EDITORIAL: School voucher doesn't guarantee quality

2013-08-28T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: School voucher doesn't guarantee quality nwitimes.com
August 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Parents who use school vouchers must do what's right for their children, but don't automatically assume a private school is better without doing your homework.

Indiana's school voucher program, now in its third year, has more than 9,300 students using vouchers across the state. The vouchers are particularly popular in Northwest Indiana.

In this area, Ambassador Academy in Gary and St. Stanislaus School in East Chicago have drawn the most vouchers.

Nearly 60 percent of the 258 students at St. Stanislaus are using vouchers, according to Principal Mary Jane Bartley.

An expansion in Indiana's voucher law this year allowed some families already attending the school to become eligible for vouchers. Last year, the school had 114 students using vouchers.

"Children who were in an F school can be accepted here on a voucher," Bartley said "We have several schools with an F rating. Parents who live in those districts can also be accepted on a voucher."

St. Stanislaus was rated as a D school on that same grading system, although the year before it was an A.

The scandal involving that A-F grading system means it might not be the most reliable measure — at least not yet — for evaluating schools.

Instead, parents should look at their child's individual needs and at the offerings of the various schools open to that child.

Determine whether the child will be served better by smaller class sizes — meaning more individual attention — or the broader curriculum a larger school might offer.

Decide how important religious instruction, additional foreign languages or performing arts options, among other course offerings, are for your child. If sports or other extracurricular offerings are important for your child, consider those as well.

And by all means, research the school's past academic performance to see whether it's better or worse than other options available for your child.

The last thing you want to do is to automatically assume one school — public or private — is better or worse than another without first doing your homework on the various schools your child might attend.

A voucher is an aid, not a magic wand.

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