The New School Question Part II

July 9, 2009

And now for some pros and cons regarding established schools:

The advantages in terms of an existing track record, a stable management structure, a clear well executed curriculum, longstanding staff members, a large student body and ample activities and resources are clear.  The disadvantages are that they may rest on former reputation and may not be doing as much to earn it as new schools; they may have faculty who have been around too long; their facilities may be overcrowded or dated.

Just because a school has been around for many years does not suggest it is a better choice.  I have worked in schools with outstanding reputations, where hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on technology that the teachers refused to learn to use, or where teachers would not spend ten minutes of a lunch hour to assist a child because it was not in their union contract.  I have worked in other schools with low test scores where teachers routinely gave up their evenings and weekends to attend children’s music recitals and sporting events.


The New School Question Part I

June 30, 2009

As certain areas of the world explode in population, it is inevitable that schools will open to keep up with demand.  Often families are reluctant to send their children to new schools that have not established their reputation or standing.  Recently Liz wrote about this issue and created a list of pros and cons to consider when looking at new schools.

What are the pros and cons of new schools?

The pros of new schools may be:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Class sizes are small/teacher: student ratios are excellent
  • Often up-to-date with the latest educational trends
  • Keen to earn their reputations, as they don’t have reputations to rely upon
  • Facilities often are brand news and may be lavish

The cons:

  • Sometimes educationally under-resourced
  • May not have a unity of purpose
  • Curriculum may lack cogency
  • Staff turnover can be high while teething problems are ironed out
  • School policies may be fine in theory but need to be fine tuned in practice
  • More children with behavioral difficulties may be admitted to fill places
  • Children may not have an adequate peer group

It is easy to identify a school with a visionary leader and a clear mission.  You will encounter passion among anyone you speak with from the parents to administrators to cleaning personnel.  Everyone will be united behind a sense of purpose.  The curriculum may or may not be trendy, but it will be consistent and clear, and everyone will know what they have signed on for.  Educational materials and resources will support the curriculum. I always feel comfortable pointing out that a school stands for certain principles, and that by joining the school community, parents are choosing to align themselves with these.

In contrast, other new schools may not know what they stand for.  They may arise in response to a market opportunity, and may have a lovely site, and excellent teachers and administrators.  But the sense of purpose or clarity of vision often will be lacking.