by Anna Manning
The Reason Foundation references North Carolina in an article published online about school choice.
These days, kids are heading back to increasingly varied learning experiences that might or might not include anything recognizable as a traditional school.
“Nearly 1 in 5 North Carolina students is not attending a traditional public school, and that percentage is likely to continue rising as more families choose alternative education options,” the Charlotte Observer marveled last month. “For the third year in a row, enrollment has fallen in North Carolina’s traditional public schools even as the number of students continues to rise in charter schools, private schools and homeschools.”
John Locke Foundation’s Terry Stoops often writes on the school choice debate specific to North Carolina and the number of students and parents in the state seeking alternatives to public school. You can read some of Dr. Stoops’ recent articles here and here and his commentary to the N&O on school choice here.
More from the Reason Foundation article:
Nationally, the number of private school students has held pretty steady at around ten percent of the population, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But “[b]etween fall 2000 and fall 2015…the percentage of public school students who attended charter schools increased from 1 to 6 percent.”
The NCES also reports that “[t]he homeschooling rate increased from 1.7 percent in 1999 to 3.4 percent in 2012.” Since then, according to the National Home Education Research Institute, “While the overall school-age population in the United States grew by about 2.0 percent from spring 2012 to spring 2016, data from 16 states from all four major regions of the nation showed that homeschooling grew by an average of about 25 percent in those states.”
These options are getting even more interesting and varied as technology expands the range of the possible by connecting students with knowledge across the internet. Online classes long ago progressed beyond canned lectures to incorporate meeting software, real-time interaction, file-sharing, and responsive lessons.
Experts debate the results achieved by these alternatives to traditional public schools. “Virtual schools continued to underperform academically, including in comparison to blended schools,” the NEPC noted, “although the margins were much closer this year than last.”
The author of this piece writes that while union officials and policy experts argue over test scores, parents are focusing on other factors and priorities that are being met through private school alternatives.
The culture of the school, the degree of flexibility vs. structure, and the teaching style are also important factors. Then there’s the intellectual rigor. And school priorities don’t always match those of parents and kids.
“We’re in an extended period where gifted kids are an afterthought at best,” education expert Andy Smarick told District Administration magazine in 2014. Official policy pushes public schools to focus on struggling students, while high achievers are left unchallenged and bored. “A 2011 Fordham Institute study found that between 30 and 50 percent of advanced students descend and no longer achieve at the most advanced levels,” the article added. (That study can be found online here.)
There’s no real way to quantify a good fit between education and student. All you can do is leave people free to make their own choices.