How Do You Spell Relief? C-H-O-I-C-E
The Post-Dispatch has a great article this morning about the success of “Big Picture” schools in educating students who had previously performed poorly in traditional public schools.
Big Picture Co. is a Rhode Island-based company that operates 46 schools across 13 states. The schools follow an unorthodox lesson plan — one that is uniquely tailored to each individual student. The idea is that large public schools aren’t effective at reaching some students. When these students can’t relate to their peers or their lessons, they fall behind academically and often become disruptive in class.
The St. Louis School Board voted last spring to set up “alternative” schools, such as those operated by Big Picture, in an effort to reach students that conventional schools weren’t adequately serving. Big Picture subsequently opened three new schools in St. Louis to fill that gap.
What makes Big Picture schools so effective is their flexibility. Rather than being constrained by the Legislature or the local school board with a fixed lesson plan targeted at the median student, Big Picture schools can work with students and their parents to find what motivates them specifically, and then cultivate it. Matt Spengler, the director of development for Big Picture Co., summarizes:
A big part of what we do is building trust and the relationship between individual teachers and families. They know the kid the best. You find out what has worked in the past and what hasn’t worked. And as the relationship develops over time, families feel more comfortable sharing when problems or issues arise.
We’ve often written that one of the greatest benefits of school choice is that it introduces flexibility and competition to education, rather than the static “one-size-fits-all" solutions generated by centralized bureaucracy. Every child learns differently, and it is imperative that schools recognize this — especially at an early age. Students that lose interest in school early in their lives often never catch up to their peers, and that has negative consequences for all of us.