The “unschooling” movement of the 1970s featured open classrooms, in which children studied what they were most interested in, when they felt ready. That was followed by today’s back-to-basics, early-start model, in which students complete math worksheets in kindergarten and are supposed to take algebra by eighth grade at the latest. Under the “whole language” philosophy of the 1980s, children were expected to learn to read by having books read to them. By the late 1990s, reading lessons were dominated by phonics, with little time spent on the joys of what reading is all about — unlocking the world of stories and information.
A little more than a decade ago, educators bore no responsibility for their students’ failure; it was considered the fault of the students, their parents and unequal social circumstances. Now schools are held liable for whether students learn, regardless of the students’ lack of effort or previous preparation, and are held solely accountable for reaching unrealistic goals of achievement.
No wonder schools have a chronic case of educational whiplash. If there’s a single aspect of schooling that ought to end, it’s the decades of abrupt and destructive swings from one extreme to another. There is no magic in the magic-bullet approach to learning. Charters are neither evil nor saviors; they can be a useful complement to public schools, but they have not blazed a sure-fire path to student achievement. Decreeing that all students will be proficient in math and reading by 2014 hasn’t moved us dramatically closer to the mark.
Diffused governance, is, in my view, the best way forward. This means that communities should offer a combination of public, private, virtual, charter and voucher options. A diversity of K-12 approaches insures that a one size fits all race to the bottom does not prevail. I was very disappointed to recently learn that Wisconsin’s Democrat Senator Russ Feingold voted to kill the Washington, DC voucher program. No K-12 approach is perfect, but eliminating that option for the poorest members of our society is simply unpalatable.
Somewhat related Lee Bergquist and Erin Richards: Wisconsin Governor Candidate Mark Neumann taps public funds for private schools
Republican businessman Mark Neumann started his first taxpayer-funded school with 49 students, and in eight years enrollment has mushroomed to nearly 1,000 students in four schools.
Neumann, a candidate for governor who preaches smaller government and fiscal conservatism, has used his entrepreneurial skills to tap private and public funds – including federal stimulus dollars – to start schools in poor neighborhoods.
The former member of the U.S. House operates three religious-based schools in Milwaukee, a fourth nonreligious school in Phoenix and has plans to build clusters of schools across the country.
The Nashotah businessman is part of a growing national movement from the private sector that is providing poor neighborhoods an alternative to traditional public schools.
There are signs the schools are achieving one of their primary goals of getting students into post-secondary schools.