NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Rethinking School Reform

April 7, 2011

In recent decades, many calls for transformative change in American schooling have advocated school choice.  Yet these calls themselves have too often accepted the orthodoxies of the 19th century schoolhouse.  Working with the Walton Family Foundation's Bruno Manno, Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, offers a more promising vision for 21st century, choice-centered reform.

  • The critical role of data: A successful customized schooling model requires collecting and monitoring data in ways that reflect individual needs and performance, not merely those aggregated across large swaths of students.
  • Not just choice, but informed choice: Much like the importance of information in structuring a well-functioning policy environment, the parental need for granular, comparable and accessible data on schools must be taken into account when modeling a customized education system.
  • Technology and the rise of virtual schooling: To rethink the one-teacher-to-25-students classroom that has persisted so stubbornly for centuries, we must learn to strategically exploit the power of new technologies.
  • Customized education for teachers and administrators: Teachers in need of specialized lesson plans or wishing to import specialized support for a handful of advanced students could use new resources to become more effective.
  • Tools for customization: Allowing outside providers to augment classroom offerings means that schools can take advantage of their expertise and leverage those skills to provide services at a much lower cost than developing such expertise on their own.
  • Breaking the whole-school funding assumption: Rather than just paying for students to go to approved school A or B, the state would deposit money in an account in the name of each student and then allow parents to use that money to procure services from an array of state-approved providers.

Source: Frederick M. Hess, "From School Choice to Educational Choice," American Enterprise Institute, April 5, 2011.

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