It’s an interesting model and Zezima offers a balanced write-up. Two edutakeaways:
Zezima tells us:
Proponents of the program…say the model can be duplicated on a smaller scale and budget. Others, while enthusiastic about what the school has done, do not think it can be widely replicated. “You couldn’t run a public school district this way,” said Doug Sears, dean of the Boston University School of Education.
Nice to see the folks in academia thinking big! Of course, right now Sears is at least in general quite correct, but isn’t that part of the larger problem? The thing that makes schools like MATCH effective for a lot of kids is that they’ll do anything they can to help kids succeed and there are fewer regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural obstacles to doing so. In other words, they’re agile in a time that demands and rewards agility.
But in general these schools are not yet effective with all kids who come through the door and Zezima points out that not all kids succeed at MATCH. Yet while critics use this as an argument to perpetuate existing mediocrity, it’s actually a jumping off point for one of the toughest and most interesting questions in education policy today: The conundrum faced by open-enrollment all college-prep high schools in today’s educational context.
Hopefully at some point policy will be more aligned from pre-K through high school so that a “college prep” curriculum will be the default curriculum–not because everyone will or should go to college but because that curriculum is a pretty good jumping off point for most post-secondary options and a good way to attack today’s system of bifurcated expectations.
In the meantime, schools that seek to be open enrollment but college prep wrestle with the problem of kids who are not prepared to do the work because of years of neglect and kids who do not want to do the work because there are easier paths elsewhere and aspirations are low. To be sure, the latter are a subset but both groups present a challenge. MATCH is obviously attacking the former problem through this aggressive intervention but there are many ways to do it. The way not to do it, however, is to continue sentencing kids to more of the same because new strategies are not working for 100 percent of the kids. Hell — though the critics never remember to mention this part — the old strategy does not seem to be working well for about half of the minority youngsters in this country so the new schools are already beating those odds.
Instead, policymakers do need to think about how to create a menu or continuum of options for kids and build a more customized system lest one best system just gets replaced by another. That is starting to happen but there is still a lot of work to be done to get it right.