Sunday, April 23, 2006

This would be unbelievable if it wasn't so typical.

The Lee County School District "received the state's lowest rating, 'unsatisfactory,' and more than two-thirds of the students scored 'below basic,' the lowest score, on the annual state test."

Educational entrepreneurs are trying something different. The Sun Times reports,
In a cluster of portable buildings on a lot behind the Church of Christ, the MLD Higher Learning Academy is trying to offer 75 students something different in a school district that academy officials say has failed its children.

In one room, part-time teacher Barbara Wilson guides 15 fourth- and fifth-graders through a lesson on words that describe the sense of touch. Some students sit at computers donated by a nearby school district.

The class prepares students for the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, South Carolina's annual exam on which the pupils and their new school will be judged.

"I think we're filling a big void for the district," Principal Benita Dinkins-Robinson said. "A lot of these kids would have been home."
Now it would make sense for the Lee County School District to support talented, passionate educators trying to reach students who are otherwise failing. Clearly what the district is doing isn't working. If they are successful, then perhaps the district can take their model and expand it to other areas of Lee County.

But no. The District's response would be unbelievable if it wasn't so typical. Lee County School District "Superintendent Lloyd Hunter says the district is being forced to divert precious resources to an unproven concept."

Mind you we're not talking about taking money out of public education and giving it to private schools. A charter school is a public school, accountable to the same standards as every other public school in the state. We're talking about funds flowing from a failed school district to a principal and teachers who think they can perform better, which shouldn't be too high a hurdle.

In the real world, it's common sense for resources from failing enterprises to be reallocated to innovators creating new ways of delivering value to customers not well served by the status quo. I had a partner who used to remind me that common sense isn't so common though.

Public education is the biggest place it is easy to get depressed about our ability to do what is necessary to be successful in an increasingly global economy.

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