The dramatic increase in students leaving Clark County public schools for charter schools — which signifies the huge demand by parents for innovative approaches to learning — should give the district pause (May 27 Review-Journal). A proper response would be to create the kind of personalized and individualized approaches being offered by many charter schools. Instead, district officials think their problem is a marketing issue, and they are funding a position to stem the flow of students leaving.
This is misdiagnosing a problem. The goal should not be “How do we convince families not to leave?” It should be “How do we provide learning experiences and results that make them want to stay?”
Sadly, however, the law does not afford Clark County all the flexibility that charters have to make changes in its programs and operations. Unwieldly union contracts and state and local requirements on how schools operate hamstring well-meaning school leaders and teachers. The 19th-century factory model of school no longer works for 21st-century people.
That is the lesson that charters have afforded public education, and until citizens demand more from legislators, traditional districts will continue facing the impact of disruptive innovation. Charters and many new private schools are like Amazon, while traditional education is akin to Sears. One is finding and delivering to consumers at a more rapid pace, with higher ambitions and cognizant of the new science of learning. The other, as nostalgic as it is, has failed to keep pace with changes in technology and society.
That is what should be on the minds of Clark County school officials. It’s substance, not PR.