For the past six months, Lewis, 45 and divorced, has been navigating Philadelphia’s changing school-choice landscape. Dissatisfied with the neighborhood public school Cooper attended since kindergarten, Lewis set out to find something better. Her search has been fueled by anger and guilt.
“I had put my kid in a situation where he absolutely hated going to school,” she says. “I thought I had taken away his opportunity to be successful.”
In Pennsylvania and across the nation, reformers and politicians have been responding to parents like Lewis by expanding charter schools and pushing for publicly funded vouchers. Empower parents by giving them more school options, they argue, and fewer children will be trapped in failing schools.
But for the time being, at least, the practical realities of school choice in Philadelphia are far messier than that.
You could say that there have historically been two "brands" in American education: "traditional" and "progressive." Of course, in practice pretty much every school has some of both, which is probably for the best, but fundamentally, it is how we understand schools. Pretty much everyone has some intuitive sense of this.
Anyhow, I don't think even five years ago that I would have guessed that someone could sell a "choice" system that only included one of those two brands, but increasingly that's what cities are getting.