Concord Superintendent Terri Forsten responded to a recent opinion piece in the Union Leader that touted SB 193, the bill that creates education freedom savings accounts in the state.
Here’s an excerpt:
First, a simple but critical point of clarification: Baker refers to a student who left bullying problems at “a Concord high school” for a private high school with the help of scholarship funds. While we celebrate his successes and wish him the very best, it’s important to note this student did not attend Concord High School, and was never enrolled as a student in the Concord School District.
This vague reference has led to confusion that is easy to correct, but I fear it has also played on a stereotype belief that private school is always a better choice than a public school.
There is always a challenge when someone offers their opinion based on a negative experience such as this case.
While I will not speculate or question the experiences of this student, it is not accurate to represent this case as the norm for all 176,500 students enrolled in New Hampshire public schools.
Baker writes that “the private school teachers go the extra distance and really love it.”
She quotes an 82 percent satisfaction rate from parent surveys, which implies a lack of satisfaction among parents of public school children.
Every teacher I know goes the extra mile; this is not the exclusive realm of private schools.
In addition, the research of Richard DuFour (who wrote “In Praise of American Education”) points to long lists of evidence showing that present-day schools have a much different scorecard than the assertions of public school critics.
For example, New Hampshire public schools today are seeing record-setting high school graduation rates, more students succeeding in rigorous classes through the New Hampshire Scholars program, steadily improving test scores, greater parent satisfaction, and improved student-teacher relations.
As an educator, I believe in all education — public, private, charter, home schooling, etc. I agree with Baker that we cannot expect outstanding results if we force everyone into a system where one size fits all.
However, education cannot devolve into a battle between the “haves” and the “have nots.”
Resources for some families will always outpace resources for others, and so we must work together to ensure all students receive a quality education.
To that end, educators should all have a level of public accountability and measurement that allows for equalized valuation.
So if all students, regardless of the location of their education, had to participate in a statewide assessment (NECAP, SAT, SBAC,) we could objectively review which programs, which systems, which schools are performing well.
As a result, we could share ideas and collaborate more for the good of all students. Without an objective measure, we cannot assure all students are getting the quality education they deserve. Baker’s program is clearly creating happy parents, and we trust the scholarships are going to schools that have the type of accountability that ensure results meet the expectations of parents.
These programs would undermine the funding of public schools, reducing resources for an increasingly at-risk student population.