Thursday, October 16, 2008

Say no to vouchers

In last night's final presidential debate, John McCain raised the subject of school vouchers as a solution in Washington DC.  Unfortunately, Sen. Obama did not refute the argument as strongly as many of us would have liked.  

Vouchers are essentially government funded scholarships that enable some poor kids to attend private schools.  They are different from charter schools, which are essentially public schools outsourced to private companies.  (The two are often confused.)

Vouchers are one of those political talking points that sound great in theory:  give poor kids a chance to go to private schools instead of failing public schools.  In reality, this equates to spending precious funds to add a couple more lifeboats to the Titanic rather than spending that money to save the ship from sinking.  McCain (as Bush before him) touted how the millions of dollars spent in DC gave a few thousand kids the opportunity to attend private schools.  And what about the other kids in the failing schools?  Perhaps this policy approach should be called "Tens of Thousands of Children Left Behind".

There are many other issues raised by the idea of sending public tax dollars to private schools:

- Private schools get to decide who they admit or not.   They are not mandated to accept special education kids or English language learners.  They can deny admission to any "difficult" kids.   They can use criteria like athletic skills, if they like.

- Private schools do not have the same government regulations and oversight as public schools.  No "No Child Left Behind" rules.  No WASL.  No standards for curriculum.  

- Many private schools don't need the money.  They may not have billion dollar endowments like Exeter, but many have scholarship funds already in place since they understand the value of diversity (including economic diversity) in their student population.   In general, private schools are able to charge more per student than government per-student funding for public schools, and they can usually raise more money in their fund drives.  (All this while they have the ability to use admission requirements to limit children who are the most expensive to educate.)  You certainly don't hear of many private schools who are so short on funds that they are forced to consider 4 day schools weeks.

This is not intended to be a rant against private schools.  Many private schools do great work for the children they serve.  Many are very generous to their communities.   Many serve specific needs, like faith-based curriculum.  Not all are wealthy.  Parents should maintain the right to educate their children where they want.  But on the subject of vouchers I believe the answer is clear:   Public dollars (more, not less) should be spent on public schools, fulfilling the promise in our country so central to the future health of our society:  that all children deserve a quality education.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Bravo Andrew.

Public education is the backbone of everything this country is. If we turn our backs on public schools and throw our hands up and say, "It can't be done.", then we're done.

“Education and the Next President,” a live debate from Teachers College, Columbia University, with Linda Darling-Hammond, education adviser to Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, and Lisa Graham Keegan, education adviser to Republican nominee John McCain. The event is being exclusively Webcast by edweek.org with generous support from the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Date: October 21, 2008Time: 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PSTDuration: 90 minutes

I think you can still register to hear the webcast.

Anonymous said...

Re: vouchers.
Why should those who can afford private/move to a nicer neighborhood, be the only ones to get a choice of schools?
Vouchers- Pro/Con

Jet City mom said...

From Andrew's post

You certainly don't hear of many private schools who are so short on funds that they are forced to consider 4 day schools weeks.

and from that link

The shortened week at Webster also brought unexpected benefits such as improved attendance and a boost in student performance.

dan dempsey said...

I am not be a big fan of vouchers, as I think some of this is situation dependent.

What I do think is that Sen. Obama is really headed in the wrong direction with Jeanne Century as an education advisor. Looking at the direction he took the $500 million Annenberg grant in Chicago that he chaired, gives me little faith in Federal Education direction.

Fed Ed direction needs to be improved or eliminated. NCLB may have a few good points but overall we have a mess.

Bergeson is wrong when she says that we must have our WASL. We really could use a test that can be compared with other states. When Semler was running he advocated for the MAP ( Measures of Academic Progress test).
The MAP would be satisfying the Fed requirement for NCLB right now but Dr Bergeson refused to submit the permission for the Feds to do an examination and peer-review of the MAP test.

Another reason to ditch "my way or the highway Bergeson" as SPI.

anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with what Andrew so eloquently outlines to be the outcome of vouchers, which is a loss of funding to public schools, ultimately resulting in sub quality public schools.

However, I also see Emeraldkitys side too. Why should only affluent families be able to send their children to private schools? Why should they be the only ones with choice?

Jet City mom said...

Totally agree with ditching Bergeson- I don't think I ever voted for her in the first place.

Where Do Public School Teachers Send Their Kids to School?

( known many in Seattle - including principals whose kids were in private- which is their right of course)

"We support a teacher's right to choose a private school. "We simply ask them to support the same freedom for low-income families."
Howard Fuller


Unknown said...

As a parent of preschoolers, I have to say I live in the land of marketplace driven free school choice, and I just have to say --- it's not working!

I pay a mint to send one kid to a preschool that I consider of middling quality. For the other kid, I've yet to find a place with a full time open seat, and I've been trying for more than a year.

Just giving families fat checks to pay for private schools doesn't mean that high quality private schools miraculously spring from the ground to accept a swell of new students.

I find anyone who suggests otherwise lacking in credibility. If they were in touch with parents real world experiences they would never broach such a laughable suggestion.

Charlie Mas said...

I totally agree with emeraldkity. Why should only the affluent be able to send their children to private schools?

I'll go further - why should only the affluent be able to live in big houses in great neighborhoods? Why should only the affluent have safe, reliable, late model cars? Why should only the affluent be able to travel abroad? Why should only the affluent be able to drink fine wines and eat gourmet foods? Why should only the affluent be able to go golfing and skiing and play polo? Why should only the affluent get cosmetic surgery?

Why should the affluent and only the affluent have anything at all that isn't available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay for it?

reader said...

Do vouchers really allow a few poor students to attend better private schools? It seems to me that vouchers really just knock a few thousand dollars off of a gigantic tuition: (eg 12 to 25 thousand here in Seattle). Vouchers simply make really expensive educations a little less expensive for the already-affluent. Why bother with that? Let the already-affluent pay their full freight at the private school. And of course, there are already scholarships available at the Lakesides.... why should the government subsidize the scholarships the Lakesides are already doing on their own?

Jet City mom said...

I was under impression that vouchers are used as total tuition- for a few slots- much as there are a few low income rentals available in high end condos.

Jet City mom said...

About 64 percent of Milwaukee students who used vouchers to enter ninth grade at 10 private schools in 1999 graduated from high school four years later, compared with 36 percent of students in public schools, the study found. The study's author, Jay P. Greene, said it adds to a growing body of research demonstrating that school vouchers have led to improved academic outcomes for students, particularly low-income and minority students in failing school systems.

what we have been doing- isn't working for many students- how much more time and money must we spend while we watch kids age out of the system-

anonymous said...

OK so 64% of the students that took advantage of vouchers graduated VS 34% who stayed in public school. I have to wonder if this is the same thing that happens with choice right now. All of the kids with involved families research all of the schools and make the best choices for their kids, even sending them across town sometimes. What does that leave in the schools they shunned? All of the kids with uninvolved families, who did not research, and are satisfied assigning them to the neighborhood school no matter it's state or offerings. When you look at performance, you will see how this correlates. Look at the graduation rate at Roosevelt and Hale VS Cleveland and RBHS. Look at test scores at Salmon Bay and Hamilton VS Aki Kurose and Denny.

Would vouchers exasperate this problem for us?

Many involved families already leave their neighborhood schools by way of choice. If even more families leave the public school system altogether by way of vouchers, who would be left in the struggling neighborhood schools?

Would this hurt or help our situation? If the schools remained open and continued to limp along and offer a sub par education to their remaining students it would hurt. On the other hand if it forced the district to improve these schools or even close some of them it might actually be helpful?

Jet City mom said...

l. I have to wonder if this is the same thing that happens with choice right now

If the school isn't functioning to meet the students needs- it is not going to matter how involved parents are. I have mentioned before how I quit my job to be in my kids school everyday. I was chair of parent board- the school was receiving extra money because my child had an IEP.

Still this school let my child fall between the cracks.
When I changed her to a different school after making every effort to get the first school to work, she began to excel,( without IDEA $) but first she had to make up the holes that her six years in the first school had caused.
Nothing currently exists in SPS to remedy that for students- little repercussions for programs that aren't adaquate until those original kids are long gone.

anonymous said...

Class of 75 this is exactly what I was talking about. You chose to go to Summit. You chose to stick it out even when you knew the school was not meeting your daughters needs. You finally chose to leave Summit and go to a better school. You utilized choice to its fullest extent.

But what happened to Summit when you left? One more involved family gone. One less involved family to hold the school accountable.

When to many involved families leave what remains? Look at the state Summit is in now. In threat of being closes, in Stage 3 of NCLB, some of the lowest WASL scores in the district. Then look at Garfield the school you left Summit for. HIgh test scores, one of the most popular schools in the city, home to the APP students.

Is this the repercussion of choice? And, if so what will vouchers do to to improve the already deteriorating situation? As I said choice would work if the district took it upon themselves to intervene when a school is under enrolled and/or under performing, but they don't, they haven't, and I don't have any reason to believe they will in the future. They just let them limp along at the expense of our students.

reader said...

It is a bit ironic that all the same people who favor, actually, insist on, choice, are the same ones opposed to vouchers. Vouchers are an extension of choice. And choice has its downside (along with upside). Choice, like vouchers, allows schools to opt out of serving difficult students. It's families that make the schools good or bad, so choice just leaves the poor families behind and "unchosen".

anonymous said...

"Choice, like vouchers, allows schools to opt out of serving difficult students."

Can you explain this? How are public schools opting out of serving difficult students?

I know families can opt out of sending their child to a specific school, but as far as I know a school can't opt out of serving a student, except in certain situations such as where special programs are required (like an autism program or ESL etc)

Dorothy Neville said...

"Choice, like vouchers, allows schools to opt out of serving difficult students."

Can you explain this? How are public schools opting out of serving difficult students?

One example. When my son was in kindergarten and teacher was hostile and abusive towards him, (He had absolutely no behavior issues. His only crime was that he could already read chapter books, write short stories and had mastered K-2 arithmetic standards) she and the principal could be as wacko as they wanted because they knew I would just leave. I had choice and I would use it rather than make my son be a pawn. That's not exactly what you mean and is not my example. In looking for alternatives for my son, I discovered another child.

When I called AE2 to see if I could observe their K class (this was November) I discovered that there already was a student there who had begun the year with my son at Bryant. In his case, he had a summer birthday and was on the immature end (but not wildly so). The Bryant teacher had told his parents to take him away. She said he needed to stay home another year; she didn't want him. Completely illegal, in my opinion, as he was of legal age to start kindergarten. If she didn't like his behavior, it was her job as a teacher to work on his behavior, to get help if he needed extra help, but to simply wash her hands of him...

The parents removed him but instead of keeping him home another year, they used choice and enrolled him at AE2. I spent a morning in that classroom, and as far as I could tell, he was just a wee bit on the immature behavior side, nothing that screamed a need for intervention or being held back. Nothing that a qualified and competent kindergarten teacher would find unusual or an insurmountable challenge.

I have spoken with many other parents over the years with similar sorts of issues. Teachers and principals simply telling parents to leave. Find another school.

anonymous said...

Dorothy your examples do not show that schools can opt out of serving kids. A teacher that says you should have kept your child home another year, while perhaps over stepping her boundary, is not opting out of serving your child. A hostile and abusive teacher should have been reported to administration and higher up the chain if necessary. This is an example of a bad teacher, not a school legally or officially opting out of serving a difficult child.

Please show an example of how choice allows a school to legally and/or officially opt out of serving difficult children.

Dorothy Neville said...

Ralph I did not say that schools *can* opt out of serving children, I said that they *do* opt out.

As for taking the abuse up the chain. Yawn. Been there, done that. Already described it here, the result is that Beth commented *if* that happened, that was bad. As if I might have been making it up, so she didn't have to truly believe that that sort of thing really happens. (Both Melissa and Charlie know me in person and, I believe, do not doubt my story.) And I even gave the board three minutes of testimony. What happened? Zip. Well, most likely unrelated, a couple years later, the principal actually did have her contract non-renewed. I believe she's a principal in another district. The abusive teacher? t.e.n.u.r.e.

Dorothy Neville said...

To clarify. I don't think that choice causes teachers and principals to opt out of serving challenging kids, but I do think it makes it easier to maintain a culture of opting out, of pushing the parent to take the child somewhere else.

If a school were expected to serve all the students in a particular neighborhood, then it would be much harder for teachers to justify blatantly telling parents to move the child somewhere else.

anonymous said...

I find Dorothy's comments amusing. I had a child at AEII and decided to move her because I found that the school was full of over sensitive parents that needed excess coddling, and it was full of difficult kids with behavior and respect issues. It was a chaotic mess of a place to say the least.

I for one am so glad we have choice, so these types of families and children have a place to go and be with others like themlselves. It's like a school support group for troubled families, honestly.

However, I have to disagree with Dorothy on the schools opting out of serving her kid. It was she who opted out of the schools, not the school opting out on her. It appears from her perspective that everyone is out to get her and her kid... several teachers, the principal, the administration. Wow. She yawns at the thought of complaining to administration and going up the ladder because (I'm guessing) she thinks that they are all in on the conspiracy to keep her kids out of THEIR schools. They can't do it legally, so they just all conspire to make her and her child's life so miserable they will leave. Arggg.

anonymous said...

And by the way a teacher has every right to say that a child might best be served by staying home another year, if they see that a child really isn't mature enough to handle being in class. You certainly know your child and don't have to take their advice, but there is absolutely nothing illegal about a teacher expressing her professional option with a parent.

I truly think it is you that has a chip on your shoulder, and are not open to hearing anything you don't want to hear. You must be a very difficult parent to work with.

Dorothy Neville said...

Ralph and SeattleMom are confusing two stories.

My son was treated abusively. Both the principal and the school counselor, when talking to me privately, acknowledged that. At the SIT meeting, however, they changed their tune and said that if my son stayed at that school, he would have to stay with that particular teacher. The one that privately they agreed was not serving him well. My son left. My point was that I did go up the chain and the chain didn't care. And after looking at AE2, I decided not to send my son there.

The story of the young child "kicked out" of one school is not my son, just a child I encountered when I visited a school. Sure, a teacher can say that she thinks a child would be better served by waiting a year, but if the parents disagree, then it is the district's responsibility to serve the child. A parent has the right to opt to wait a year, but the schools do not have the right to make a child of legal age stay home. If the child is there and needs extra services, then it is the responsibility of the school to provide that. The culture of choice means that sometimes the schools do not feel this obligation, they can too easily tell the parents that the only choices are find another school or stay home. There ought to be a third choice, that the school will do what it can to educate the child. I was not there when these parents were confronted by the teacher. I just have the version that both the AE2 principal and the AE2 kindergarten teacher told me. It does fit thematically with several other stories I have heard from parents --- being told that the school is not going to accommodate their student, they should leave. I can think of at least four stories off the top of my head. All relatively minor behavior issues or relatively minor learning disabilities, teachers and principals hostile to working with the child. Suggested/hinted/told the parents to look elsewhere.

I do like choice, but I do see this as an unintended consequence.

Dorothy Neville said...

More stories. I heard all these directly from the mom. Some from informal chat after a PTSA meeting, some from moms I knew from preschool or elsewhere.

Two different cases, both elementary but not kindergarten. Parent says: my child is being bullied. Teacher/principal response: well, your child is immature/has a difficult personality so is a bully magnet. I suggest you move your child to a different school.

Two different cases, one elementary, one middle. Parent says child has a specific, diagnosed learning difficulty, something that just needs some specific targeted accommodations. Principal: we don't do that. Go elsewhere.

Now for a completely different story from a friend whose family very much believed in parochial education. One child developed a mental illness that was causing some behavior problems. Private school said go away. Parents reluctantly and fearfully enrolled child in local Seattle public elementary. First thing the principal did was call every possible person in for a SIT and the message was clear. Here is a child that needs help and how can we all work together to make it work. After a spring and summer from hell, that mom was so amazed and grateful. Last I heard things were still working out. Sometimes public school teachers and staff take their job very seriously.

anonymous said...

"The story of the young child "kicked out" of one school is not my son"

Lets be very clear here Dorothy. Was this child "kicked out" of their school, as in expelled? Expulsion is a formal proceeding with a strict set of protocol and guidelines to follow. Or did a teacher merely suggest the child might do better at another (perhaps alternative) school? These are two very different scenarios and you should be very very clear. If it was the latter where a teacher made a suggestion the parent is free to either take the advice or leave it. They are not "kicked out" of the school at all. With an expulsion the child is actually "kicked out", and has no choice. Which was it? Just FYI, I looked at Bryant's expulsions over the past 5 years and they have not had one.

Next Dorothy says "At the SIT meeting, however, they changed their tune and said that if my son stayed at that school, he would have to stay with that particular teacher."

It doesn't sound like in your case your child was "kicked out" either. Note you say that the staff said your child was welcome to stay at school but he must remain with the teacher. Again, this it sounds like they were GIVING YOU A CHOICE.

Please Dorothy, take some responsibility for your actions, and stop pointing the finger at everybody else.

Jet City mom said...

But what happened to Summit when you left?

Should I care? Am I responsible for how a district employee does their job?
How much time, energy and money am I expected to expend?

Perhaps if the strong cohort of parents who ended up beating a dead horse had left earlier- enmasse, that could have altered the district that intervention was needed- because a few teachers and parents aren't enough to turn the school around.

Conversely- we did not turn to Garfield because they had AP classes, rather because they had a reputation of responsive staff and leadership.

It wasn't the students from the APP middle school program that made a difference.
It was that accountability was expected from everyone in the building. Can I tell you how refreshing it was to have the principal return emails the same day or at most 2 days later, when at a much smaller school- I had not ever experienced that courtesy?

I see vouchers or charter schools as one possible way to influence increased accountability in SPS.
As a parent, I learned I have little influence otherwise.

Dorothy Neville said...

Hey, there's a reason I put "kicked out" in quotes. I was using the quotes for specific ironic intentions.

No, that child was not kicked out, he was "kicked out". The story I heard was that the teacher specifically said that he wasn't ready for school and should stay home. The parents, instead, enrolled him in a different school.

See, this is all the sort of nuanced thing that can be interpreted different ways. People then judge how they personally feel about choice, assignment plans, vouchers, tenure, etc all based on their experience and how they interpret experiences of others.

Sure, I could have left my son at that school, in a classroom where the principal and counselor privately agreed that he was being abused. I did have that choice. I posit that the school was able to offer me only that choice because they knew I'd walk if that were the only choice. There would be no consequence for them. It was after the October One headcount, they both privately expressed frustration with that particular teacher, it was easiest for them if I left instead of having my son placed in another classroom. Because believe me, if my kid got moved within the school, there would have been a line at that principal's door so fast...

Same thing with the kids being bullied or who were some hassle to serve appropriately. The kids weren't officially kicked out, the parents were pretty much given an ultimatum that nothing was going to change for the better if you stay, consider leaving.

I also have several friends for whom a SIT and other positive interventions were taken seriously by staff. Where the school did not think that moving schools was the answer, but wanted to make things work. I believe, I'd like to believe, that those are the norm. But the not-so-pleasant stories are real.

So, how much is this attitude of not having to serve everyone because you can push parents to leave fostered by our system of lots of choice? I don't know. What I do believe is that the more we move towards things like vouchers and/or charter schools, the more chances for that sort of thing to occur.

AutismMom said...

Students with disabilities are routinely discouraged from attending neighborhood schools, even if these schools have the resources to serve the particular child in question. That is, if the principal thinks the kid might be challenging, he/she tells you to go somewhere else to get rid of you... or else your child will suffer. It's called "site based management". They are also discouraged from listing these schools on their IEP's. "you'll be sorry." I know. I have been actively discriminated against in my own neighborhood... even when our neighborhood school would have been able to serve my child. The principal (Lawton), in my own neighborhood, told me to go somewhere else... even though she had 0 knowledge of my child... or my child's potentential and strengths. She acted just like our neighborhood school was a private school. Guess what? I don't want to send my child to a school where they are not wanted... even though it is active discrimination, illegal, and is a systemic problem that should be fixed. Sure, I'll take the really expensive option to bused to another school in that case. But now, the situation is different because that this principal is gone... and the current principal has treated us with nothing but great respect when we've enrolled in special summer prgrams at this school. But now, we're not transfering back.

It really isn't much different than what Andrew describes as the attributes and pitfalls of "vouchers".

Ralph, indeed, schools go to great lengths to "opt out" of serving kids. They make mountains out of mole-hills, to try and rid themselves of the slightest challenge or incovenience... and why not? If they are a popular ("chosen") school, they have no incentive to serve everyone... or to do a good job with everyone. Why not make it difficult for kids they'd rather not serve? Why not make tell kids who you suspect, possibly, maybe could be difficult... there are 100 more on the waitlist.... mostly easy kids.

And you know, Seattle_Mom, arguing over semantics doesn't change anything. If the school actively doesn't want your kid... it doesn't matter if "they gave you a choice to go elsewhere" or "they expelled you". Clearly, you haven't walked in this person's shoes. This is a real problem, that shouldn't be brushed off just because you haven't experienced it.

Jet City mom said...

Why should the affluent and only the affluent have anything at all that isn't available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay for it?

Charlie-our daughter attended the same school as the scions of Medina ( albeit she is a few years older than they)
We also found that when she looked at colleges, public schools, even instate universities, were more expensive than attending a private college- even though tuition for that college was $37,000 & she had a private dorm room.

They met 100% of her need & the instate public schools do not.

So we were bemused to find that we could afford to send her to a private college, while families with four times the income & assets found that since their need was higher, they were expected to pay more- but since instate was more inline with their budget, that is where their kids went.

But I guess that proves your point- the affluent don't have anything, that is worth having, that isn't available to anyone else.
or was that TIC?

anonymous said...

Class of 75 can you please explain the post above to me, I don't think I'm getting it? How was the private school tuition lower than in state public University of Community College? Did you receive a scholarship based on your income? And in what areas was the private college able to meet your child's needs that a public University like UW or WSU couldn't? Thanks

Jet City mom said...

Imagine your EFC ( Expected Family Contribution) arrived at by the FAFSA ( Free Application for Federal Student Aid)- is roughly equivalent to instate costs , say $15,000.

Instate schools rarely offer much aid besides self help, even for National Merit Scholars, which she was not.
At the instate schools she was offered non- subsidized loans- that was it.

She would have had to dorm with at least two people- a disadvantage for many students, but especially for her because of her learning challenges, including ADD.

She wasn't given work study, which meant she would have had to find a job to pay her personal expenses and books from money that would be added to her income to figure financial aid for the next year.

So the amount that we had to pay for her to attend the UW would have been at least$15,000 and the next year possibly higher because her off campus job would have been added to available income for tuition.

At the private school, while they do not offer merit aid through the school ( although for returning students, there are dedicated scholarships by private funds), they also use the CSS/PROFILE, to determine need- identifying not only additional funds ( like home equity) but additional need ( like medical bills ).

They used the EFC of $13,000 so right off the bat, it saved $2,000.

Additionally, she had small loans that were federally subsidized, work study money, for a job that would be deducted from income available for school expenses & the rest was covered with a grant from the school.

Her needs and interests other than financial were also better met than at the UW. ( I am assuming- since she didn't apply- although the other schools she applied to were public)

She was assigned a single room, to aid with studying. ( most dorm rooms in her college were singles/ divided-doubles/triples).
She had the opportunity to work with an organizational coach every week, participate in an ADD support group ( which she ended up co-leading) and have small classes that allowed her to really participate.Often only 13-15 students ( support services are part of tuition)

As a first generation college, she was eligible to have a mentor to assist her in ways that her family could not, she went on to become a mentor for other students .

Academically, she appreciated the structure of her college. Hum110 is required of all freshmen & her dorm mates often studied together in the common room-
Since she wasn't eligible for suitable programs in SPS and hadn't taken any AP classes, having friends with more experience at managing breadth of courses, instead of just depth was a help I think.

I'm sure if she had attended the UW, she would have done fine- especially if she would have taken the first two years at a strong community college- like EDCC where I am currently attending.
But freshman level classes of several hundred, classes that are meant to weed people out, like O-chem ( which she had to take for her biology degree) and just the sheer size of the UW, would have made it a very different experience.

I never knew any of this when she was in middle school. While I had hoped that she would attend college, I barely had heard of her school ( Reed College), until a neighbor who was an alum, had mentioned that he had received good aid to attend. Then it was on our radar as a college for " quirky" students.

( finaid.org is an excellent website that explains financial aid)
sorry to go off topic- but I like to share the info that I have collected.
I am a big booster of her school- for more stats from Reed

hschinske said...

Wow. I have always had a high opinion of Reed, but your story adds a new dimension. Thanks for sharing it.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reed is one of 40 colleges profiled in a book "Colleges That Change Lives" by Loren Pope. Mr. Pope is on a mission to get people to think beyond their in-state schools or the Ivy League. These are smaller, more personalized schools that truly sound wonderful. It may seem daunting to parents but there are many, many colleges and universities and ways to find the one that will be the best fit for your student.