Educational Choice

There is a white paper at AEI arguing that the it’s time for a paradigm shift. Instead of school choice–which accepts the current whole school, institution (or “bricks and mortar”) -based educational structure–reformers should look to educational choice as the true next-generation model:

By supporting reforms to increase choice only among schools, choice advocates are appealing only to a minority of parents who want to relocate their child to another institution and are thus missing the opportunity to boost choice among nearly all parents who would want some educational choice….
In an era when technology and cultural norms have made radical customization the rule in everything from cell phones to retirement plans to web browsers, it is notable that the vast majority of school reforms are “systemwide” measures that do little to bend schools into a shape more suitable for serving students with diverse needs. Indeed, most talk of accountability, merit pay, and school choice has emphasized “whole school” assumptions that simply take traditional schools and classrooms as givens. Such a mindset is ultimately crippling because the twenty-first-century schoolhouse is less likely to be the product of some big-brained reformer devising the one best model than the accretion of advances relating to diagnosing needs, researching interventions, employing online instruction, and permitting greater individuation….
The one-size-fits-all school system has passed its expiration date. There is nothing innately wrong with the “one best system” or the conventional schoolhouse. Indeed, they represented the best practices of an earlier, more bureaucratic era. Today, however, heightened aspirations, the press of student needs, and the opportunities presented by new tools and technologies mean that old arrangements are no longer a good fit. Likewise, school-choice advocates have missed an opportunity to appeal to the vast majority of parents who are not willing to relocate schools, but would be interested in greater choice among tutors, lesson plans, or instructional approaches. In these categories, the charge is for schooling to make the same shift from the centralized, industrial model to the more nimble, customized model seen recently in so many other areas of life–and to do so by leveraging greater educational, not school, choice.

Outlets like Khan Academy or concepts like “flip-thinking” (where students watch lectures at home on the computer but attend class sessions to do the “homework”) are interesting ideas that are utilizing today’s technology for new approaches to education. The educational choice is nested in the homes of the students and their parents instead of the “school system” while at the same time the “school system” still provides structure and guidance and can also facilitate some of the alternative options.

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12 years ago

This is a great idea. I attempted to use Kahn’s stuff for a few years now. Problem is kids have no interest in it at all. Not even the honors and AP students use it. Most kids don’t have the discipline to do anything on their own. I’d love it if they’d search youtube for chemistry lessons instead of guys igniting their flatulence.

12 years ago

You may have noticed my lack of comment on this one, unlike your posts about merit pay or standardized test based “reform.” This at least hits on the idea that there should be “flexibility and choice in their education” (notably an idea for which I was roundly attacked when I suggested that a focus on standardized testing was flawed for that reason).

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