will depend in large measure on how well we understand accountability.
To some, accountability means government-imposed standards and testing, like the Common Core State Standards, which advocates believe will ensure that every child receives at least a minimally acceptable education. Although well-intentioned, their faith is misplaced and their prescription is inimical to the most promising development in American education: parental choice.
True accountability comes not from top-down regulations but from parents financially empowered to exit schools that fail to meet their child’s needs. Parental choice, coupled with freedom for educators, creates the incentives and opportunities that spur quality. The compelled conformity fostered by centralized standards and tests stifles the very diversity that gives consumer choice its value.
The concluding paragraph brings the message home.
Instead of imposing ineffective bureaucratic “accountability” on schools, our education system should ensure choice to all students so that every school is held truly and directly accountable to families. Policymakers then can dispense with rigid testing mandates, and all schools, public and private, will be free to serve their most important clients: families.
Kudos to Bast et al. for affirming the need to empower parents and use their choices as the basis for educational accountability.