Course Choice

Source: Reuters, Dec 2012

White and a handful of fellow revolutionaries have begun pushing a new vision for American public education.

Call it the a la carte school.

The model, now in practice or under consideration in states including Louisiana, Michigan, Arizona and Utah, allows students to build a custom curriculum by selecting from hundreds of classes offered by public institutions and private vendors.

A teenager in Louisiana, for instance, might study algebra online with a private tutor, business in a local entrepreneur’s living room, literature at a community college and test prep with the national firm Princeton Review – with taxpayers picking up the tab for it all.

Students in many states have a vast array of school choices, including charter and online options, but once they pick a school, they’re typically limited to classes offered within its walls (or on its website). The more flexible models being tested and debated require students to pick a “home base” school where they can play sports and consult with guidance counselors, yet allow them to reach outside for some or all of their academic classes and electives.

“Whether you want to be a welder or a nuclear physicist, it’s highly likely that there are places beyond your local high school that are better able to prepare you for that,” White said. “Within the four walls of the school, there is only so much you can do.”

Students across Louisiana can participate as long as they remain enrolled in a traditional public school and take at least one class from that school.

Students in Utah can enroll in classes taught by any of 15 state-approved online vendors, including private, for-profit companies. If they don’t like the way geometry is taught in their high school, for instance, the state will pay for them to take the class from an online vendor and deduct that sum from the high school’s appropriation. Students could pick a different vendor for an online Spanish class and a third for U.S. history.

In Michigan, a task force tapped by the governor to reinvent public education has come up with a sweeping plan that would let kids pick and choose offerings from any school that will accept them – so they could take art at their neighborhood school, literature online, biology from one charter school and Spanish from another, with the state parceling out funding to each provider.

Related Reading: LA Department of Education Course Choice website

The Course Choice program will enable families to choose publicly-funded course offerings that best match each student’s abilities and needs beginning in the 2013-14 school year. The Course Choice program will expand academic course options for all Louisiana students who want to enhance their academic performance and job readiness.

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