Archive for July 19th, 2011

July 19, 2011

If the School Fits: Opening a Conversation About School Choice in Baltimore

On July 12, I posted some thoughts on a New York Times article by Michael Winerip about what happened when a charter school “counseled out” a five-year-old boy. Thanks to a fighter of a mom, the child was counseled into a neighborhood school that turned out to be a great fit.

Critics of status quo education reform policies pounced on the story because 1) it’s case in which public trumped charter and small class size trumped larger, 2) it’s a perfect example of how charter schools weed out students who don’t fit their mold, 3) it put a sympathetic face on an argument that’s too often lost in the numbers – numbers that show charter schools enroll fewer homeless students and students living in poverty, fewer students with special needs, and fewer English language learners than “traditional” public schools. The Winerip story adds the human dimension.

I opined that the story is a good argument for individual attention – by which I meant the kind of attention that got this student into the right school for him. It’s also a good argument for differentiated instruction – teaching to all levels and types of learner in the same classroom. But, I opined, the question of creating a public school system rife with choices is still subject to debate.

I got a response that set my brain working. Here it is:

Actually, this article is a solid argument for schools of choice. No school can be all things to all children. The schools involved and the family in this situation have discovered this and the child is where he can now get the best services. I see this as a win.

Those of us who have the luxury of using independent schools have known this for some time; we just have the resources and interest to choose the right schools for our children. With charter schools offering options, now everyone else has the same benefits.

That’s a lot to unpack. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting a series of reflections on school choice in hopes of opening up the conversation. In the meantime, post your reactions. And subscribe to stay tuned.

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