Environmental Regulations A Are Formulated Mostly At The Federal Leve New Educational Opportunities For Our Children

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New Educational Opportunities For Our Children

A growing awareness that the current US K-12 education system is producing dire results and that incrementalist strategies to improve it (smaller classes, more graduation requirements, etc.) have not made much of a difference. Bolder alternatives—in which some of yesterday’s axioms and power relations are overturned—are now conceivable. Education in our pluralistic democracy does not pander to the “one size fits all” belief. As people demand more options, new types of schools have come into being and new ways to enable families to choose among them. Some of those novel schools not only meet America’s diverse educational needs, but also help make them accountable to student achievement in the marketplace of parental choice. Such reasoning is, of course, familiar from the old voucher debate, but it is no longer the stuff of mere logic.

People who want to leave a decaying and overcrowded public school continent to better their lives and their children’s prospects in new islands are less willing to be told they must stay. Polls show growing support for school choice. Many Americans now oppose allowing parents to send their school-age children to any public, private, or church-affiliated school they choose at government expense. Three-fifths of public school parents said they would change their child’s school. About 56 million youth are currently enrolled in U.S. public schools, meaning millions of families are potential candidates for selective programs.

Seismic changes can be seen in the organizational arrangements of all types of public and private enterprises, changes designed to make them more productive and efficient. On the public side, this is sometimes called “reinventing government.” These include outsourcing, decentralization and new incentive and accountability arrangements. In both areas, the goal is to achieve better results (satisfied customers, greater output, higher achievement, etc.) with less wasted resources. Although this organizational revolution is entering K-12 education slowly, it is clearly beginning to do so. These developments create a healthy environment for different types of schools to stand up and for people to demand freedom – and as far as – to get new educational opportunities for their children. By our count, there are a dozen other forms of schooling and education on today’s education map—in addition to traditional public and private institutions.

1. Magnet schools. Usually based on the district, these are purposefully created special schools with specific themes or emphases: music and art, science and technology, Hispanic cultures, etc. The first magnets were primarily intended to integrate schools by attracting young people to distant classrooms without mandatory busing. But magnets now serve many purposes. In fact, some communities have turned all their schools into magnet schools, thus supporting extensive public-school choice programs.

2. Alternative schools: Developed primarily for struggling-learning and misbehaving youth, these are not many schools that parents select as the district’s school of choice for children with problems in the “regular” classroom. Often they are secondary schools with low student-teacher ratios, modified curriculum and flexible schedules.

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

4. Home education. Historically, home-schoolers were religious families dissatisfied with the public-school curriculum and comfortable with (or unable to afford) private schools. Recently, many parents cite reasons such as mediocrity in the public-school system. An interesting variant involves young people who attend school part-time and are taught part-time at home.

5. Schools-Schools: There is no reason why a school building should contain only one education program. Integrating multiple programs into one building makes it easier to offer instructional options without worrying about brick and mortar. It also reduces risk; If the new program doesn’t work, students can be reabsorbed into regular classrooms.

6. Mini schools. Schools with some of the independence of charter schools but with specific curriculum themes and intimate scale are sharply absent from the city’s regular public high schools.

7. Technical preparatory schools. This concept is especially suitable for youngsters who are more interested in jobs than academics.

8. Afterschool Schools: Partly because of changes in family patterns and work schedules, and partly because of dissatisfaction with regular schools, more and more families (and churches, community organizations, etc.) are supplementing children’s schooling with comprehensive programs. and offerings. Some look like Japan’s “zuku” – cram schools. Many are nonprofit, but some are owned by fast-growing business firms.

9. “Proprietary” schools. Today, we are witnessing the emergence of entire chains of for-profit schools with shareholders and corporate managers.

10. Design-Based Schools: Alternatives are popping up to the familiar 19th-century school model. Bridging the gap between an R&D project and systemic improvement has created and is now marketing specific designs for new schools.

11. Virtual Schools. Using the Internet and e-mail, 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 posted to distant lands could get a mail-order course for their children. Today, technology makes possible “classrooms” that are open 24 hours a day and have online access for teachers.

12. Privately managed public schools: About a dozen firms are in the “school-management” business in the United States, through charters or management agreements with districts — to operate public schools and make a profit along the way. Although it remains to be seen whether investor profits will follow, it is clear that public education in the United States is becoming suitable for “outsourcing”.

It is no longer strange to send one’s child to a school of one’s choice rather than one designated by the superintendent’s office. Most avoid political controversies because they allow the state or district to decide for itself that it cannot serve certain children in its public schools — but must see to it that they receive an education. This practice is well established in the world of “special education,” where youth with severe or profound disabilities (or conflicting parents) can invoke federal and state laws and district policies to gain access to private schools at public expense. But disability is no longer the only basis for such an arrangement.

Districts also engage private providers for special educational services such as supplemental instruction for disadvantaged youth provided under federal Title I programs. Although many districts have long outsourced bus transportation, building maintenance and cafeteria operations (and buy everything from chalk to computers from private vendors), what’s new is allowing private firms to provide the actual instruction—and run entire schools.

As we transition from state-selected private schooling to the parent-selected variety, the level of political heat and noise begins to rise. However, many jurisdictions routinely subsidize the peripheral costs of private schools. Instead of directly financing private schools, some jurisdictions use their tax codes to help parents with tuition, fees and other out-of-pocket expenses. In many well-known — and controversial — instances, the state or district actually pays private-school tuition.

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