Alberta education system success & what “choice” is all about.

Read Hunter’s latest post at Out of the Dark “My Kid, My Choice.” It is great news that a Canadian province like Alberta can show the rest of the world how to improve the education system — by not simply jiggering with statistics on drop-out or high school graduation rates resulting from no-fail and social promotion policies like those found in Ontario. What I find interesting though is how progressives and teacher union types are trying very hard to dismiss this success. For more on that I’d recommend reading the comments on Hunter’s thread, as well as my my recent commentary on merit pay for teachers.

Endnote: Hunter’s source is from Kevin Lubin’s column in the National Post entitled “Alberta schools apple of U.K.’s eye.”

Notion of choice in public schools growing

While the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has been getting a lot of publicity lately about alternative schools, it seems that, not only is the concept growing all across Canada, it has hit the mainstream media. For example, a hat tip to regular reader, West Coast Teddi, who provided this link to a National Post article dated yesterday by Tom Blackwell — with the title “Specialized public schools catch on in Canada.”

As noted in the title of Blackwell’s column, sometimes they are referred to as specialized or specialty schools. Other times they may be referred to as alternative schools or, in some provinces, independent or charter schools.

Whatever their name, they are based on student and community need. As such, there are sport schools, like the “basketball school” in Hamilton, Ontario mentioned in the above link, as well as French immersion, liberal arts schools that are all-boys or all-girls, fine arts schools, schools designated for First Nations and black youth of African descent, music and choir, and so on. Key, of course, is that they are all publicly funded with taxpayers money.

Why is this happening now? Well, in my opinion, it is the intersection of needs and reality. On the one hand, there is student and community need and a demand for school choice. On the other, there is the fact that most public school boards in Canada are experiencing declining  enrollments. Meaning, that boards are having to think competitively to both retain and recruit students — and one way to do that is to provide the choice students and parents seem to want.

In other words, if done cautiously and based on demand, alternative schools can be a win/win for everyone!