Friday Reading List: WTF NYC and Edu News from Around the World

The team at Chalkbeat has a good "tick tock" of what went down in the NYC schools chancellor saga this week:

After a lengthy search, city officials had identified a top contender in Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, a rising star in education circles who would have been a high-profile get for the mayor. Almost two weeks ago, Carvalho was offered the job leading the nation’s largest school district. A week ago, after many conversations and clandestine trips to the city, Carvalho signaled he would take it. Then on Thursday, it all fell apart in dramatic fashion during a four-hour emergency school board meeting in Miami that was carried live on television.
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The appropriate response to this story is, "WTF?"

I don't have much to say about this imbroglio. The transparency required of public employment processes brings a lot of benefits, but in some cases - like searches for high profile chief executives - the transparency can be a liability. Humans change their minds, and in this case, that extremely natural tendency embarrassed a whole bunch of people.

Meanwhile, in Canada:

Overall, 30 percent of Canada’s schoolchildren are either immigrants themselves or have at least one parent born abroad. That’s compared with 23 percent of U.S. students who are immigrants or children of immigrants. Yet Canada has one of the highest performing education systems in the world as ranked by the Program for International Assessment, or PISA, test that 15-year-olds from more than 70 countries take. The United States’ rankings, by contrast, are mediocre.

That's Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week. I sometimes hear people making excuses for the performance of American schools on the basis of our diversity and heterogeneity. In the meantime, other countries - like Canada, for example - have comparable challenges and manage to outperform our public education system.

On the other hand, Sarah Butrymowicz of The Hechinger Report examines Sweden's school choice endeavors:

Sweden adopted a nationwide universal voucher program in 1992 as part of a series of reforms designed to give more control over education to towns and schools. Families can choose any school, public or private: Taxpayer money follows the student. This voucher system has led to a burgeoning industry of mostly for-profit, private schools, also called “free schools.” Two of the companies that run schools in Sweden are listed on the country’s stock exchange ... In 2000, Swedish students performed well-above average on an international test called the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). By 2012, they were below average in math, reading and science. Sweden had the steepest decline of any of any participating country over that time period.

It's hard to attribute the decline to the advent of the voucher program, but the correlation is hard to ignore. Naturally, the author draws comparisons between Sweden's policies and conservative efforts domestically to expand vouchers. The common theme is a lack of oversight. It is utterly predictable that privatizing schools would lead to less accountability, and anyone who argues otherwise is being disingenuous.

To wit, many conservative reformers argue that diminished oversight is a good thing. To be fair, some regulations and policies are useless, forcing educators to spend time on compliance, when they should be teaching. But Civil Rights enforcement requires regulations! Curbing racially biased discipline policies requires oversight. There's nothing inherently good about deregulation, just as there's no guarantee that changing the governance structure alone will improve the quality of public services.

Have a great weekend!