Parental Choice Within Schools
When I was a little kid in a public elementary school, my parents would ask around about which teachers were the best. They got to request that I be assigned to a classroom but more often than not, the school didn’t pay any attention to those requests. When I was in first grade, I didn’t like my teacher and my parents asked that I be allowed to switch. The school would only do that on the condition that I, the six-year-old, present my grievances to the teacher in person at a formal meeting. (Needless to say, I stayed in that classroom and learned to deal with it.)
I’m happy to see that there’s more choice than that at Carmen Trails Elementary School. A Post-Dispatch article about single-sex education reports that parents can choose between single-sex and coed classes for their first-grade kids. The school might expand the program to other grades, as well.
I’m guessing the impetus for this program was competition from the Catholic schools in the area, many of which are single-sex. If public schools want to retain students whose parents prefer single-sex classrooms, they need to offer it as an option.
If there were more parental choice in education, I predict we would see more examples of public schools giving parents different options. For example, instead of forcing a phonics (or more likely, whole language) curriculum down everyone’s throats, a school might allow parents to choose which method will be used to teach their child reading. Disputes about "new math" could be resolved in a peaceful way too.
I do have a concern about one thing in the article:
Boys engaged in a math contest meandered around the room Tuesday, scampered on the floor and fidgeted at tables.
Gleeful taunts shot up each time a high card trumped a low one. It was boys being boys.
And where were the girls?
They were next door, in Alicia Wall’s class, sitting quietly as Wall asked them to talk about colors clipped from magazines.
Olivia Rosewell raised her hand and politely observed of a classmate’s project, "You sure found a lot of pink."
It’s not often that I agree with anyone from the National Organization for Women, but if I ever have daughters I would not want them to be finding colors in magazines while their male peers learn math. However, that’s a decision parents should make for themselves.