Creating Focus Schools

There are some threshholds that school districts must meet to be considered up to date – not to mention exemplary.  One of those threshholds is that a district must have a portfolio of focus schools – e.g. IB, Montessori, Dual-Language, Math &Science.

This drives some educators nuts.  A school does need to have a highly focused curriculum to provide the best education possible to students.  But, many educators, believe this can be done in a traditional school setting.  And, it can.

But, the reality is that people have different preference for education philosophies and practices.  They want to choose the approach that they believe works best for their child.  Fort Collins, Boulder and many other districts provide such options.  The increasing demand for charter schools reflects this desire.

St. Vrain must respond.  If we want to continue to attract primary employers – such as Xilinx or Amgen – to our communities, we must have a school district that is attractive to potential employees.

A portfolio of focus schools is part of the basic package in a modern school district.


One Response to “Creating Focus Schools”

  1. Brad Jolly Says:

    John, I commend you for recognizing the importance of educational choice in attracting high-quality jobs.
    You are also right that this is yet another area where St. Vrain falls short of even having a “basic package.”
    According to page 3 of the district’s own 2006-07 Annual Report, the district has grown by 2,848 students in the last four years, but 83% of that growth (2,357 students) is in the “free and reduced lunch” demographic. This suggests that the district is not extraordinarily attractive to the high- or medium-income demographic that generally improves a district’s academic results.
    I am deeply concerned that this is becoming a vicious cycle. The district’s failurist funding model and low expectations cause parents who can afford better alternatives to flee, thus raising the percentage of students from low-achieving socioeconomic groups. The need to accommodate these students leads to further funding distortions and even lower standards, and the cycle continues.
    Your solution is to create large amounts of choice within the school district, but that is clearly years away from becoming reality. If we fail to act now, the cycle will continue, and it may be too late by the time choices become available.
    The best solution for all of the citizens in the area is a dual-pronged approach of a) reforming the district toward excellence to attract the parents who are presently repelled by the district’s low standards, and b) promoting and encouraging educational alternatives (charter schools, homeschools, private schools and parochial schools) to at least keep the parents that the district has repelled from leaving the area altogether.

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