January 03, 2006

Great Resource

ECS.jpgThe Education Commission of the States is a great resource of reliable information and research and now provides a database of current information on a variety of subjects relevant to this website: alternative education, choices, charter schools, vouchers and 50 some other topics. These take the form of policy briefs, summaries of each state’s programs, research reports and legislative initiatives by topic. Anyone looking for reliable background information will find their database a priceless resource.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2005

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools of Amer.jpg Magnet Schools of America provide a wealth of background, history, examples, research and rationale for thematic or magnet schools. For instance, there are 14 elementary and secondary schools under the International Studies group and 79 magnet schools under Fine and Performing Arts. Each of these have links for further info.

They list as rationale for magnet schools:
-that all students do not learn in the same ways;
-that if we take advantage of a student’s interest and aptitude, that student will do better in subjects unrelated to his/her reasons for choosing the school;
-that choice itself will result in improved satisfaction that translates into better achievement;
-that every child can learn and it is our job to offer enough options so that parents of all children (or students themselves) will have the opportunity to choose the programs best suited to them.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2005

The Education Innovator

USDE enlarged logo.jpgThe Education Innovator, a publication of the U.S. Office of Education, presents news of educational reform, change, and department activities. Almost every issue features a tradition-breaking school in some detail. Policy, arts education, technology, private schools, charter schools, innovative programs, funding opportunities and the like arrive in an attractive weekly email. This useful source with access to much other information can be subscribed to at no cost.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

Small District with 13 School Choices

The Appleton, WI school district sponsors 13 charter schools (9 operating and 4 in planning) so that students have choices to meet their diverse interests and learning needs. The charter schools remain part of the district under Wisconsin law but it is unusual for a district to willingly offer so many choices that compete for students with its 25 traditional schools. The charter schools range from highly structured approaches to progressive practices and thematic programs. Appleton Schs.gif

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2005

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning (also called hands on learning, learning by doing) is found in all levels of schooling seeking better ways of engaging students. Many alternative programs use the philosophy of experiential learning as a foundation. A considerable body of research supports experiential approaches for achieving the broad aims of education as well as basic skill acquisition.

Several sources of information provide definitions, research, practices, examples and other useful data. The Association for Experiential Education and the National Society for Experiential Education are fine sites for further information.
Experiential cartoon.jpg

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2005

Radical Changes Proposed

The Education Forum, a publication from New Zealand, frequently covers changes in Great Britian, Australia and other Commonwealth nations. The most recent issue Hot topics.gif reviewed "radical reforms" promoted by the British Government that would reverse central control for local autonomy of curriculum and policies. Parents would be given choices and other organizations (such as colleges and businesses) could operate elementary and secondary schools.

Another article, "Reform Ideal for All Classes" cites the slow pace of change and lack of educational choices in Australia. It calls for the government to note options given parents in other nations and the good results of providing choices.

The Education Forum can be subscribed to (free) for news on educational change issues.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2005

Black Alliance for Educational Options

The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) strives to ensure that quality educational alternatives are available to Black families. Their web site contains definitions and other information on the many types of parental choices now present in schools including the following:

-Charter Schools
-Home Schooling
-Innovations in Traditional Public Schools
-Privately Financed Scholarships
-Public School Contracts with Private Organizations
-Supplementary Education Programs
-Tax-Supported Scholarships (Vouchers)
-Tuition Tax Credits and Deductions
-School Choice Glossary

BAEO leads the fight to empower parents, particularly low income parents, to choose educational programs that help their children succeed.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2005

Diversity of Charter Schools

What does the phrase “charter school” convey? Besides some basic information about structure, governance, and Playing to Type.jpg
accountability, what does the charter heading tell us about the curriculum, pedagogy, and theory of learning of the roughly 3,500 schools that fall under it? To fill the void of information, the Fordham Institute has fashioned a typology of charter schools—one that distinguishes between one, a giant lump of “charters” and 3,500 completely unique institutions. The 24 page 2005 publication Playing to Type maps the charter school landscape into:

-Traditional: teacher centered, back to basics, etc. 23%
-Progressive: student centered, hands on, etc. 29%
-Vocational: career, internships, etc. 12%
-General: conversions, district operated, etc. 30%
-Alternative delivery: online, home based, etc. 6%

Charts show examples of each of these types. The average age of charter schools is 3 years, still a very young movement. For each of the types, percent of free and reduced lunch and minority enrollments are shown. A very useful and important student that sheds light on the diversity of schools under the charter banner.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2005

Earn College Credit while in High School

Pathways to Success.jpg
A new report by the Community College Research Center, Pathways to College Access and Success describes several programs that help students earn college credits while still in high school. The programs range from the well know International Baccalaureate to dual enrollment, tech prep, middle college high schools and post secondary enrollment options. Some of the programs offer considerable advantages to low income students. Amazingly, some students graduate from high school on schedule but have simultaneously completed as much as two years of college at no personal financial expense, a fairly well-kept secret.

The report is part of a longer study, Accelerating Student Success Through Credit-Based Transition Programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2005

Korean Educational Alternatives Growing

Korean Children.jpg
Dissatisfaction with conventional education has led to the creation of over 100 alternative schools in Korea. Even a Supreme Court justice and university professors are sending their children to alternative education sites. The Seoul Alternative Learning Community Network serves as a clearinghouse of information. The growth of alternatives appears tied to a backlash against the rigidity of the traditional system and the desire for an emphasis on creativity.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2005

International Alternative Education Symposium

Turkish alt ed.jpgPeople in Turkey are organizing the First International Alternative Education Symposium on November 26-27 in Istanbul. They don't have educational options and have become interested in seeing educational alternatives in Turkey having read translated works from Holt, Freire, Steiner and others. They wish to explore the thinking behind open schools, free schools, Montessori education, home schooling and others. You can explore participating for a nominal fee. Sessions will be conducted in both English and Turkish. Details for submitting papers and registration are online at the website in English.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2005

Public School Choice

Enormous growth is being registered in the choices available to Minnesota families, an early adopter of providing educational options. As an example of the growing desirability of choices, here are the data and types of choices for Minnesota between the years 1996-97 and 2004-05 (Source: Minnesota Department of Education): See newspaper story by reporter, James Walsh in the Star Tribune on this topic.
Minnesota Choices.gif

Postsecondary enrollment options: This program permits high school juniors and seniors to attend college and other post secondary programs with 90% of the revenue following the student to pay tuition which the post secondary insitituion must accept as full payment if they chose to participate. Growth 18%.

Open enrollment: Permits students to attend another school district. 64%

Alternative programs for at-risk students: 156%

Homeschooling: 41%

Charter schools: 736%

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2005

National Directory of Alternative Schools

The National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools (NCACS) has published a directory of alternatives: NCACS.jpg

-alternative schools by state (principally democratic-type schools)
-homeschooling programs by state
-alternative colleges and universities by state
-schools and colleges in other countries by country
-alternative education resources by state and country
-alternative education publishers by state and country

All of the above are also indexed alphabetically. This useful directory has hundreds of listings but does not purport to be all-inclusive. The cost is $27.50 or $21.50 if a member.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 01:57 PM | Comments (0)

More Choices Promoted by Governors

The National Governors Association released a new report, Providing Quality Choice Options in Education to promote giving families and students more educational alternatives. The report says that improving traditional schools is not enough. There must be educational options for families. Recommendations include:

-strengthening and broadening charter laws; NGA.gif
-supporting transportation costs for low-income students;
-expanding eligibility for students to take college courses in high
-increasing the availability of virtual course offerings;
-providing equitable funding for all education providers;
-adopting school-based funding mechanisms; and
-offering tuition assistance for students to attend non-public K-12

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:37 AM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2005

Examples of Educational Alternatives

Alternatives come in many types. Here are four alternatives--unusual and extraordinary public schools with links for more information:
Jennings Experiential High School takes its urban students on two 35 day overseas trips, this year to Costa Rica and Ghana, West Africa. There they perform community service and study many aspects of the environment. They prepare for the trips with five weeks of intensive study.
Village school.gif
Minnesota New Country School (7-12) and River Heights Charter School (9-12) contract for staffing and other services with a cooperative of teachers. Students study topics of personal interest using the project method for learning.
Village School of Northfield (K-12) gives staff and students a vote about all aspects of the school. They follow the Sudbury model of permitting students to follow their interests at their own pace.Studio 4.jpg
High School for Recording Arts (9-12)joins a school with a commercial recording arts business, Studio 4. Their high-need students enroll because of an interest in popular music, hence the nickname, Hip Hop High. Records have been distributed nationally.

These experiential learning examples show the diversity among educational alternatives that parents, students and staff can choose from. Extending school choices for learning is the mission of IALA. This website's purpose is to promote thoughtful examination of the one-size-fits-all philosophy so much the central tenet of traditional education. We wish to assist policy makers and others who recognize the benefits of providing an array of educational choices.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

Educational Choices in Other Countries

Carolyn Hoxby, Harvard economics professor, writes of her visit to What American Can Learn.jpg
New Zealand where she found a lively school choice program. She suggests a restaurant analogy where bad restaurants continue in business with a forced clientele vs. good restaurants that add tables or expand with new locations to serve a growing business or what she calls “supply flexibility.” Schools must have the autonomy to adjust their program, vary staff deployment and compensation and become available for parents to choose from.

New Zealand is but one country exploring school choice. A 2005 book, What America Can Learn from School Choice in Other Countries edited by David Salisbury and James Tooley describes programs in Sweden, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand and other countries. Available from the Cato Institute.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2005

School Reform from England

Ed Heretics Press.jpg
Roland Meighan of Bramcote Hills, Nottingham, England and his group, Educational Heretics Press publish hard hitting commentary on conventional schooling. Their newsletter, The Journal of Personalized Education Now, describes the harsh reality of traditional practices on the human spirit and learning. You won't find more radical writing about education than with their publications including the extraordinarily thoughtful 2005 book, Comparing Learning Systems: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Counter-Productive. They provide descriptions of new approaches to learning, vision statements, principles, alternatives to schools, critiques on testing, book reviews, upcoming conferences and more. They offer many books including several hard-to-find volumes.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2005

School Choice Report

The Congressional Research Service produces authoritative reports for Capitol.jpgCongress. The reports are not public but can be requested through your representative or senator, if you know what to ask for. Now a service makes these reports available and I recommend the first 10 pages of an excellent summary of all types of school choices ranging over: intra-district, inter-district, charter schools, tax subsidies, subsidies to private schools, school vouchers, and supplemental educational services. It also describes various types of federal assistance for school choice.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2005

Power Point on New Schools

Bryan Hassel's power point presentation at the U.S. Dept. of Education's conference series, Innovations in Education Exchange shows how fundamental changes in education is unlikely in conventional schools and will more likely result from new schools. Bryan of Public Impact is one of the most thoughtful and prolific commentators and researchers on today's scene, particularly with charter schools. He's also the author of the book, Picky Parent Guide.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:00 PM

December 19, 2004

Doing Choice Right

The Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington issued a report, School Choice: Doing it the Right Way Makes a Difference by the National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education in November, 2003. Now the Center's program, Doing Choice Right, plans to address the practical steps in establishing educational alternatives and informing parents of choices according to an article in Education Week. Paul T. Hill leads this initiative.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 07:14 PM

December 11, 2004

Choices Expanding with Charter Schools

Two examples of the rapidly changing rules around charter schools illustrate an "institutional bypass" of the present system. In New York City, with 25 charter schools, the sytem plans to create 50 more chartered schools as "seeds of change" for the remainder of the district. The only mayor in the U.S. with the authority to create charter schools is Bart Peterson in Indianapolis. He has opened or has plans to serve 4,500 students in charters in the next year and is seeking more beyond that. Another report, The Rugged Frontier: A Decade of Charter Schooling in Arizona describes the conditions in Arizona which has more charter schools than any state, about 500 sites.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:57 PM

District Choices

More often these days, school districts offer a variety of choices. This might be to meet the growing competition for students from charter schools, nonpublic schools and homeschooling, all of which have eaten into district enrollments. Other reasons for offering choices include catering to student interests or ways of learning and to provide for a greater diversity of students. Choices include schools with special themes such as science, technology, health careers, arts, open education. Here are a few examples of how districts offer, in some cases, a blizzard of choices: Saint Paul Public Schools with 30 choices; Seattle Public Schools; some 27 Small Learning Communities in the Minneapolis Public Schools; Kansas City Public Schools (MO) with 30 magnet schools; About 30 choices in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 01:31 PM

Homeschooling Increasing

Evidence of increased homeschooling comes from several sources with parents expressing a greater variety of interests. About 30 percent object to conventional school environments, about 30 want a values or religious tone, about 15 percent want a different academic focus, about 7 percent want their child's particular interest served. An article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch describes these factors. Authoritive information on homeschooling can be found on the U.S. Dept. of Education. The Parent-Directed Education website has a wealth of information and links.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 01:22 PM

October 11, 2004

Learning Alternatives: Waldorf and Montessori

Waldorf schools and Montessori schools are two long-standing well-regarded private school alternatives that increasingly are found in the public school sector at both elementary and secondary levels. An interesting article by a teacher who worked in both programs compares their practices. For more information, see the national Waldorf organization and the national Montessori organization. Great River School is an example of a Montessori high school. Watershed High School is an example of a Waldorf school.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:12 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 13, 2004

Creating Strong District Choice Programs

The U. S. Dept. of Education has published a booklet, Innovations in Education: Creating Strong District School Choice Programs to provide guidance to school districts in providing more learning alternatives. Public school choice—letting parents decide which public school is the best place for their child and allowing and enabling the transfer to that school—is a key strategy in current federal legislation aimed at improving educational outcomes. This handbook examines the choice options provided by some of the nation’s districts, including open enrollment, magnet schools, alternative schools, concurrent enrollment, and charter schools.

This public domain book can be downloaded or ordered by writing to: ED Pubs, Education Publications Center, U.S. Department of Education, P.O. Box 1398, Jessup, MD 20794-1398; or fax your request to: (301) 470-1244; or e-mail your request to: edpubs@inet.ed.gov; or call in your request toll-free: 1-877-433-7827 (1-877-4-ED-PUBS) or order online at: http://www.edpubs.org/.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:52 PM

July 11, 2004

100 New School Choices in Chicago

Mayor Daley, who has been in charge of the Chicago Public Schools since 1995, announced plans to create 100 new small, mostly secondary schools. 1/3 will be charter schools, 1/3 will be contract schools and 1/3 will be reorganized existing schools. This means 2/3 of the new schools will be outside district control. The district has raised 1/2 of the $100 million for start-up expenses. The effort aims at changing urban education on an unprecedented scale by bypassing the forces of status quo that typically impede change in school districts.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:02 PM

June 16, 2004

Alternatives for At-Risk Students

Many existing alternative schools serve at-risk students. IALA believes in alternatives for all students and that there should be many types of alternatives and choices for all students. Still, the perception remains for many educators that alternatives are for unsuccessful students. That view is thoughtfully explored in a paper, "Alternative Learning Environments" by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. For example, the issue is raised of how well secondary schools serve all students and whether establishing programs for at-risk students lets traditional schools off the hook of improving their programs for all. The paper is well done and recommended.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:55 PM

June 11, 2004

Homeschooling as a Learning Alternative

Home schooling, as a learning alternative, has grown rapidly over the past two decades. The US Department of Education estimates approximately one million students being homeschooled-- about 2% of the public education base. Homeschooling is usually divided into two broad categories: religious-values based and progressive education. These differ considerably with the religious based emphasizing more traditional school content and methods. The progressive group is more child-centered and student-directed, sometimes bordering on unschooling. For an example of the second group, the Minnesota Homeschooling Alliance's web site contains a vast array of information. For an example of the more traditional see the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators.

Homeschooling took off in the U.S. when Life magazine published a story of an entirely homeschooled student accepted at Harvard, as were his two brothers. This story is captured splendidly in the parent authored book, Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:06 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

December 16, 2003

International Study of Educational Choices

Implementing Education for All: Moving from Goals to Action from The Mackinac Center for Public Policy describes the efforts to provide universal primary education in all nations by 2015. Choices of public and private schools and their reach have fallen far short of meeting the goal. Increasing private forms of education with governmental subsidies, as a number of countries currently do, may retard the growth of public education but nonetheless produce better results. This report references other important studies in international education.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 07:12 PM

December 05, 2003

Choices: State by State

A new report by the Heritage Foundation, School Choice 2003: How States Are Providing Greater Opportunity In Education provides a detailed and even-handed account of each state showing the kinds of choices and their history of alternatives over time. This remarkable book is 260 pages of valuable and reliable data on choices state by state! It's downloadable.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:20 PM

December 03, 2003

Choices in Wisconsin

Several references to alternatives or choices have popped up in Wisconsin. One is about online schools or virtual schools and controversy surrounding their approval. Another is a study, Charter Schools in Wisconsin: Assessing Form and Performance by Dr. John Witte of the University of Wisconsin addressing to what degree charter schools are offering additional choices to parents and determining their performance. Another article, Public Charter Schools: The Next Generation of Innovation suggests that charter Schools offer considerable promise to support new approaches ot schooling.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:12 AM

November 23, 2003

New Study on Choices

The National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education released its report, School Choice: Doing it the Right Way Makes a Difference after two years of study. The commission, chaired by Paul Hill and made up of both choice proponents and skeptics, found that there is "no free lunch" in education and that school choice schemes must be carefully designed. The study makes clear that choice is here to stay.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:48 PM

November 01, 2003

Choices for Non-Public School Parents

David Kirkpatrick at the US Freedom Foundation wants a level of choices that makes conventional public schools simply a choice among many possibilities with funding available for all choices, including home schooling. He points out that to some extent, that is true today where states have reimbursed parents or allowed tax credits for expenses at non-public schools. The US Freedom Foundation takes a libertarian view on education that parents should totally control their child's learning with the state paying an unconditional annual rebate equal to the state's education system costs.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 08:14 PM

Choice: 2 Schools Under 1 Roof

In Stapleton, Colo., traditional public school Westerly Creek Elementary is collocated with Odyssey Charter School in a single 80,000 square-foot-building. The two schools, which have separate entrances and parking lots, share a cafeteria, gym and library in the middle of the building.

One school relies on a classical, books-oriented curriculum. The other uses outdoors adventures to instruct.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 07:20 PM

October 01, 2003

New School Choice Report

School Choice 2003: How States Are Providing Greater Opportunity In Education is a new 297 page report on Choices in the U.S. by the Heritage Foundation. It includes a splendid map of the kinds of choices in each state, discussions of vouchers, home schooling, charter schools, open enrollment with the major part, a state by state analysis. Also included is a glossary and a list of national organizations that support school choice. The report can be downloaded as a pdf file.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 05:03 PM

September 18, 2003

Wisconsin Charter Schools

Learn about the movement to establish more educational choices in Wisconsin through their active charter movement. Their site features existing schools, legal requirements, a video, conferences and resources.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 01:11 AM

September 04, 2003

Signs That Students Need a Change

Jerry Mintz of The Alternative Education Resource Organization and publisher of Education Revolution magazine has a checklist of 10 Signs You Need a Different Kind of Education for Your Child to stimulate discussion among parents to consider alternatives. It's a thought-provoking list from a pioneer in the alternative schools movement.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 04:38 PM

August 01, 2003

Alternative Education in Minnesota

A new paper "Alternative-Education Programs: The ‘Quiet Giant" in Minnesota Public Education" describes the rapid growth of student enrollment and programs. About 1 in 4 students at the secondary level use alternative programs full or part time. Many' but not all programs, are for at-risk students. Much of this growth has occurred in the past 5 years.

The study comes from Education Evolving, a group urging policy initiatives led by Ted Kolderie and Joe Graba.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:54 AM

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