Greetings from Choice-o-Rado

The ‘C’ is for ‘Choice’

Is there such a thing as too much choice? Reader: this is what is known as a rhetorical question—and the rhetorical answer is “no.” But don’t allow me to make up your rhetorical mind for you. I insist that you accompany me on an extra-special field trip, to the choiciest burg in our 50 states: Douglas County, Choice-o-Rado. Regular readers will recall DougCo from our inaugural visit and a recent return. What brings us back again? In a word: choice.
In a matter of weeks the lucky children of DougCo, Choice-o-Rado will resume traversing the global achievement gap and hurtling towards world class outcomes, drawing ever closer to the snowy caps of Prosperity Peak. Now, thanks to the visionaries at the helm of the Douglas County Schools, these young prosperity prospectors have a little extra ballast in their backpacks. Reader: it’s called choice, and no one understands it better than DougCo’s youngest choice makers.

Beginning this fall, DougCo’s students and their parents will have a veritable choice-u-copia of choices from which to choose. In fact, the school district’s new 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, involves so many choices that the district is now offering a special school choice selector just to help choosy choosers navigate all of their choices. Let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

Now the first thing we do is select the icon that best speaks to our choice. Alas, our first choice, the sock monkey, doesn’t seem to represent anything, so we go with number two: the bookends. Good choice, reader, as we’ve arrived at Educational Philosophy. But what a thicket of choices for us to wade through. Should we choose the Culture of Thinking, which “provides resources to create a culture of thinking, based on Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education Research”? Or perhaps a MicroSociety, in which kids create a community as a “microcosm of the real world inside the school”? Or maybe Gender Based Learning? Cooperative Learning? Positive Behavior Support? In all, we’ve got 16 choices to choose from—and that’s just Educational Philosophy. Don’t forget to save plenty of time to make your content specific choices, not to mention activities and enrichment.

I don’t know about you, but I’m  pretty decisive so have quickly chosen a choice for my would-be DougCo little ones. I’m going with MicroSociety, with a frisson of Positive Behavior Support and an after school Cup Stacking Club. What do you mean that’s not a choice??? Fine then. I guess I have no choice but to go with my second choice: I’ll go with the Highly Effective Teaching (HET) that everyone is so het up about, throw in a Comprehension Tool Kit and a little Katie Wood Ray Units of Study Approach just to balance it all out. That’s not a choice either? What kind of Soviet-era system are we living in? Milton Friedman, the grandfather of school choice and the inspiration behind DougCo’s choiceification, deserves better.

Obviously transitioning from the bad olde days of choicelessness to a choicetastic future involves more than just saying the word *choice* over and over again. I’m wondering if perhaps the Douglas County Schools might want to consider adding a handsomely paid staff member just to aide parents and students in navigating the many choices that lie before them? This just in: The Douglas County School District now hiring a Director of Student and Parent Choice

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  1. Sadly, this is exactly what’s happening here in DCSD. I would laugh if it wasn’t my own flesh and blood’s immediate future. Makes me want to cry. Thanks for this perfect, sarcastic summary. Well put.

  2. The choice that I want for my kids is “Great neighborhood school,” but sadly, those are no longer an option in Douglas County.

    1. Is Douglas County also the district in Colorado that’s buying into InBloom and not allowing parents to even opt out of giving up their childrens’ data? If so, what a bellweather of choice!!!

  3. All parents simply want a good neighborhood school. Good neighborhood schools build community, too. Good neighborhood schools increase property values and boost local small businesses.

    The choice industry (I love how the C on the flag really stands for choice…lol) wants tax dollars. They say to hell with what’s good for families and communities and small businesses.

    Egyptians and Syrians give their lives; we Americans can’t even rally to take back our schools.

  4. So in your amazing research where does choice leave special needs and neighborhood schools who are over burdened with Kids who need special help? You forget that ALL children at whatever “specialty” school have a right to be provided a publicly funded (by taxes) education.

    1. Greetings choosy chooser! Parents of special needs students can choose special schools, although come to think of it, there didn’t seem to be much info about them in the school choice selector. As for neighborhood schools, that seems to be the one choice that is not available–except, of course, to choosers who have no other choice. But good news: when your neighborhood school begins to struggle because too many students with no other choices have chosen it, the district will no doubt choose an outside operator to take it over, giving you the choice of whether or not you want to attend. It’s what we call a win/win/win!

      1. My favorite problem here: what are parents supposed to do when their children are a “fit” for different schools? My brother has 8 children. Can you imagine the fun of having each child in his/her “own specialty school?” Apparently in Douglas County, everyone has one child, or may be identical children who all need the same thing. Because serving multiple types of students in the same school is too darn hard. And what happens if a student’s needs change? Off to a new school with you? And what if a student’s “needs” (according to the parents) are to be in a school with only one race or all rich people or something? Back in the early 20th century, that was called “separate but equal.”

        1. Great news for your brother: in the olde days of no choice, his eight kids would have had no choice to attend the neighborhood school. But in the era of choice, his kids will travel by bus to their eight different schools. And I hope your brother chose a lucrative profession because, as a Douglas County parent wrote to inform me, those bus rides cost fifty cents a pop, meaning that it will cost your brother $40 a week or roughly $1500 per year to send his kids to their choice of schools. As for the “need” to attend a single race or single class school, examples of that are quickly popping up across the country. Seems like a popular choice!

          1. Swell. Good thing we don’t live in Colorado. What happened to a free appropriate public education?

          2. Actually there are no bus rides offered if you choose choice. Families only “get” to pay for your bus choice if you choose the neighborhood school. (Of course you can choose not to pay for the bus ride and drive your kids to the neighborhood choice – aren’t they accommodating?) Funny little thing… you don’t get services to your choice – only the choice to have a choice. You see it’s your choice to go to a choice school. And it’s not the district’s problem of HOW you get to that choice.

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