Irrational Avoidance of Actual School Choice

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In a not-online Newport Daily News article from April 18, Derek Gomes reports on new programs allowing students from other towns to attend Portsmouth High School:

The move comes on the heels of the state Department of Education designating the high school as a regional program provider for the career and technical pathways of child development and television production.

While the school has offered courses in each subject for years, it had to tailor curricula and have state education officials observe the classes before the state education department approved Portsmouth’s application last month.

“These tuition-based programs will welcome students statewide to participate and earn industry-based credentials and job experiences in these areas,” according to a letter the School Department posted on its Web site.  “Students from other districts may apply for enrollment … and be considered for admission on a competitive basis.”

Details from the district’s Web page don’t make it immediately clear whether students attend the district full time or, as with vocational classes at Rogers High School in Newport, just attend for the few relevant classes.  The Portsmouth tuition of $15,830 could certainly be full time, but the economics of these programs are crazy, with students’ home districts paying the same tuition for a couple of courses as they would for a full course load.

What strikes me at the moment, though, is how narrow and convoluted this all is.  There’s a reason Little Compton sends its high school students all the way through Tiverton to attend Portsmouth High School.  People actually move to Portsmouth for the same reason, and some private school parents in the area simply treat Portsmouth as another private school and pay the tuition.  Why should the district have to offer specialized programs in order for the Department of Education to incorporate the choice into the system?

As I’ve written before, taxpayers should see themselves as funding the education of children in our community, not the maintenance of a government-branded school system.  If that were the attitude, then we’d direct our resources where they will be used to greatest effect.



  • Guest

    My take away from this is RIDE is designating certain high schools as regional centers of excellent in certain vocations. If a public school student wants to take the courses in his/hers identified future job career then they must take classes at defined centers of excellence which might cost them and their families especially if they must travel outside their school district. That is wrong! All students must have equal access.

    In my state there was a pilot program at the local High School called “Searider Productions” started in 1993: ttp://www.seariderproductions.com/
    which is like a crash program for high school students at Rhode School of
    Design teaching students visual media arts, the media industry, journalism and marketing real-time because they create for real industry clients. The students started winning national and international awards for their work and creativity and people started to notice.

    Other schools and communities picked up on what was happening and the State Department of Education (DOE) OKed a pilot program for all the schools in the state based on Searider Productions. Thus was born HIKI
    NŌ (Can Do): http://pbshawaii.org/hikino/ the first in nation and only weekly student PBS TV news show (that rival’s network news) with a statewide network of schools. Under their teachers guidance, students from over 80 public, private and charter schools (elementary, middle and high work together) from across the islands share stories from their communities to Hawai‘i and the world. After five years of pilot programing the Hawaii DOE accepted the program and made it mandatory curriculum for middle and
    high schools.

    Hawaii is proud of national award winning HIKI NŌ’s success, but the most rewarding outcome of the project is the education it provides to articipants. The project gives students from all parts of the state equal access to workforce and 21st century learning skills – digital literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and communication – that are essential for success into today’s economy. Participation in HIKI NŌ has given many students the real-world experience of working in a newsroom and has even encouraged some to pursue careers in journalism.

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