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Saturday, July 06, 2002

Voucher Wars-Den Beste had an interesting take on vouchers that shows off his optimistic curmudgeon streak in full bloom. He's a friendly skeptic on the issue, pointing out the problem areas. However, school choice, whether it include charter schools or vouchers for private schools, should improve options for the vast majority of kids
The dirty little secret of the educational system, which everyone knows and no-one wants to talk about, is that kids do not all have the same potential. Some kids are smarter than others. Some kids will absorb knowledge like a sponge; but on others all attempts at education will bounce off like rain on a newly-waxed car. If you take Johnny Genius from the top 5 percentile, and Danny Dullard from the bottom 5%, then Johnny Genius is going to outscore Danny Dullard on those tests no matter what educational environment each of them is in. Put Johnny Genius in a mediocre school and give Danny Dullard the best tutors that money can buy, and Johnny Genius will still get a higher score on the tests when evaluation day comes.
However, with more tailor-made schooling, we can give JG a better outlet for his skills in a more-challenging environment. With the right environment, we might get to get enough into DD's brain to make him a functional citizen rather than a drain on society. In the Midland area, there are charter schools for gifted kids (my niece is in one) and another for ADD kids. Den Beste was on the same wavelength: "Even Danny Dullard can benefit from a good learning environment and might even move up to just below the level of accomplishment of Mary Middle." If you want to see how private schools are doing, I would suggest longitudinal testing, seeing how much a school teaches given what the kids knew coming in . If a inner-city school's 8th grade kids started the year reading at an average of the 5th-grade level and ended the year reading at the 7th grade level, they would be accomplishing more than Blueblood Academy whose kids started at the 9th grade level and get to 10.25 at the end of the year.

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