The Governor’s Office recently announced the first round of 13 planning grants that will allow for the development of “lab schools” – elementary or secondary schools used for educational experimentation – in Virginia. The move comes on the heels of last year’s budget package, which included $100 million to fund planning grants, as well as start-up and operating costs, to lab schools.
The lab schools will operate at various public community colleges, universities, or other institutions of higher education across Virginia. In coming up with innovative models to reform K-12 education, lab schools resemble charter schools, which 45 states have authorized.
Unfortunately, Virginia law requires local school districts to authorize charter schools, and most districts will not endorse any competition with the traditional public school model. The lab school program thus represents a workaround.
Partnerships created by the lab schools can “start to transform the one-size-fits-all system,” says Virginia Education Secretary Aimee Guidera. But without more and better choices, that transformation almost certainly will remain incomplete.