ON-Lion Letter
Until now, the best-known entrepreneurial school-reform efforts have sought to fix problems schoolwide, overburdening educators and institutions by assuming that schools must find ways to serve every student's particular academic needs.  As a result, schools have had trouble doing anything especially well, and have paid limited attention to identifying the real needs of students and families.  In addition, this approach has stifled the ability of non-schoolhouse education providers to relieve some of the burdens placed on conventional schools.

Outside of providers who offer direct specific services to the wealthy, private organizations offering online tutoring, language instruction, and arts classes, for example, have to overcome enormous hurdles to serve public-school students.  In Customized Schooling:  Beyond Whole-School Reform, editors Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), and Bruno V. Manno of the K–12 Education Reform Initiative at The Walton Family Foundation, lead a group of education experts to look at "how providers might use new tools to deliver or customize services that do not conform to conventional [school] policies or structures."

In the book, from Harvard Education Press, the authors discuss ways to allow students to benefit from these private tools, technologies, and talent, and to find ways around the long-standing policies and practices that lock reformers into a whole-school mindset.  Hess and Manno stress the importance of paying more attention to the individual needs of consumers -- in this case, parents, students, teachers, and entire communities.

Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation supports projects of Hess's at AEI.
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