Are Specialized Charter Schools a Problem?
Juliann Talkington at the Panama City Renaissance School Blog writes about specialized schools and their drawbacks:
At 13, 14 and 15, children are still developing and changing. As a result, this is a bad time to ask a young person to make a decision that will impact the rest of his/her life.
Talkington refers to magnet schools throughout the piece, but the same charge could be leveled at charter schools, which in many cases are more specialized than magnets with comparable themes. (For instance, St. Louis is home to both internationally themed magnet schools and language-immersion charter schools. The charters offer all-day immersion; the magnets don’t.)
I see a big difference between state school systems that divide students into tracks at an early age — a practice I agree is wrong — and specialized schools that students attend voluntarily, which can be beneficial.
First, some people do know what they’re going to do in their lives from an early age, and they should be able to pursue their interests.
Second, specialized schools in the United States, with the exception of schools that are purely vocational, do give students the option of changing course. After going through a specialized high school, students can take college entrance exams and go to college, where they can study something different from what they focused on during the preceding years.
This is possible because specialized schools usually teach a variety of subjects. For example, math and science schools do not eliminate English and history from the curriculum; rather, they offer fewer electives in those subjects, and less time is devoted to them during the school day. And schools that teach exclusively in a foreign language when students are young introduce English classes in higher grades.
Specialized charters and magnets don’t lock children into career paths. They just give them a chance to explore a subject in more depth.