As I drove to set up my classroom this morning, I passed a brand new charter academy with a beautiful campus and two billboards advertising neighboring district schools. Educational choices are abundant like picking a brand of potato chips at the store. Similar to picking chips are the school choices a REAL choice? or just choices based upon the brand names? My kids have long sense realized that the store brands taste the same as national brands. Aren’t mosts schools the same?
Of course schools have different physical facilities and staffs. The content taught and methods used in schools are predominantly the same. When picking a charter school or school of choice it is more about the marketing campaigns, Zip codes and facilities than about educational choice. Districts and charters are competing for students. Money is being spent on advertising and “shiny” upgrades instead of going into the classrooms to improve learning. Instead of collaborating to offer students real choices in their education, districts are fighting for every last student. It is time to stop the cannibalization of schools! It is time for collaboration.
3 steps to improve choice:
- Charters need to offer something different working in conjunction with public school around them. Student populations are very diverse, one method of instruction does not fit every students. Charters should be offering this alternative. If school district offers traditional instruction then charters should offer Project based, flipped or blended options (Some do this now). This way when districts encounter students that are struggling alternative teach methods can be offered and students moved to proper fitting school.
- End open school of choice. Too often parents move from school to school based on zip code. This will allow all the funds used for marketing to be redirected into classrooms. Did you know some larger districts employ entire marketing departments?
- Encourage neighboring districts to collaborate and establish smaller alternative learning path schools. Many districts are doing these now with Career and Technical Education. Wouldn’t it be great to offer more students a similar choice? Just think if districts offered up a project based or blended high school or middle school option.
Without this coordinated collaboration districts will continue to drain their limited resources fighting for students. Charters will pop up offering no real choice in places corporations see the ability to make money. It works best when we all get better together.