My own public school education happened in a Portland, OR suburb over 25 years ago. It didn’t feel like we were having a crisis then and, in part due to the fact that I am a quick learner, my education was an overall pleasant and effective experience. Looking back, though, I realize that for many of my classmates it was not a good fit and I can’t help but wonder how things would have turned out for them if there had been alternatives. The same school system that worked for me let many others down.
One aspect of the education reform movement that stands out to me is the number of creative solutions being offered in communities across the country. The fact that we are reexamining so much of what we thought we knew about education from school hours to school years, from curriculum to control, give me confidence that we are on the road toward improving educational outcomes for all children.
I came across this article recently about an adventurous model in virtual learning. Hawaii Tech Academy is located above a Kayak shop and only takes up about 10,000 square feet; not much space for a 1,000 strong student body. Their virtual learning model means that students only come to the school about twice a week on average for select classes and electives. During the rest of the week they work from home.
One student put it this way, “I really like this school because it’s challenging,” said Joelle Lee, a soft-spoken 7th grader with a flair for drawing. “You can work at your own pace. If you get it down in most schools, you have to wait for everyone else. This one, you learn it once and you get ahead and go on to the next thing.”
Among the values I learned in school, two that were highly valued in my character were creativity and independence. Hawaii Tech Academy seems to embody those values and is presenting one type of solution that could contribute to every child having access to a high quality education.
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