Make us your home page


Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Are public boarding schools part of the solution?



Here's another education story we expect to get more attention in the future: The idea of public boarding schools for at-risk kids.

The Florida Department of Education announced last week that it had picked a D.C.-based charter school operator to run the new, statewide, tuition-free, college prep boarding school that's coming to Miami. Chances are, the school will get more scrutiny because of the politics behind it and a funding plan that has yet to materialize. It should get more scrutiny. But does the core idea still deserve a fair hearing?

Here's an argument for it: Public boarding schools for at-risk students are an extension of the notion that some kids - not all kids, some kids - need more time on task and, maybe, harsh as it sounds, more time away from home. Some need a longer school day and school year because that they're far behind. Some need more dramatic interventions. If a kid's parents can't or won't be the education partners we want them to be, and if his neighborhood and community are ridden with negative influences, doesn't it make sense to keep him in a different environment - a positive, learning environment - as much as possible? Wouldn't that better his odds?

"Everybody has to learn who they are, what they believe in and what their values are, and somebody has to suggest what those values maybe ought to be and how to think about it," Eric Adler, who co-founded the SEED Foundation for boarding schools (the same group that's setting up shop in Miami), told ABC News in 2010. "If mom is off working two or three jobs and doesn't come until 11, then who are you going to be picking that up from? Are you going to picking it up out on the street corner? Or are you going to be picking that up from adults who are there to provide that stuff."

No doubt, it will cost more. A lot more, according to this 2009 Time story. And to be sure, we're not sure what the research shows. As far as we can tell, there aren't many public boarding schools for at-risk kids, and they haven't been around that long. Maybe there hasn't been much to research yet.

But as one researcher told the Washington Post's Jay Mathews in 2004, there's good reason why private boarding schools are held in such high regard.

"Boarding schools can nurture a shared commitment to disciplined study and achievement," said UC-Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller. "It builds a tighter community of learners, among dedicated teachers and students who gain a new sense of confidence. Rich parents who have sent their kids to boarding schools have understood this for centuries."

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 9:37am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours