Customization

Choice for choice’s sake

Education choice programs are widely viewed as a means for students to leave traditional public schools and seek better opportunities to learn elsewhere. Researchers therefore have attempted to compare how students perform academically at schools of choice versus their traditional counterparts – the idea being that the value of choice depends on its ability to produce superior educational outcomes. But that approach ignores the virtue of choice. The power to choose isn’t just another instrument of policy. Exercising choice is a fundamental human desire that increasingly is accommodated in multiple spheres of life. Why should education be excluded? To be sure, there...

“Public education” is anything but public

In much of American society, children attend a school that has been chosen by their parents. Mom and Dad have picked out a home in the attendance area of a certain school that is owned and run by the government. At the very least, when they moved they knew its reputation. Whether or not the school was a major consideration, they accepted it as a substantial part of the culture that would count greatly in shaping their child’s worldview. That school of theirs will be called “public.” My Webster’s defines this word in various ways, but most prominent among these...

Gardiner Scholarships give students with autism a homeschool lifeline

Every day was a battle for Jared Wendlberger in school. The 7-year old, at the time, would come home in tears, after his backpack and lunch were stolen by his classmates. Jared, who has high-functioning autism, was placed in an emotional behavior disorder class in the second grade. Some of the students in the class were two years older and several of them were violent, his mother, Sandy Edwards, remembers. Jared was bullied regularly and it affected him on many levels. He was self-conscious about everything and became withdrawn. He was unable to finish his school work and was performing poorly. But the...

No homeschool family is an island: Home education offers parents support

Patricia Anthony immigrated to the United States from Colombia 12 years ago. Settling in Lake Worth, Florida, Anthony decided to homeschool her daughter after their school didn’t meet up with her expectations. “You can tailor the education for your child according to what they need,” she said of home education. Because English is not her first language, Anthony wanted to ensure her two high school daughters, Vanessa and Emily, received English instruction from a teacher specializing in the subject. Now, as it turns out, Vanessa, 17, wants to major in English. Anthony enrolled her children in Home Education Enrichment Day, (HEED), a Christian...

A Gardiner Scholarship transformed Emily Beasley’s life

Emily Beasley was a typical 6-year-old. Precocious yet shy, she was learning to read, loved to dance and enjoyed playing with friends. Everything changed suddenly one night, as she stood in her family’s kitchen. Her parents noticed her staring with a blank expression. Her lips moved, but she wasn’t speaking. She didn’t move and lost control of her bladder. “That was the exact moment when everything changed,” said Doug Beasley, her father. Emily recuperated over summer vacation, but when school started again, there more problems. She had a “rather large” seizure at school one day, her mother said, leading to a brief hospital...

More money for Florida education? What it needs is more customization

Florida’s constitution requires the state to make adequate provision for a uniform system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high-quality education. Back in 2009, a group called Citizens for Strong Schools filed a lawsuit asserting the state is not fulfilling this mandate, and asking the judiciary to order the state to make the necessary improvements. Both the circuit court and the appeals court ruled against the plaintiffs, but the case is still alive, with oral arguments in front of the Florida Supreme Court scheduled for Nov. 8. Some argue that if we spend enough money our...

Customization can lead to eliminating school grades and better accountability

The state of Florida’s latest annual report on the performance of students receiving tax credit scholarships contained these facts: 22.9 percent of scholarship students came from public schools rated “D” or “F” in the prior school year, while 30.3 percent of came from public schools rated “A” or “B.” School grades are intended to inform parents about the effectiveness of district and charter schools, but tax credit scholarship parents aren’t impressed. Apparently, most of these low-income and working-class parents are using other means to determine which schools will work best for their children. I was skeptical when Florida first started grading...

Nation’s first public school reading voucher opens for applications Monday

Starting Monday, Florida families can apply for the first voucher in the nation aimed at helping public elementary school students who struggle with reading. Already, more than 2,400 have signed up on an interest list. Step Up For Students, a nonprofit that publishes this blog, is the only state-approved scholarship organization that has chosen to administer the program. After conducting a beta test last week, Step Up is turning on its online application for all comers on Monday. Families can apply through the homepage. The scholarship program is fueled by a longstanding academic concern: Students who can’t read by the end...