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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Loving School Choice

I’m a big supporter of vouchers, but, absent that, I wonder if “school choicing” (hate that term) will be the new norm over time? It’s a big step in the right direction--that is, the best way to hold any institution accountable for its performance is to be able to withhold funding at the end-user level. If the school isn’t doing the job, then move the dollars (along with the student) to a school that will do the job.

That’s a big win for parents and students. If the schools took it in the right spirit, it could also be a big win for the best teachers, the best administrators, and the best ideas.

Anyway, here’s this (which also highlights a problem with income inequity with open school enrollment throughout a district--a problem that I think is overblown):

In Denver Public Schools, 41 percent of the district’s estimated 75,000 students attend a school other than one in their attendance area, up from 34 percent in 2004.

The numbers of DPS students “choicing” into schools continues to rise as the district’s diversification of school programs continues.

Among Denver’s 140 schools, there are 21 charters, five dual-language schools, three arts-focused schools, 11 with an international theme, three science-oriented schools, two expeditionary learning schools and six Montessori schools.

“Our goal is in every neighborhood in every part of the city to have high-quality choices,” said Tom Boasberg, DPS superintendent.

DPS is a big, diverse district with all sorts of institutional problems. It has been working hard for a number of years now, though, to address those problems and I like a lot of the changes that they’ve made.

Here’s to choice.

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Note that you can choice* across district lines, as well (we are doing that with our son).  Generally, priorities run something like: 1) students previously enrolled in the school, 2) students with siblings previously enrolled in the school, 3) other in-district students, 4) other out-of-district students.

I’ve already seen positive effects in the district we are choicing out of: the district is advertising the unique advantages** of each of the district schools to families in the district in an attempt to reduce flight.  This seems to include a decision to differentiate the schools in the district in an attempt to provide real choices.

Unfortunately, most of those choices include bad curricula like Everyday Math and Whole Language, which immediately disqualifies them for anyone who actually knows what’s going on.  Still, it’s a start.  And just a few years ago even a start seemed unlikely.

* Yes, I find “choice” as a verb disturbing as well.  But idiom accepts no logical quibbles.

** Well, they might be advantages, anyway.

on Nov 04 2009 @ 09:35 PM

I really do like the idea that the schools and the districts are having to work at retaining students. No captive audiences here.

And I didn’t know that the choice extended across district lines (although I did know that Cherry Creek had the same policies). Darling girl works in Cherry Creek and worked in DPS when I first met her

As for everyday math, well, I don’t know enough to have an opinion and in this case I like it that way. Kind of like not forcing her to watch Jan Michael Vincent flicks, it just seems healthier for the relationship that I don’t much worry about the methods and curriculum.

on Nov 04 2009 @ 09:59 PM

If you ever have Zombabies, I’d recommend a bit more attention, but for the nonce* your ignorance is probably rational.  The problem is that bad curricula produce less-educated students, and less-educated students have significant negative externalities.  (Evolution by environmental pressure is regrettably slow for a species with 25-year generations.)

For more information than anyone is likely to want, you might try the other blog I occasionally write for.

* Unless you have an announcement ...  8-)

on Nov 04 2009 @ 11:00 PM

Note that you can choice* across district lines, as well (we are doing that with our son).

Excellent! In reading the post I was worried that choicing—if restricted to schools within the same district—would encourage consolidation into ever larger districts to create a larger pool of options.

Allowing cross-district choice eliminates that perverse incentive. Good on Colorado.

on Nov 05 2009 @ 06:12 AM
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