How to make Tiffany special enough (“Who’s Looking Out for Tiffany,” 10/31):
Mark E.P. Roberts is right that expectations are just as important as resources in determining who gets a good public education. His experiences have been shared by many District families. Marva Collins, who founded her Westside Preparatory School in Chicago because she wouldn’t accept the public-school climate that “There’s only so much we can do for those kids,” once said to a difficult student, “Don’t worry. This is your last schoolI will not let you fail.”
Changing school climates that allow low expectations requires changing incentives for principals and teachers. When “funds follow the child” to the public school chosen for that child, each child becomes “special enough” for teachers to provide good education. If not, the parents will take the child and his or her “per pupil allotment” to a school that does have high expectations.
In addition to parental choice and funds following each child, lasting improvement in public education depends on independent groups to set standards and measure progress in student achievement. There are many ways to organize these tasks. In D.C., we are hindered by the home rule charter, which assigns both operating and monitoring responsibilities to the Board of Education and the trustees. Thus, we have had the same group providing education and inspecting itself since the Board of Education was founded in 1968. The control board repeated this mistake when it set up Gen. Becton as both “Chief State School Officer” and “DCPS Superintendent.”
It’s time to let DCPS concentrate on operating traditional public schools and to find a disinterested citywide group to do the monitoring and inspecting that is essential to achieving high-quality academic programs. Both traditional DCPS schools and the new public charter schools need this kind of monitoring. Having DCPS monitor both itself and the competing public charter schools is akin to having the fox guarding the hen house.
Let’s give schools the right incentives to meet parents’ high expectations through parental choice and funds following each and every child to his or her school of choice. And as good consumer advocates, let’s make sure that all parents can choose schools based on reliable information from independent groups that monitor all public education programs.