School Choice

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Is there a month that goes by without an article in the Register about reforming public schools? Gloria Romero wrote her opinions September 10 and October 29, and more to come. She is, after all, an “education reformer.”

Gloria’s big thing is her “Open Enrollment” law. “Choice” is what parents should have, she and others advocate.

Fullerton elementary school district established “choice” for all of us in 1972 when Robert Crawford was superintendent. Unfortunately, then-superintendent Duncan Johnson took it away again in 1983.

Yes indeed, on May 9, 1972, the Fullerton Elementary School District Board of Trustees voted and adopted a policy that said parents who wanted a particular alternative style or approach to the education of their children could establish such a school and work with teachers to do so. The choices were suggested to be an open or “free school” mode, a more strictly disciplined model known as “fundamental” school or just stay with the middle of the road.

A group of parents took up that offer – they after all had initiated the demand for it – and implemented a free school model known as Community Open School. It was located at Maple School on Valencia Avenue. The school board had closed Maple for their one-way bussing solution to Fullerton’s segregated schools.

Ironically, some of those same parents had been on the District’s 33-member Human Relations Advisory Committee appointed to solve the integration problem, and that committee had overwhelmingly recommended to the Board that a system of choice be established and students assigned to schools on an integrated basis, with Maple School to remain a neighborhood school.

I was an essential trekker in both adventures, the Human Relations Advisory Committee and the establishment of Community Open School. And thus I acquired a great deal of political experience.

3 thoughts on “School Choice

  1. While I completely disagree with Gloria Romero and the rest of the so-called “education reformers” I have to say that the FESD attempt at the concept of a “free school” was pretty much a disaster. Both of my children attended the school during the 1980-81 school year. Morgan was in the 6th grade, and Shannan in the 2nd. The idea was that the 30 kids from K to 8th grade were to be provided a teacher and some books and they would decide what and when and how they wanted to learn. They became very good at “kick the can” and other field games and also learned how to resolve conflicts, many of which arose between individuals and groups of kids as a result of so much free time and space. There was one parent who provided some guidance in art and drama activities. As far as academics were concerned, there may have been some discussions about the environment, which is great, but not much else, and no projects that I saw completed by either of my kids or by any others.

    As a parent I participated in the regular parent group which met at
    the school but the one staff member, who was a principal/teacher
    presented a distorted picture of what was really happening on a daily
    basis at the school.

    There were some peripheral benefits from the year at COS. Morgan went into Jr. High School CRAViNG structure and never complained about any academic work he had for the next several years. Shannan was a year behind academically when she entered the 3rd grade at Fern Drive, but was eager to catch up and did so in a few months because she had the ability.

    I think the “open school” model was well intended, but perhaps an additional staff member would have helped and some basic goals or parameters within which the
    kids had to operate. My two kids enjoyed the experience for the first couple of months but were very anxious for the rest of the year because they felt they should be learning some basic academic skills or at least working on some projects which would further their ability to apply the skills they already had. They are both educators today and don’t relate their experiences at COS with positive descriptions.

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