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					                                     Chapter 10
                Educational Reform: The Role of Incentives and Choice

Activity 10.1            School Choice Debate

Type:                    In-class presentations and debate
Topics:                  school choice, markets, incentives, choices
Materials:               Timer (stopwatch or kitchen timer)
Time:                    One class
Class limitations:       Works best in classes with fewer than 50 students

PURPOSE

This activity will help students examine and participate in the school choice debate and suggest
possible solutions.

As college students, your students have recently experienced the education system. They have
firsthand knowledge of the system, and they might have strong opinions on what needs to be
changed.

INSTRUCTIONS AND POINTS FOR DISCUSSION

Before students come to class, ask them to read the chapter and review information found at the
following Web sites:

                                   Educational Reform – Internet Resources

A Citizen’s Guide to Education Reform                   http://www.schoolchoices.org/index.html
The Center for Education Reform                         http://edreform.com/
National Center for Policy Analysis                     http://www.ncpa.org/pi/edu/feb98f.html
Freedom Network: Education                              http://www.free-market.net/directorybytopic/education/
Education Policy Institute                              http://www.educationpolicy.org/
National Education Association                          http://www.nea.org/

At the beginning of the class period, divide the students into three groups. Each group represents
a different viewpoint on educational reform. One group will represent the viewpoint that the
education system does not need to be changed. The second group will advocate for a free market
in education. The final group will represent the viewpoint that the education system needs only
incremental changes, like high stakes testing and curriculum improvement. As the instructor, you
will represent the person with the authority to make the decision of how to reform the education
system.

Once students are divided into groups, ask each group to deliberate about the incentives that
motivate members of the group they represent and make a list of these incentives. After five to
ten minutes of deliberation, tell students to prepare a brief argument (three main points) regarding
what, if anything, should be done to reform the education system. Give them about twenty
minutes to prepare their statements. At the end of this twenty minutes, have a representative from
each group present their argument. The degree of formality in this presentation is up to you, but
students may be most comfortable presenting from their desks. Limit the presentations to 10
minutes or less. If time permits, you can ask questions of each representative. After hearing the
three statements, make your decision. Your decision can be based solely on the arguments the
students presented, or you may rely on your own beliefs and biases.

Note: If class size warrants, you can make a fourth group that will be the decision makers. While
the other groups are preparing their presentations, this group should prepare two or three
questions for each of the other groups. In this scenario, you will need to closely watch the time
for presentations and possibly limit the presentations to 5-8 minutes.


Activity 10.2            Privatized Public Education – Can it Work in the U.S.?

Type:                    In-class discussion
Topics:                  school choice, privatization
Materials:               None
Time:                    20-30 minutes
Class limitations:       None

PURPOSE

It looks good on paper, but will it work?

This is the type of question that has been the one barrier keeping good ideas from becoming
reality. In this activity, students consider the feasibility of implementing privatization of public
education in the United States.

INSTRUCTIONS AND POINTS FOR DISCUSSION

This activity is a basic class discussion. Students will need to know the difference between state -
operated public education and privatized public education in order to intelligently discuss this
issue. First, lay the foundation for the school choice discussion by making sure students
understand the idea of these concepts.

Ask students:

1) What is a state-owned enterprise?

A state-owned enterprise is one that is owned by the state, i.e., an industry, good, or service that
is owned and operated by the government.

2) Can you think of an example of a state -owned enterprise in the United States ? Outside
of the United States?

The current education system is an example of a state owned enterprise in the United States.
Other examples exist in China and India.

3) What does it mean to “privatize” an industry or service?

State owned enterprises are “privatized” when the government steps out of the provision of
industry, good or service and private sector firms step in.
4) Can you think of an industry that was previously state owned but is now privatized?

There are many examples abroad as China and other nations privatize some or all of their state-
owned enterprises.

5) Can you think of a state -owned enterprise that was previously private?

These examples are also more evident abroad. Transportation services have gone between being
state owned and private industries in some countries. Also see many of the SOEs in China.

The main point of the discussion, however, is this: Can privatized education work in the
United States?

Use these questions to guide that discussion:

1) How is a privatized education system different from the current education system?

In a privatized education system, the schools will compete with each other for clients (students)
like any firm in the private sector. The current education system stifles this type of competition.

2) What are the basic values of the current public education system?

The current public education system is concerned with equal opportunity and education for all,
regardless of socioeconomic status, race, background, etc.

3) Can these values be maintained in a privatized education system?

This should be an interesting discussion. Will private education system be for-profit or non-
profit? Does this make a difference in the ability to maintain these values? Should these values
be maintained?

4) How would a privatized education system be implemented?

Answers will vary. This, too, could be an interesting discussion. For guidance, students may
want to investigate how other state-owned enterprises are privatized. They should also consider
how firms operate compared to how government agencies operate.

5) What are the potential advantages and disadvantages of a private education system?

The potential advantages and disadvantages of a private education system are endless. Students
should consider the aspects of competition, profit, standards for achievement, and equal
opportunity (for starters).

				
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