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)

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)

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)

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 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)

May 01, 2005

21st Century Schools Project

The 21st Century Schools Project of the Progessive Policy Institute develops public policies to address systemic educational inequities and modernize the industrial-era, factory model of American public education and redefine it through a system premised on universal access, public sector choice and customization, common academic standards, and accountability for results. The project sponsors research and conferences; publishes papers, articles, and a free bimonthly newsletter; and advises national, state, and local policymakers. Recently, the project's work has specifically focused on improving teacher quality, public charter schools and public school choice, special education, and reforming the federal role in education.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:16 PM

March 19, 2005

Virtual Schools Study

A thorough study of funding and regulations of online (virtual) schools in Washington enlightens the subject about such topics as:

This carefully conducted and well-written report found that both "high" and "low" achieving students use online courses and programs and makes recommendations for their continuance.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:53 AM

December 19, 2004

Nonpublic School Choices Increase

The latest study (2001-2002) of nonpublic schools, Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results From the 2001–2002 Private Universe Survey by the U.S. Dept. of Education show:


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 06:28 PM

November 02, 2004

High School: Crisis or Possibility

A new report, Crisis or Possibility Conversations about the American High School (downloadable) by James Harvey and Naomi Housman for the National High School Alliance began with the assumption that something needed to be done. Some 40 organizations participate in the Alliance for this important and well-funded study about the need to "reinvent the American high school." Read the executive summary for the key information. This is the latest item about the need for learning alternatives!


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 08:17 AM

November 01, 2004

Comprehensive School Reform

Comprehensive school reform efforts say different forms of schooling are necessary. There have been many such attempts over the past 15 years often with gigantic sums of money attached. A new report, From Whole School to Whole System Reform, describes two major approches: the work of the New American Schools in 4,000 schools and the federal Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration program in 5,000 schools with over $1,000,000,000 of funding. They define comprehensive reform as including: "instruction, assessment, classroom management, professional development, parental involvement, school management, aligning the school’s curriculum, technology, and professional development into a schoolwide reform plan. Wow, that should really change the operation of the nation's schools! Unfortunately, as with many other such efforts, after the dust clears, precious little has changed. Still, the report describes these considerable efforts and the small achievement gains made in some schools.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 06:47 AM

September 27, 2004

Evidence for School Reform

Researchers have found an astounding 40 percent to 60 percent of all students — urban, suburban and rural — are "chronically disengaged" from school. And these numbers don't include kids who actually drop out of school. This is from a quote from a newspaper account of a national conference of experts who met at the Wingspread Conference Center and hammered out a position statement outlining what schools need to do about this problem. The statement includes several research papers. These findings are consistent with other reports particularly at the secondary level.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 01:31 PM

April 27, 2004

Tools for Creating Alternatives

The Annenberg Institute has referenced an amazing variety of tools such as observation protocols, focus group samples and questions, surveys, questionnaires, and other techniques for use in improving schools. These same tools can be very useful for creating new schools or tuning up alternatives. It's a splendid assortment of devices for leadership, planning, staff development, community connections, student involvement, school climate and school organization.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:20 PM

April 04, 2004

8 Year Study: Now Available!

One of the most famous and sound studies in American Education is the 8 Year Study which led to the oft-repeated comment that the further you departed from conventional high school education the better the results. Five volumes described the study but they are almost impossible to find. Fortunately, the summary in the entire volume I, The Story of the Eight Year Study is now is available online due to the good work by the Maine Association for Middle Level Learning with the cooperation of the University of Maine.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:03 PM

March 25, 2004

Homeschooling: A Learning Alternative

Homeschooling has grown dramatically in the past decade. The U.S. Dept. of Education estimates that close to 1,000,000 students are in home schools up sharply since 1995. Homeschoolers fall into two rough categories: those who want certain religious beliefs inculcated and those who want a more progressive individualized program. An excellent article describes how it works for several families and provides good background information.
(Illustration / Aaron Meshon)


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 07:39 PM

March 24, 2004

Voucher Plans Rated

The Milton Friedman Foundation, a long time proponent of vouchers, has ranked the thirteen voucher plans in the U.S. Florida’s McKay Scholarship ranked the best with an A-. Milwaukee's plan, the oldest got a C. Colorado, the newest, got a B-.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:35 AM

March 15, 2004

Position Paper on NCLB by WALA

The Washington Association for Learning Alternatives has published a position paper on No Child Left Behind calling attention to its potentially harmful effects on education, particularly alternative programs. The carefully written and thorough paper describes WALA's efforts over the past 30 years to provide appropriate educational programs that enable ALL students to succeed.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:58 AM

February 11, 2004

Is Your Alternative School Authentic?

John Loflin has produced a survey for alternative schools to examine their faithfulness to true alternative educational principles. He calls it the Pseudo-Alternative Checklist. It's a reality check for schools and a reminder of what originators of the alternative movement had in mind for educational choices. In addition to the survey (there are two forms), Loflin provides a rationale for the checklists, and a set of best practices with an extensive bibliography. You will find this material useful because of its specifics. Loflin's material is a welcome addition to extensive materials at the IALA website.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:08 AM

January 11, 2004

Risk of Dropping Out of School

Jack Frymier and others constructed a table showing the family, personal, and academic risk factors that have a high correlation with dropping out of school. You can view this excellent but brief chart.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:03 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

Charter Schools Study

A new report, Charter Schools Today: Changing the Face of American Education, by The Center for Education Reform describes the charter school movement in 24 states. The report says, "In 24 states that offer good data, charters have
made notable gains, particularly in serving a wide spectrum of students. In addition to serving 'average' populations, charters are serving exceptionally well children of color, children with special needs and huge numbers of poor children. More importantly, parents of these students report high satisfaction with the education their children are finally receiving." Descriptions are of programs in these states: AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, LA, MA, MI, MN, MO, NJ, NY, NC, PA, SC, TX, UT, WI.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 05:51 PM

November 23, 2003

National Study of Alternatives

Dr. Cammy Lehr at the University of Minnesota is conducting studies of alternative programs in all 50 states. The first report, now out, found that 48 states has some form of legislation about alternative schools. A particular interest of the studies is to determine how students with disabilities are served by alternative programs. The study reports on definitions of alternative programs, funding sources, curriculum, staffing and enrollment criteria.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 08:58 PM

November 02, 2003

School Choice Can Reform Education

A recent study, School Choice as Education Reform: What Do We Know? suggests that offering choices of schools may improve learning. "There are two arguments about why greater school choice would result in better educational outcomes: (1) It could allow schools to better tailor their programs to attract students with particular interests or learning styles, thus providing a better match for students' unique educational needs; and (2) it would break the public school educational monopoly and force schools to compete for students in an educational marketplace in which "good" schools would prosper and "bad" schools would improve or be forced to shut down."


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:11 PM

September 13, 2003

Sources of Information on Educational Alternatives

Ray Morley made a great contribution by listing a huge bank of resources in his Resources in Alternative Education. It includes national information centers, books, historical references, journals, high school research reports, readings, legal references, position statements, facts and projections, research on federally sponsored models, and keys to success. This can be a first stop seeking info on alternatives.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:49 AM

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

May 20, 2003

Study of Alternative Schools

The National Center for Educational Statistics polled U.S. schools to determine the nature of alternative programs. They found 10,900 public schools serving 612,900 at-risk students. There are other alternative schools but this 2002 study examined just public schools serving at-risk students. The study contains much useful data on a little examined area. For example, 12 percent of the student population in at-risk schools had IEPs, about the same as the general population of students in district schools.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 05:52 PM

April 13, 2003

Assessment of Attitudes Etc.

The Compendium of Assessment and Research Tools (CART) is a database that provides information on 1000s of instruments that measure attributes associated with youth development programs. This is a very useful resource in an era where so much rides on standardized tests of achievement.

CART includes descriptions of research instruments, tools, rubrics, and guides and is intended to assist those who have an interest in studying the effectiveness of service-learning, experiential approaches, and other school-based youth development activities. You will find a brief description of the instruments, the target population for the instrument, contact information for acquiring the instrument, other parameters that should guide its use.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:08 PM