Can you imagine a federal law that promoted community schools — schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need?
Imagine schools that are open all day and offer after-school and evening recreational activities, child care and preschool, tutoring and homework assistance.
Schools that include dental, medical and counseling clinics.
This is a very slick way of selling the proposed expansion of the public sector (and the expansion of the unionized jobs controlled by Weingarten that expansion entails).
Telemarketers do the same thing: Let me tell you about this great new service x we're offering ... Doesn't that sound great? let me verify your address ... can I go ahead and sign you up?
Telemarketer Weingarten wants you to focus on, i.e., imagine, all these great services provided for "the neediest children" instead of focusing on whether these services will boost student achievement and whether schools are the best vehicle for providing these non-educational services.
Weingarten just wants us to assume she is right. But, she's not right. She's not even wrong.
The problem is that she has no real basis for concluding that having schools take over the provisioning of these services will lead to increased student achievement.
She doesn't have evidence that providing more of these services will lead to increased student achievement.
That's because the research doesn't exist. There are no real world examples of schools providing these services and student achievement having risen. We have nothing, but for Weingarten's pretty words.
Call me a cynic, but I don't have much faith that public sector schools, especially those with unionized labor, are capable of providing these non-educational services any better than they currently provide educational services.
As long as a student (1) learns things easily from technically unsound teacher presentations, (2) readily retains what has been learned with technically unsound practice afterwards, and (3) has a strong familial support structure in place to keep the student on track and make sure the student's learning is progressing, then the student stands a good chance of becoming educated in public schools. This is because this student can be educated in virtually any school. We don't need a public sector monopoly to provide educational services to these students; any fool is up to the task.
Whether we need a public sector monopoly for providing educational services for the remaining kids is debatable. There certainly is no evidence that the public sector provides these services any better than the private sector. And, they've had an awfully long time trying to get their game together. Too long, maybe. It appears that they've given up. But for a few reformers, the present consensus, reflected in Weingarten's speech, is that students need to change for there to be improvement in student achievement. So Weingarten's idea is for schools to take over all the social services that they believe affect student achievement.
This is what we're supposed to be imagining -- allowing a dysfunctional monopoly to take over responsibilities outside of its core function. That makes little sense.
I find it easier to imagine just the opposite -- taking away the monopoly powers for providing educational services we've given to the public sector.
I'll print out this blog post and eat if, if anyone can provide a good reason why we shouldn't. The comments are open.
Update: Commenter Oldtimer informs us that the Cincinnati Public School stem has a school that provides all the social services Weingarten is advocating and has yet to show any improvement.