Hidden Rival to Charter Schools – My Response

Have you read this recent article in the Washington Post?

Hidden Rival to Charter Schools by Jay Mathews

Fascinating. Shows just how frustrated parents are with the traditional, increasingly narrow, test-driven model of education. It’s not working. It hasn’t in a long time. We are collectively, desperately, ready and pining for something new. Even if it means trying something unorthodox or doing it ourselves. I see this all the time speaking to parents and helping them navigate their public school options.

Here in Los Angeles, the forefront of the charter movement and the second largest school district in the country, we’ve also seen an increase in collaborative homeschool study groups with organized educational field trips and social group outings. Many area museums and attractions offer programs/tours designed specifically for the homeschooler, and we also have a couple of hybrid schools that offer a part-time classroom /part-time home study combo.

Parents want options other than the traditional test-driven District model. That is unmistakable. Here’s what I’ve observed:

– communities desperately trying to support, reinvigorate and revitalize their neighborhood school despite the yearly onslaught of budget cuts and set backs, frequently get frustrated by the lack of engaging, inspired teaching and learning, and the unavoidable District policy ceiling they will hit, so they

-explore all their lottery options including magnets, charters or transfers/permits to find the best-possible school option for their children, and failing that they

– band together under a united vision to launch an indie start-up charter where collectively they can participate in an alternative model of education and have the freedom to collaborate on the shaping of their school. However, the space limitations under Prop 39 continually thwart rapid enrollment growth resulting in wait lists in the hundreds for the successful models, not to mention the rather sad lack of facilities (a row of temporary bungalows co-located on the side of another district school, or housed in a church, or concrete business park with no field, no auditorium, no library, few enrichments)

– some find a way to “make it work” and make the best of what they are offered, others frustrated by these options move to another more successful, better-funded public school footprint (if it exists nearby or if they can afford it), and finally having exhausted or summarily rejected all of the above for various reasons

– look into homeschooling options, which run the gamut from filing PSA affidavits, forming co-op home study groups, meet-ups, or utilizing online courses, such as K12, Kahn Academy or CAVA. With the ubiquitous accessibility of technology, I don’t doubt we will be seeing even more online and hybrid education models in the very near future.

There is plenty of research that points to best practices in 21st Century teaching and learning, yet for some reason the policymakers continually reject what the research shows and what the teachers already know, and set public school policy (federal and local) that instead narrows the curriculum and pushes top-down test-driven results, beating the very inspiration, depth and engagement we so desperately seek, out of education altogether.

I personally know my own limitations and don’t homeschool my daughter, but is it any wonder families are exploring any and all alternative options? “Hidden rival” to charter schools sound ominous and overly threatening. I’d say it’s more like growing numbers of families exploring their options and seeking different ones than the traditional model.

What do you think about this trend?

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