Misconceptions: Public Schools Are “One Size Fits All”

    Public Schools in Texas Cater to a Diverse Collection of Students

    This is the third in our story series, “Misconception Mondays”, where we dispel a common misconception about public schools in Texas each Monday of the month. The first step to becoming an advocate for all Texas students is to know the truth about our schools.

    Whenever you hear the words “one size fits all,” what do you think of? Is it lack of options, lack of choice, or both? The “one size fits all” mantra has become the meme to describe the notion that our public schools do not provide catered learning pathways or individualized teaching instruction. This misconception often lessens the perceived value of what our public school system can and does provide for more than 5 million students in Texas.

    COME ONE, COME ALL

    Public schools, unlike other education options, must serve EVERY student. This includes students with varying academic abilities and economic backgrounds. Students with special needs or from low-income families have been proven by multiple studies to require excess attention and investment, thus making it more difficult and expensive for public schools to educate all students at the same rate.

    “The principal was knowledgeable about ADHD and other learning differences – and she didn’t judge him for it. They were able to accommodate him in an environment that didn’t single him out as “different.” They were able to offer services like speech therapy that we were paying for out of pocket in private school.”– Heather, Austin ISD.

    To learn why Heather removed her son from private school and enrolled him in a traditional public school, click here.

    Special education (SE) enrollment and aggregate costs have notably increased in recent years (see chart below), while public school funding in Texas has decreased. As the only education option required to accept special needs students, public schools have seen a steady increase of SE students and, therefore, increased expenses. According to the Special Education Expenditure Project, in 1999-2000, the average per-pupil expenditure on special education students was $12,474, compared to $9,375 for non-SE students. Even though many local school districts are having difficulty covering the high costs of educating the growing number of SE students, these services are maintained to ensure that special needs students receive the individualized attention they deserve.

    Additionally, students from low-income families have unique struggles in public schools. To bridge the achievement gap, schools invest in early education, mentoring, educational interventions, parent and community engagements, and health services. Here’s a look at how schools in Delaware and Massachusetts meet the needs of low-income students.

    These are just a few examples of how public schools continue to provide expanded learning options despite dwindling resources.

    PUBLIC SCHOOLS PROVIDE OPTIONS FOR DIFFERENT LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

    Even with students from eclectic economic and academic backgrounds limited resources, public schools make it a priority to expose students to a variety of learning environments.

    Have you heard about the SKY Partnership? Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) has partnered with KIPP Houston Public Schools (KIPP) and YES Prep Public Schools (YES Prep), two high performing charter management organizations, to expand middle and high school choices and opportunities for SBISD students.

    The partners’ main learning objectives: raising student achievement to college ready levels and collecting, sharing, and using student data to inform instruction.

    SKY will change the mindsets of all stakeholders who may believe that poor and minority children cannot learn and, most importantly, change the trajectory for students—not just in SBISD, but across our state, and nation.

    Choice exists within the public school system. Parents and students may choose from multiple public schools that specialize in different areas, including magnet and charter schools. For instance, at Austin ISD, there are multiple options for selecting a middle school including a Fine Arts Academy, a Green Tech STEM Academy, the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, and more.

    Because of the varying levels of abilities and backgrounds of students in public schools, a number of programs are required statewide to cater to different learning segments, including gifted and talented programsdropout recovery and prevention strategiescollege-credit courses, andassistance for dyslexic students. These programs provide tailored instruction aimed at improving student achievement and retention.

    With limited resources – read our recent blog about school districts’ funding challenges -Texas public schools are providing multiple pathways and varied educational approaches to serve all 5 million students. The system isn’t one size fits all, rather one system that caters to many.

    Each story in this blog series dispels a common misconception about public schools.

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