Choosy Kids Choose Choice

A wealthy Colorado county strives to become the choiciest place in America

It’s one of the great unfairnesses of our time: why are kids on the wrong side of the excellence gap getting all of the “choice”? Now, thanks to the bold innovativeness of one Colorado county, kids on the right side of the excellence divide may soon have all of the choices they can choose from. Welcome to Douglas County, the wealthiest county in all of Colorado—and soon to be the choiceiest.

Pioneers for choice
When we last visited this scenic locale, the children of Douglas County, CO, or DougCo, were hurtling towards World Class Outcomes, a new generation ofcreative, financially literate critical thinkers, globally aware problem solvers, and adaptable, ethical, resilient collaborators.” But despite a Blueprint for Choice that was already giving these young edu-pioneers voucher choice and charter choice aplenty, it was widely agreed by choice advocates of all stripes and funding sources that DougCo’s children were still too stifled. The only choice, concurred the choice-loving members of DougCo’s school board, was to offer these still stifled students still more choice. Question for the 300+ teachers who are choosing to leave the district this year: why do you hate choice???

We choose choice
So DougCo’s bold visionary leaders had a great idea: why not turn the district’s remaining public schools into laboratories of choice? Beginning this fall, DougCo will transition to a so-called niche model in which schools choose a theme, parents and students choose a themed school to attend, and teachers choose a themed school at which to teach. District director of schools Brien Hodges breaks it down for us:

Parents then can choose their neighborhood school, or open-enroll each student at the school whose educational model best serves their child. It’s all about providing options, Hodges said.

“When Henry Ford created the Model T, you could have a model in any color as long as it was black,” he said. “As we’ve evolved as a society, we have choices. We can buy a Ford, or we can buy a Chevy, a foreign car or a hybrid. Parents are saying, ‘I really want choices for kids.’”

Operators are standing by
But how to choose with so many choices? If only  teachers and students could pay money in order to take an online test that would give them an in depth window into their brains in about 20 minutes, then be grouped according to learning styles and preferences. Breaking news: a company called Emergenetics® has been hired by the Douglas County School District to provide just this service. Act now and for just $69 a person (35% off the usual rate) you will receive a unique Emergenetics® Profile. And wait—that’s not all. You will also receive an 8-page individualized Narrative Report that details your Profile and preferences. Operators are standing by!

What’s your choice?
How does it work? Simple! Students and teachers take a self-descriptive test that identifies their thinking and behavioral attributes. For example, Kimberly is a Blue/Green Thinker in the 1/3rd of Expressiveness, 2/3rd of Assertiveness and 2/3rd of Flexibility. This tells us that Kimberly probably likes details and looking at things very logically. But Fred has a tri-modal Profile, meaning he has three thinking preferences (Analytical, Social and Conceptual). With one Thinking preference in the Left Brain (Analytical) and two from the Right Brain (Social and Conceptual), Fred is able to empathize with other ways of thinking and understand nearly anyone. And Janet also has three preferences (Structural, Social and Conceptual). Having this kind of Profile means that Janet is likely concerned with process and work that is logical, concrete and rational.  

Best of all, the Emergenetics® profile can actually show what’s going on inside the heads of the students and teachers who pay $69 each to take it. And folks, the results are in—and they are excellent. It turns out that these state-of-the-art Emergenetics® thinking pie charts all indicate the same thing: Coloradans love school choice.

The right choice
As for the preferences of DougCo’s innovator-in-chief, Dr. Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, we don’t need an Emergenetics® profile or a thinking pie chart to see inside her brain. We can read her blog, in which she clarifies once and for all that she is committed to choice and also clears up various myths and misconceptions that have taken root among the less choosy of DougCo’s residents. But why not invite Dr. Fagan to extoll the outstandingness of choosing choice at your next event? You can find her here, at the Milton Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, where school choice has been the top choice since 1955.

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  1. Right on the money. We are fighting to get our schools back on track, here in Douglas County, and to get our (parents, teachers, community) voices heard. Many folks are truly not aware (or are in denial) of the push for this “Expanded Choice Programming” to happen RIGHT NOW. District admin is down-playing it and hoping that nobody’s listening to their presentations. Thank you for putting this out there for more to hear (er, read!). We really appreciate it.

    1. You are more than welcome. It’s clear that Douglas County is being used as a test case for how to introduce choiceyness into an affluent, high-performing district. And the ironical thing is that while choice is being peddled as new-fangled (how great is the quote from Brien Hodges about replacing the old Model-T choiceless model with the new car-lot model of school choice???), it isn’t new at all. That’s why it’s so appropriate that Dr. Fagen would be speaking on behalf of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Uncle Milty invented the idea of school choice. Check out this old-school school choice video here: but be sure to have an extra wine box at the ready…

  2. My stomach turned when I read the district had hired Emergenetics. I tweet from all the Board of Education meetings (@llbutler11), and I must have missed this. Of course, since they spend two hours at each meeting in private, it’s hard to say how much we miss. I do NOT want my children pigeon-holed into a certain learning style when they are five years old. I do support the general idea of charter and magnet schools, which serve children with unique learning needs, but leave our neighborhood schools alone! The majority of children need to be exposed to a well-rounded educational experience and requiring all schools to find their “niche” will not best serve our children. This board and upper administrators need to go and the election in November can’t come soon enough. Thank you so much for helping to spread the word about our cause!

  3. Parents have been duped. The Republicans convinced the country that schools were failing — and they are thriving in the affluent suburbs — and that ” choice” would fix the manufactured crisis. But what they are really choosing is no accountability and tax dollars being skimmed by corporations. There has been no benefit in achievement, test scores, graduation rates or college enrollment rates to students or benefit to tax payers in WI where all the choiceiness started. Why does CO think it will work any differently?

  4. Choosy choice advocates in The Knight’s Party share the philosophy of school choice with those Friedmaites.
    Amazingly, The Knights developed this edu-innovation without Emergenetics® which is nearly as fantastical as NASA putting a man on the moon before the computer age. The Knight’s inspiration for saving America’s school children happened in 1954, around about the time of Brown v BoE. They even have a marketing slogan: “America’s White Future Begins Here.” Exactly. Drink up.

  5. Celania-Fagen was Supt in Tucson Unified School District. She nearly sent us down the drain, with her “first choice” schools and competition between district schools. It’s taken us years to climb out of the Fagen phase. She’s a disaster as a district leader.

  6. Whoa! I nominate Dr. Elizabeth Celania-Fagen for the Edu-speak Double-speaker of the Year Award – surely she is (I hope!) without peer! Just as you think you have grasped her meaning, she slithers away. A defining characteristic of reformy excellence!

    “We also understand many of our teachers were trained for yesterday – before we had this understanding so it is our responsibility to create the opportunities for them to learn new ways to facilitate learning for our students. As a result, we have completely reinvented our professional development courses. All courses we offer today both model a World Class learning environment and teach our teachers how to be World Class instructors. “

    1. I’m a particular fan of Dr. Celania-Fagen’s style of random capitalization in order to signal that excellence is about to be enhanced. For example, Word Class should always be capitalized as using the lower case would signify that students are receiving less than a World Class education with World Class outcomes. Teachers who used to get by merely as world class instructors have been upgraded and updated to World Class. And as we all know, World Class passengers board the airline first… So thanks Dr. Celania-Fagan. I mean “Thanks.”

  7. Too late, Douglas County, Westlake Academy is a public charter school for the town of Westlake, TX that opened in fall 2003. It’s pretty choice – and an easy choice for the students on the easy side of the economic divide. It would be hard to beat.

    I am not sure where Westlake’s children were educated prior to 2003. The town of Westlake is in Denton County near Northwest ISD and Keller ISD.

    The demographic profile for Westlake, TX gives a median housing value for Westlake, TX of $1.3 million; median household income, $251,814 (2009). The school district had no economically disadvantaged students, as of the 2012 TEA AEIS report.

    links here:

  8. I am moving to Denver this summer from out-of-state and when I was applying for teaching jobs I (very intentionally) skipped over Douglas County. That place is a hot mess.

  9. I find it odd that those who condemn US education as being based on a 19th century industrial model are pushing something that fits a late 20th century model of process improvement. Many of those ideas work well in industry where the outcome is a distinct product. Results are easy to measure.

  10. My favorite part of her blog: “Comments Off”

    Democracy not welcomed here! No commentary allowed~

    Yes, that is edufreshworldclassistical and most convenient!

    If only she could be replicated and spread around in a viral fashion.

    We could all be choosy choicers!

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