A big question of debate throughout our country is how to provide quality education and, at the same time, control costs. This debate ranges from the local level all they way to Washington DC. One thing we all agree is we are spending far more now per pupil but the levels of achievement are down. So what can be done?
One solution would be to look outside the traditional methods and means of educating. A place to begin would be to restructure the school day and the school year. We are no longer a 9 to 5 society. So why do we have to remain on a time frame of 8 to 3 school day? Why could we not extend the school day, especially for the upper grades, from 8 am to 8 pm. This would allow full use of the school facilities and more flexibility for scheduling classes. This could work to the advantage for both students and teachers.
Another means is to eliminate the summer vacation. This is a big waste of time. Most students after a couple of weeks find themselves board with not much to do. A year round schedule could allow for breaks during the school year.
One way to contain costs would be for schools to give each student a voucher for how much they have to spend on classes for the year. There would be required courses that would have to be taken. But if a student wanted to go beyond this, it would be on a pay or co-pay basis.
Also another thing to look at is the time it takes a student to complete their education from kindergarten through college. Right now that range takes from 12 to 16 years. By letting students make the decisions and choices that time could be reduced or expanded as needed. The grade system could be replaced by letting students move at their own pace. Example: A student may be at the third grade level in reading but in the sixth grade level in math.
Other sources which already open a wide range of educational opportunities are:
* Classes outside the school system which many students already participate include art, music, dance, religion, sports and more.
* Tapping local professionals, ex. retires, who are a ready source of expertise in their fields.
*Going beyond the local to the national and international, the use of online classes would open a whole range of resources never before dreamed.
To set up this type of schooling, there would of course need to be controls. In order for schools not to become the pawns special interests groups and ideologies, this control needs to be mainly at the local level. To work best there needs to be a partnership between parents and teachers with the final say resting with the parents. They are the ones of ultimate responsibility.
For many who say this will not work, we need only look at home schooled students. In comparison studies they have consistently ranked as high or higher in scholastic achievement as schooled students
Two main objectives quality and lower costs could be realized. The driving factor, competition, would soon build quality and, at the same time, help to control costs.
So with all this available, why don’t we use it. It’s time to go beyond what worked in the past because it is not working now. There are viable solutions to this problem and it’s time we put them to work.