The Education Innovator #20
Volume II
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 June 1, 2004 • Number 20
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What's inside...
Miami-Dade Public School Choice Program
What's New
OII releases Innovations in Education: Creating Strong Supplemental Educational Services Programs; OII is looking for partners to distribute the Innovations in Education publication series; will host a web-based dialogue on issues related to the charter schools conference; New York City's Chancellor Joel Klein said charter schools have what any successful school needs: leadership, autonomy, and accountability.
Innovations in the News
According to the National Center for Alternative Certification, Houston's alternative teacher certification program is one of the best in the country, plus information on school choice, single-sex schools, supplemental educational services, and technology in schools.

Miami-Dade Focuses on Customer Demand for a Vast Array of School Choices
"What is public school choice? How can it best engage parents to make smarter choices for their children? Will it help or hurt my school district in the long run?" These are questions that some administrators ask as they look at new opportunities and options for their districts.

Put simply, public school choice is designed to offer parents the option to enroll their children in a public school of their choice. While most states already have different forms of public school choice (ranging from open enrollment to charter schools and magnet schools), the No Child Left Behind Act also demands that all districts offer students who attend schools in need of improvement the option of enrolling in a better performing public school of their parents' choice. This added requirement has caused districts to question how to offer public school choice or juxtapose this new requirement against their existing school choice options. To this end, a trip to Miami-Dade County offers some insightful lessons.

Since 1971, Miami-Dade County Public Schools has offered a mélange of school choices. Currently, the district has 71 magnet programs, 31 charter schools, 16 controlled choice schools, two satellite schools hosted by large employers on site, and a "commuter school" for the convenience of parents who work in downtown Miami and drop their children off nearby. In addition, Florida's "Opportunity Scholarships Program," offers $4,000 scholarships for children to transfer from low-performing schools to other public or private schools, and the state offers the McKay scholarship program for students with disabilities to attend a private school of choice.

The district's School Choice and Parental Options office leads the oversight and implementation of the school choice programs, while the cross-district Schools of Choice Advisory Committee promotes greater understanding of the district's goals for magnet schools, analyzes special program needs, makes recommendations for program expansion, and encourages community engagement with the district's choice program. The committee members are as diverse as the school choices themselves and include representatives of the school board, members of the PTA, choice school principals, satellite learning center representatives, exceptional student education representatives, members of the teachers union, education experts from colleges and universities, and a group that addresses biracial and tri-ethnic issues.

Thanks to these two entities, Miami-Dade has successfully created innovative educational options coupled with increased access to better information for parents. The school district is also a recipient of several federal grants including one from the Department's Voluntary Public School Choice program. Through this program, the district is sponsoring the "I Choose!" initiative, which has divided the district into "choice zones." Schools in these zones are being modeled after successful magnet and charter schools in order to attract students and reverse declining enrollment in designated areas of the district. Right now, nine "I Choose!" schools are designing new school programs with aligned professional development. To meet training needs, district curriculum supervisors will be assigned to the schools, referred to as "professional development laboratories," to provide targeted, on-site expertise for teachers and students. The "I Choose!" schools are also sprucing up their school buildings to be more inviting to prospective students and their parents.

To manage transportation, the district has six transportation zones and recently created a new set of three larger zones in order to facilitate the choices required by No Child Left Behind. Transfers are managed through an integrated system, so when a student is registered at a charter school, for example, the student's name is taken off the roll of the traditional school immediately.

Dr. Helen Blanch, District Director of School Choice and Parental Options, emphasizes that choice is about "increased parental awareness of what is available, and the district's meeting parents' demands." As a result of customer demand, the school district has become consumer oriented and has adopted a business model with competition for quality products at its core.

OII has provided funding for Miami-Dade's choice initiatives through the Magnet Schools Assistance Program and the Charter Schools Program, in addition to the Voluntary Public School Choice Program. The school district has provided choice to its education customers for over 30 years and continues to do so under the provisions of No Child Left Behind.

Note: The Miami Dade School District choice program is one of the case studies in OII's new publication, Innovations in Education: Creating Strong District School Choice Programs. The featured school district is innovative, but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the program described may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.

Resources: Top

What's New
Innovations in Education Series: Creating Strong Supplemental Educational Services Programs Publication
OII released the second book in the Innovations in Education series: Creating Strong Supplemental Educational Services Programs. This book follows the first in the series: Creating Strong District School Choice Programs. Both books are available online or in hard copy, free from ED Pubs, under order numbers EU 0107P and EU 0108P, respectively. (May 25)

OII is Looking for Innovations in Education Publication Partners
OII is looking for partners to distribute and disseminate the information in the Innovations in Education publication series. If you and your organization are interested in mailing the books to your members, publishing the books cooperatively, scheduling speakers for conferences or meetings, or participating in technical assistance to implement ideas in the books, please email (May 27)

U.S. Charter Schools On-Line Dialogue
On June 7-10, will host a moderated, web-based dialogue on issues related to the upcoming charter schools conference. (May 27)

Chancellor Joel Klein's Speech
New York City's Chancellor Joel Klein, spoke at the New York Charter Schools Association annual conference. In his speech, he said he is an "unalloyed supporter of charter schools" because charter schools embody the elements necessary for any successful school: leadership, autonomy, and accountability. (March 27)

The 2004 National Charter Schools Conference will be June 16 -18 in Miami Beach, FL.

The Transition to Teaching grant competition remains open. The deadline for application is June 14.

The State Charter Schools Facilities Incentive grant competition remains open. The deadline for application is July 1.


Innovations in the News

Alternative Teacher Certification
The Houston Independent School District Alternative Certification Program, one of the oldest in the country, has turned college-educated professionals into classroom teachers. According to the National Center for Alternative Certification, an OII grantee, Houston's program is also one of the best in the country. [More-Houston Chronicle] (May 22)

The "interns" who go through the Houston alternative certification program must pass a state competency exam to receive the federal "highly qualified teacher" label that is important under No Child Left Behind. Each intern has a different story to tell. [More-Houston Chronicle] (May 23)

School Choice
Saying that many minority students in New Jersey go to substandard schools, a coalition of black and Hispanic clergy called on lawmakers to implement school choice statewide. Their plan centers on allowing public dollars to follow a student to the school of his or her choice. [More-News Day] (May 24)

The Talladega County School System (AL) is cited in a report from the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights for aiding integration by complying with the choice provision of No Child Left Behind. [More-Daily Home] (May 23)

Olga and Michael Block created the BASIS school in a well-worn commercial area of Tucson, AZ. The school requires students to take at least seven Advanced Placement courses to graduate. [More-Washington Post] (May 25)

Single-Sex Schools
Today there are 25 single-sex public schools in the nation. Another 72 schools offer single-sex classes. Some experts predict 2005 will be a banner year for single-sex education. [More-Christian Science Monitor] (May 25)

Schools exclusively for boys, such as Roxbury Latin and Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts, are being looked at as viable educational alternatives. A recent Australian study showed that boys make academic gains when educated with other boys. [More-Christian Science Monitor] (May 25)

Supplemental Educational Services
Secretary of Education Rod Paige visited Toledo Public Schools to highlight what is going right in the district with supplemental educational services. The district is one of the case studies upon which the OII book, Creating Strong Supplemental Educational Services, is based. [More-Toledo Blade] (May 26)

Technology in Schools
Connections Academy, a virtual school based in Baltimore, provides home-schooling families with what they need to conduct class, including a support network for parents. [More-Durango Herald] (May 24)

Deb Karle holds the title of "integration specialist" at Gates Elementary in Grand Island, NE. In this position she works in the media center, helping students use computers and technology, and creates activities for the HAL program to expand the regular classroom curriculum for high ability learners. [More-Grand Island Independent] (May 24)


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Last Modified: 06/30/2011