Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Applying Lessons Learned Abroad at Home

Earlier this week, local news station NY1 profiled a new charter school in Manhattan that applies the ideals of student-driven learning based on the premise that "every student learns differently." But while many choice schools embrace that notion based upon evidence from their community, or with a varied curriculum that has the freedom to more pointedly teach certain kids, "Innovate Manhattan," as it is called, got its inspiration from somewhere else: Sweden.

That's right—while the school has a curriculum, students develop a work plan and specific goals that allow them to work through that curriculum at their own pace. They have specific teacher mentors, known as "coaches," who meet one-on-one with them daily to ascertain how we'll they're working towards meeting those goals.

An unlike the criticism levied at so many other education reform measures, there's no knocking a Swedish model that has proven highly-successful in multiple European countries. (A model that shares some things in common with England's free schools.)

According to Eileen Coppola, Innovate Manhattan's founding principal:
They've been doing this for 10 years in Sweden. They've been doing it for a couple of years in the UK and there is data that shows that it works really well.
There's much that the American education system can learn from international models. An oft-mentioned system of school vouchers is prevalent in Chile, where private school choice has been the norm since the 1980s. A majority of Chilean students are educated in private-voucher schools, and results from the national standardized test show significantly stronger performance among those students compared to their public school counterparts.

Local municipalities have significant control over the voucher system schools, which are part of a larger private school network that gives parents choice but also provides some of the structural and foundational strengths of a larger system.

According to authors of a recent report on Chile's education system:
[B]eing embedded within a larger organization of the franchise-private schools' success could be attributed to relatively successful schools deciding to join with those networks, or establish their own franchises and draw others in.
The lesson? Strong performance by schools positively effects other schools, one of the fundamental tenants behind our support for school choice on our own shores.

Read a great write-up about the Chilean education report at Education Week, and you can watch NY1's report on Innovate Manhattan by clicking below:

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, this model has so far proved more popular than good in Sweden. Up-to-date information from Sweden shows some of the unfortunate consequences of this cater-to-the-customer approach to education: increasing competition in giveaways (free laptops vs. free iPads to draw students), an explosion in grade inflation, enormous growth in dance and art electives. None of this was called for nor anticipated when the free schools law was passed in 1992.