Types of Public Schools: Overview
Alternative: publicly-funded schools where children (“discouraged learners”) who have behavorial, disciplinary, addiction, pregnancy, or other at-risk issues that make it difficult for them to succeed at everyday neighborhood public schools can be educated with the guidance of specially-trained teachers and staff.
Here is research surveying the landscape of alternative schools by Gay G. Gnutson, Phd, Professor Emeritus of Education, Carroll College: “Alternative Schools, Models for the Future?”
Examples of public alternative schools:
- Al Kennedy Alternative High School, Cottage Grove, OR
“RETHINKING EDUCATION: Al Kennedy High School Tries a New Approach,” University of Oregon
- Broadway Alternative Learning Center at Longfellow (for pregnant and parenting mothers), Minneapolis, MN
“Unique school educates two generations,” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
“The Controversy Over the Harvey Milk School,” NY Magazine
Community: publicly-funded schools that tie together social service agencies, community groups, local businesses, and health and adult learning resources, usually in low-income or distressed neighborhoods, to ensure that children and families have the support they need to succeed. The school may offer longer hours, such as in the evening or on weekends, to ensure that families can truly utilize the school as a resource.
Read the FAQ by the Institute for Educational Learning’s Coalition for Community Schools.
(above) This is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussing community schools and how they might function as 24-7 resources to the neighborhood.
Aquila Elementary School, St. Louis Park, MN (from the website):
The ACT is a comprehensive package of school-based services at Aquila and Peter Hobart Elementary Schools and in St. Louis Park that includes case management for at risk families, teacher consultation, counseling intervention, and a school wide prevention program. It is a joint effort of the schools and Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Minneapolis (JFCS).
The objectives are to improve a child’s self-esteem and ability to succeed in school, improve family functioning, and assist teachers with student social or behavioral concerns.
ACT offers four services:
Case management for families that need resources for housing or transportation, or support for any problem that might inhibit a child in growing and developing within the school.
A social skills curriculum taught weekly in most classrooms to help children boost self-confidence and effective peer interaction.
Individual and group counseling for children at school.
Volunteer tutors or ‘lunch buddies’ for children who could benefit from the guidance and support of an adult role model.
Students often bring their family life and any problems they have to school. The key to ACT is to improve the connection between home and school to meet students’ needs.
Neighborhood: publicly-funded local schools in residential areas, often within walking/bicycling distance or an easy car drive, that serve all students within a geographically designated boundary. Generally students living outside the boundary must apply for a permit to attend the school if there are any open spaces after students living within the boundary are served. All children’s needs are met, whether they come with special needs due to learning/physical/cognitive disability, or if their first language is other than English.
Magnet: publicly-funded schools that can be either a “school within a school” or an entire school given over to a theme, specialized approach, or pre-professional emphasis. Entry can be universal by geographic boundary, by application (test score, portfolios of student work, perofrmances showing student ability), or a mixture of geographic boundary and application for entry. Criteria for entry must be transparent and well-publicized.
Magnet Schools of America is an association of public magnets that helps disseminate information about this type of school. Read its mission here.
Examples of magnet schools:
- The “Fame” High School, Fiorella La Guardia School of Music, & Art and Performing Arts
- The second-largest city public school district in the nation, Los Angeles Unified’s portal for magnet school information and applications
- A magnet for gifted students in a school in a low-income Charlotte, NC neighborhood, where devoted middle class parents shower the school with attention and have helped turn it around.
And this brings us to —
Charter Schools: Are they public? No less an authority on public school education than Professor Diane Ravitch asks this question. Take a look at the part of the FAQ devoted to charter schools to see the discussion there.