AIMS’ second annual conference will examine exciting new ideas in education, which could help remedy problems facing Atlantic Canada’s education system.
Atlantic Canadians lag behind other Canadians in both numeracy and literacy skills, and man areas in the Atlantic Provinces now face the additional problem of school closures. Yet, the skills of our people are key to our economic future. And, our competiors, particularily the New England states, are aggressively implementing new strategies in education which are producing remarkable results.
The central idea is school choice-enabling parents and students to choose their own schools and allowing schools to compete to provide the best education. The newest wave of school choice began with one charter school in Minnesota in 1991 and has since spread across the United States-virtually all New England states either have charter legislation or have such legislation pending.
President Bill Clinton says the charter school movement is one of the most important and successful innovations in education seen in the United States, (Chester Finn, a former U.S. assistant secretary of education and a leading authority on school choice, is one of many prominent education experts from around the world who will be attending the AIMS conference.)
Charter schools have produced some of their most impressive results in inner city minority neighbourhoods and in rural communities, where community leaders have been able to use charter legislation to maintain and improve the quality of schools stated for closure, an important issue in Atlantic Canada today.
One Canadian province, Alberta, has already established charter school legislation; the U.K.has 1000 grant-maintained (charter) schools and all schools in New Zealand are based on the charter school model. Can Atlantic Canada afford to fall behind?
“School choice does not provide a magic solution to every problem faced by our education system, but it’s a policy option we should carefully examine,” says AIMS President Brian Lee Crowley. “Nothing could be more significant than the educaiton of our children, and this conference will provide important insight into successful approaches to education in other jurisdictions.”
Choice is most frequently accomplished by creating “charter schools” within the public school system. Parents and students have a selection of these independently-run, but publicly funded schools. Or, they can stay with a conventional public school.
Funding for charter schools is based on the number of students they attract, so each school’s survival depends onits ability to provide a superior education. Successful approaches to education grow and are copied, while parents are no longer forced simply ro wring their hands when schools fail. They have other choices for their children.
The AIMS conference will comprehensively examine chartering and other approaches to school choice.