June 06, 2005

Great Journals on Alternatives

Here are recommendations for two magazines for ideas on new approaches to education. Edutopia is a free, colorful journal from the George Lucas Foundation. Every issue is packed with examples of schools and practices to spark learning. The George Lucas Foundation provides many resources such as videos and DVDs to motivate change.

Reclaiming Youth.jpgReclaiming Children and Youth always amazes me. Their unique focus on new ways to serve high-needs youth establishes a different paradigm--often that of youth as a resource or as a person trying to do the right thing.

Both are excellent additions even with the load of reading and work we all do!

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2005

Charter Schools: Good or Bad Alternative?

Numerous studies have tried to assess the charter school movement. This is like trying to say public schools in general are successful or are unsuccessful. Charter schools vary enormously from highly experimental to ultra traditional, from serving affluent suburban students to rescuing high-need students, and from tiny to huge. Judgments about charter schools usually focus on test score comparisions lumping all these diverse schools together--hardly good research. In addition, there is usually no attempt in studies to tease out beginning schools vs. experienced schools in existence, say, 8-10 years or more (few schools in the nation qualify with the 13 year history of charter schools). Likewise, little mention is made of the considerable financial handicap almost all charter schools operate under. Paul Hill at the University of Washington addressed this topic thoughtfully and comprehensively in an article, "Assessing Student Performance in Charter Schools."


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:22 AM

January 16, 2005


According to an interesting web site, education reform in the United States is a myth. Reform implies that something is being made better, and that clearly is not the case when it comes to education, writes one unhappy blogger. The fun goes on and on, day after day while our children continue to get sub-par schooling. Unless you live in a wealthy part of town that has better schools, or you have found an alternative such as a magnet, your child is getting short-shrifted by the shortsighted. Despite what the educators say, despite what the political leaders say, despite what anyone says, there is no education reform. dadtalk.typepad.com/dadtalk/2005/01/education_refor.html


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:57 PM

December 11, 2004

Metaphors about Schooling

"Movements of Mind: The Matrix, Metaphors, and Re-imagining Education," an article in Teachers College Record, describes two common metaphors for schools: education as production and education as cure. Metaphors can handicap creativity but also clarify what one actually believes. This fascinating, though long article, describes several other, possibly more useful, metaphors:
-Education as growth
-Learning as participation
-Teacher as gardener
-Education as translation
Some twenty metaphors are described and an excellent bibliography is provided in this thoughtful article. It's particularly useful in thinking about educational options.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:05 PM

October 10, 2004

Can competition really improve schools?

An article in the Christian Science Monitor, "Can competition really improve schools" reviews the concept of choice of schools ranging from open enrollment to vouchers. It points out that people of means have always had a choice of schools by where they choose t0 live or the ability to purchase a private school education. There's no definitive research on the question of what choices provide the best education. Still, people like choices and are using them to a greater extent. This creates competition among systems and thereby tensions and disagreements.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 01:03 AM

August 02, 2004

Schools of the Future

Ian Jukes and Ted McCain describe their vision of tomorrow's schools in an article "New Schools for a New Age." They write of the speed of change impacting the world and that will hit education where we least expect it. They describe the difference in expectations of workers and citizens in the future world of high speed and advanced technology. A thougthful and provocative article. The InfoSavvy site contains a list of exciting articles and handouts used for presentations.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:24 AM

May 04, 2004

Virtual Schools, More Choices

The US Department of Education estimates that 50,000 students from 37 states attend virtual schools either full or part-time, a very rapidly expanding sector of school choice. Though critics worry about the lack of social contact and lack of regulation, parents are making the selection just as they do in the realm of homeschooling. The schools range from progressive to traditional and raise a host of questions about funding and other issues. A good article appeared in the Christian Science Monitor


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:18 PM

April 15, 2004

Thoughtful Essay on Choices

David Kirkpatrick has written often on providing parents with the ultimate choice of where and how to education their children. He comments that the present system essentially does that for middle and upper income families but not for low income families. His periodic column provides thoughtful commentary on contemporary education. He brings a long history of different positions in the education world to his columns. Presently, he is with the U.S. Freedom Foundation. You will find him well-informed and provocative.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:29 AM

April 14, 2004

Japan Interest in Alternative Schools

Over the past 8-10 years, several people have commented on the numbers of Japanese educators and others visiting alternative schools and charter schools in the U.S. The reason given for this interest is that increasing numbers of Japanese are unhappy with the rigidity and structure of the present federal system of education. They state that students do not learn creativity, spontaneity, and positive teamwork skills in the current highly academic, competitive system. One article describes their interest in charter schools and the attempt to obtain supportive legislation.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:32 PM

March 17, 2004

Another Alternative: Career Academies

From an article: Established more than 30 years ago, Career Academies have become a widely used high school reform initiative that aims to keep students engaged in school and prepare them for successful transitions to post-secondary education and employment. Typically serving between 150 and 200 high school students from grade 9 or 10 through grade 12, Career Academies are organized as small learning communities, combine academic and technical curricula around a career theme, and establish partnerships with local employers to provide work-based learning opportunities. There are estimated to be more than 2,500 Career Academies across the country according to their network.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:36 PM

September 30, 2003

Future Schools

A brief illustrated thought-stimulating article, Flexible School Facilities, stretches one's conceptss about the schools of tomorrow. It shows a progression from conventional schools to a profusion of program choices.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:10 AM

August 26, 2003

High Stakes Testing and Adequate Yearly Progress

The Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs has issued two position papers on high stakes testing and adequate yearly progress in response to requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The board of directors voted unanimously for these critical positions after considerable thought about the negative effects of testing and labeling of schools as underperforming.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:35 AM

August 25, 2003

Great Links to Alternative Education

The Iowa Association of Alternative Education has a fine web site and loads of links to other sources of info on alternatives, articles, and books.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:45 PM

August 15, 2003

Statement of Purpose

This is from the California Charter Schools Association and affirms the concept of choice and alternatives that is the focus of IALA:
"We have tremendous optimism as we embark on the next decade of the charter school movement here in California....

As we launch our new, strengthened statewide association, we believe that we have a unique opportunity to prove that charter schools offer the best path to meaningful reform of public education. As a result, we are committed to ensuring that high-quality charter schools of all educational models succeed, including non-site-based charter schools, conversion charter schools, schools serving at-risk and dropout students, English language learners, community-based and independently operated charter schools, and innovative future school models yet to be developed. We will be an association that strongly advocates for student achievement through choice, innovation and diversity within the public school system.

We are a movement committed to the belief that all students can learn, that children should be treated as individuals, that educators’ entrepreneurial and innovative spirit must be embraced, that local communities should be engaged in the educational process and that parents must have the ability to choose the school their child attends. We also embrace the accountability that goes hand in hand with these values.

Besides steadfastly supporting the values we hold dear, our association has four goals:

* Core Strength-- We are committed to serving our member schools. This includes providing an array of services, expertise and financing tools to strengthen all our schools and support our members in focusing on what matters most: educating students. This also means listening constantly to our members and drawing on their expertise to strengthen the movement.

* Advocacy-- We will be the collective grassroots voice of California’s charter schools. We will aggressively advocate for increased flexibility and funding for all our schools. We will aggressively communicate to the broader community the strength and potential of charter education.

* Quality-- We will raise the bar for public education as an organization that promotes high quality and accountability through a variety of measures.

* Leadership-- We will aggressively focus on leadership development in a manner that helps the charter school movement to grow. Our goal is to bring high-quality charter schools to every community in order to create enough external pressure to bring about lasting reform.

Today, the charter school movement is under attack from many directions. The status quo continues to publicize charter school failures while critics allege that accountability is nonexistent. The historical response from the charter school movement has been fragmented and has lacked the resources to defend the promise that this movement offers. This new association will address this by uniting the charter school community behind a common vision and by providing all charter schools with the resources, board and staff support to take this exciting movement to the next level. "


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:34 PM

August 01, 2003

School Choice Issues

A recent article from the Education Commission of the States summarizes school choice in the U.S. Its based on a study by the National Center for Education Statistics conducted for the years 1993-1999 and shows an increase in the numbers of students in educational options.

Another study "Mapping SCHOOL CHOICE in Massachusetts:
Data and Findings 2003,"
describes the kinds of options and the extent of their use in MA, trends, the national context and details about choices in the Boston area.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:15 AM

June 19, 2003

Types of Alternatives

John Loflin, in a recent article, describes the types of alternatives (Type I, II, III) and critiques Indiana's alternatives which are too often "soft jails" for at-risk youth and marshalls a persuasive argument for alternatives for all students. He wants to see school districts and the state take a more proactive position to provide choices of programs for everyone.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:48 AM

June 05, 2003

Exciting Schools

The George Lucas Educational Foundation has for the past 10 years published a newsletter describing a revolution in learning. I highly recommend their online videos of amazing schools K-12 where students do active learning. These are compelling stories and very helpful for staff development. Teachers get excited when they can see and feel the difference active learning produces in student engagement. In addition to the videos, they have many other resources that can be accessed via their site. After you get to their site, click on the video gallery.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:59 AM