Speaking of school choice (as in the previous post), the district just south of the overly large system I work for is giving parents some options in the programs available to their children. It seems to be popular.

Prince William gives its students more flexibility in choosing schools than do other area districts. Schools throughout the county offer specialties that focus on such subjects as foreign languages, informational technology, math and science or the arts. Students do not have to take a qualifying test to enroll, as all the programs are provided on a space-available basis.

Focus schools – ones that emphasize one particular curriculum area – are actually pretty common among the large suburban districts in the DC area, both for elementary and high schools. They are only a small step towards true choice in public education, however. The concept still has a long way to go to be classed as true school reform.

In many cases the "focus" is grafted onto the standard curriculum in an effort to make the school appear unique. It also hints at attempts to channel students into specific vocational areas far too early in their lives. What’s really needed are school programs built around different philosophies of teaching and learning and which offer students a chance to explore a variety of topics and careers. When combined with parent education and a real attempt to match students with the program that best fits their needs, you’d have some real school choice.