New educational opportunities for our children

Growing awareness that the current US K-12 education system is producing dismal results and that incremental strategies to reform it (smaller class sizes, additional graduation requirements, etc.) have not made much of a difference. Bolder alternatives, including ones that overturn yesterday’s axioms and power relations, are now conceivable. The growing recognition that “one size fits all” education does not work very well in our pluralistic democracy. As people demanded additional options, new types of schools emerged along with new ways to allow families to choose between them. Some of these innovative schools are not only better suited to America’s varied educational needs, but the parent-choice marketplace also helps hold parents accountable for student achievement. This reasoning, of course, is familiar from the old voucher debate, but it is no longer just a matter of discussion.

People who want to leave the decaying and overcrowded public school continent to improve their lives and the prospects for children on the newer islands are less willing to be told they must stay. Polls show growing support for school choice. More Americans are now for than against allowing parents to send their school-age children to any public, private, or church-related school they choose at government expense. Up to three-fifths of public school parents say they would change their child’s school if they could afford it. With some 56 million youth currently enrolled in US public schools, that means tens of millions of families are potential candidates for choice programs.

Seismic shifts can be seen in the organizational arrangements of public and private businesses of all kinds, changes designed to make them more productive and efficient. On the public side, this is sometimes called “reinventing government.” It includes outsourcing, decentralization, and new incentives and accountability mechanisms. In both sectors, the goal is to achieve better results (satisfied customers, higher production, higher achievement, etc.) with fewer wasted resources. Although this organizational revolution is slowly permeating K-12 education, it is clearly beginning to do so. These developments create a healthy environment for different types of schools to emerge and for people to demand the freedom, and the means, to take advantage of new educational opportunities for their children. By our count, the current educational map contains, in addition to the traditional public and private institutions, a dozen other forms of schools and schooling.

1. Specialized schools. Generally district-based, these are purpose-built specialized schools with particular themes or emphases: music and art, science and technology, Hispanic cultures, etc. The first imams were primarily intended to integrate schools by drawing young people to distant classrooms without compulsory transportation. But magnets now serve multiple purposes. In fact, some communities have converted all of their schools to magnet schools, thus supporting comprehensive public school choice programs.

2. Alternative Schools: Developed primarily for difficult-to-educate and misbehaving youth, these are not so much parent-selected schools as district-selected schools for children who are struggling in “regular” classrooms. Most often they are high schools with low student-teacher ratios, modified curricula, and flexible schedules.

3. Charter Schools: From back-to-basics to Montessori methods to schools for disabled children, with a hundred other models in between, charter schools are a fascinating hybrid: public schools with some features of private schools. As public institutions, they are open to all who wish to attend, are paid for with tax dollars, and are accountable to public authorities for their performance (especially student achievement) and decent behavior (eg, nondiscrimination). . Today, charter schools straddle the line between being a marginal option for a relative handful of disaffected families and becoming a major source of educational alternatives for millions of children.

4. Homeschooling. Historically, homeschoolers were religious families dissatisfied with the public school curriculum and uncomfortable with (or unable to afford) private schools. Lately, more parents cite reasons like mediocrity in the public school system. An intriguing variant involves young people attending school part-time and being taught at home part-time.

5. Schools within schools: There is no reason why a single school building should contain a single educational program. By including more than one program in the same building, it is easier to offer instructional alternatives without worrying about bricks and mortar. It also reduces the risk; if the new program doesn’t work, students can be reabsorbed into regular classrooms.

6. Mini-schools. Schools with some of the freedoms of charter schools but also with distinctive curricular themes and the intimate scale so absent from regular City public high schools.

7. Technical preparation schools. The concept is especially suitable for young people more interested in jobs than academics.

8. After School Schools: Partly due to changes in family patterns and work schedules, and partly due to dissatisfaction with regular schools, more and more families (and churches, community organizations, etc.) they complement the education of children with a wide range of programs. and offerings. Some resemble the “juku” (crash schools) of Japan. Many are not-for-profit, but some of the fastest growing ones are owned by commercial companies.

9. Own schools. Today, we are seeing the rise of entire chains of for-profit schools, with corporate shareholders and managers.

10. Design-Based Schools: Alternatives to the familiar 19th century school model are emerging. Bridging the gap between an R&D project and a systemic reform they have created and are now commercializing distinctive designs for innovative schools.

11. Virtual schools. Using the Internet and email, they can interact with their teachers (and with lesson plans, homework assignments, etc.) without leaving home. In the old days, families living in the mountains or sent to faraway lands could get résumés by mail for their children. Today, technology makes possible 24-hour “classrooms” and online access for teachers.

12. Privately-Owned Public Schools: Nearly a dozen companies are in the business of “school management” in the United States, committing themselves, through management contracts or management contracts with the district, to run public schools. and profit along the way. Although it remains to be seen whether investor gains will continue, it is clear that public education in the United States is becoming susceptible to “outsourcing.”

It’s no longer strange to send your child to a school you chose instead of one assigned by the superintendent’s office. Many shy away from political controversies because they are the result of the state or district deciding for themselves that they cannot serve certain children in their public schools, but must ensure that they get an education. This practice is well established in the world of “special education,” where youth with severe or esoteric disabilities (or litigious parents) can invoke federal and state laws and district policies to gain access to publicly funded private schools. . But disability is no longer the only reason for such arrangements.

Districts also contract with private providers for specialized educational services, such as supplemental instruction for disadvantaged youth provided under the federal Title I program. Although many districts have long outsourced bus transportation, building maintenance, and school operations, the cafeteria (and they buy everything from chalk to computers from private vendors), what’s new is allowing private companies to provide actual instruction and operate entire schools.

Political heat and noise levels begin to rise as we move from state-selected private to parent-selected education. However, several jurisdictions routinely subsidize the peripheral costs of private education. Rather than directly fund private schools, some jurisdictions implement their tax codes to help parents with tuition, fees, and other out-of-pocket expenses. In several famous and controversial cases, the state or district actually pays for the private school’s tuition.

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