Instructional Choice vs. School Choice

Julia Freeland Fisher has written an insightful piece for the Christensen Institute in which she cuts through the “charter vs. district” debate and explores the sorts of instructional innovations and choices, within and across school systems, that stand to bring more students into 21st-century schools. Excerpts of her article appear below:

The next generation vision of choice should be about schools—of the district, charter, or private variety—providing numerous and flexible learning pathways tailored to each of their students. In the long run, a robust supply of personalized instructional options within schools may be the most potent driver of combatting stubborn achievement gaps and graduating more students college and career ready.

In blended and personalized classrooms, teachers are better able to reach each individual student and provide various pathways and experiences across numerous students. Learning in part online, students are able to move at a flexible pace and often get more one-on-one and small-group time with their teachers. Online courses offer anytime, anywhere opportunities to access learning. And in the best of these models, teachers are able to see how students are performing in real time and adjust learning experiences and supports accordingly.

In light of this incredible shift afoot, choice advocates should start to ask: how can we ensure that every student has access to an education—and the particular instructional experiences and supports—that best suits his needs and strengths? And how can more classrooms across our country embrace designs that reach each student, rather than some nonexistent middle?

Champions of school choice often bemoan the monopoly that public school districts hold on a child’s education. But they should be equally concerned about another monopoly: the monopoly that a time-based factory model of learning has long held on instruction. Disruptive innovations stand to flourish in both district and charter schools alike, affording students far more flexible and customized learning experiences than were feasible even a decade ago.

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