Geoffrey Canada resigned a number of months ago as head of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The Harlem’s Children’s zone was a much hailed charter academy for elementary students. Geoffrey Canada was an inspiring leader, but how much impact has this monumental experiment in Charter Schools’ really had?
School choice is such an important issue these days in education. Charter schools promise to educate students better than public schools. They promise to do everything “better.” But, in fact, charter schools do largely everything the same; they use the same teacher base, the same student base, the same (or should be the same) funding structure, and the same basic curriculum. With these similarities, can outcomes really be all that much better?
The logic of the argument says no, and outcomes between public and charter schools on a national level do tend to be about the same. You can’t do something the same way and hope for a different outcome. We need school reform that truly does do things differently. And adult learning principles also state that school really should be different for each student after the age of 16. My book outlines how schools and curriculum can be individualized after age 16.
To truly provide choice, as I also noted in a previous post, a great option would be to directly provide public school money ($10,000 to $13,000 a year) directly to an employer — for a student over the age of 16. The employer could design the learning program in accordance with what the student needs to know in order to be successful in the workplace – a traditional apprenticeship really, but more rigorous. Of course, some of that money would have to be directed to ensuring that the student received his or her GED degree, and some money would be paid back to the high school so the student could take certain needed courses like math and English. But some of the money could also be directed to providing the student with community college courses that are aligned and relevant to what they are learning on the job. In this way, they could directly be on their way to a 2-year degree. What would be better for ensuring that the student ultimately gets a post secondary education?
An individualized program after age 16 can be the best of both worlds. It could provide a similar and standardized education before age 16, and individualized one after age 16. And it could truly provide a different approach to education reform than simply trying to do things “better.”