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Public Boarding Schools: A Discourse On Its Many Advantages

An opinion/informational piece about the advantages of public boarding schools for at-risk youth. Help start the movement in Georgia!

Imagine: Every child receives a world class education.

When people think boarding school, very few think of poverty or "leveling the playing field." Great presidents and well-known individuals throughout America's history have received the mark of a distinguished education at the most prestigious boarding schools, and have gone on to rule and pass their legacy to their sons and daughters. To have a child attend boarding school means something--that parents were wealthy enough, and found it worth a substantial amount of money and a child's time away from home to offer them education in a supportive and stimulating environment.

A new model, which merges the way of the elite with a mission for the public good, has presented itself for the 21st century: Public boarding schools for low-income and underprivileged children supported by public and private funds. The SEED Foundation, one of a handful of nonprofits that manage this special type of school, has seen success at offering such a unique and effective model to students who need it the most. 

In Washington, DC, Maryland, Ohio and now Florida, state legislatures have passed bills mandating SEED schools for at-risk youth, which provide a rigorous environment conducive to learning 24 hours a day for five days a week. At the SEED School, students wake up early, get out of class late, enroll in tutoring, enjoy extra-curriculars, and have a strict bed-time. Their lives are structured to prepare them for success and independence. The formula is working, too.

The SEED School has had a college attendance rate of 98%.

But it should not take a statistician or education professional to figure out why the school is so successful compared to the traditional school model. Public boarding schools simply put in the time that other schools and teachers cannot be paid for. Too many traditional school teachers complain that there just is not enough time or resources to cater to all of their students individually and for the amount of time that is necessay to catch them up to grade level--much less help them in areas that require them to parent. Yet, access to daily and intensive tutoring, the issue of parental involvement in a child's life, at-risk living situations, and other out-of-school risk factors can easily negate any progress made in school. This is why you see cheating scandals, frustration, and extreme pressure in schools. The cycle not only ruins the teaching profession, but is dangerous and disasterous to our society and future. So why have we not made the way to address it effectively? 

It costs around $30,000 per student to provide a SEED School education. The difference between that and what APS currently pays per student is about $12,000. Private funding and/or funding from the foster care system could potentially make up the difference.

Alternatively, the state could establish a teacher/ residential staff corps designed specifically for public boarding schools in which recent college graduates enroll as volunteers for a couple of years in exchange for room and board, food, and perhaps teacher certification or some other form of free education. Think Peace Corps meets Teach For America.

Why, dear readers, can't this model work? Why do we insist on being at the tail end of the innovation curve? Why, 59 years after Brown v. Board of Education, are we still trying to figure out how to achieve equality in education? Why, after 21 years, has the math testing gap between black and white students only closed by two points? How many more rounds of incompetent school funding proposals, limited teacher quality improvements, education bureaucrats and legislative sessions are you willing to endure before you demand closure of the achievement gap-- and demand that it be publically supported?

Below you will find the most common critiques of the public boarding school movement--and their rebuttals:

Public boarding schools cause students to lose their culture

Public boarding schools have been implemented as a 5-day a week residence, allowing students to go home on the weekends. Furthermore, this model tends to have a physical location not far from the location of the students' communities. In the event that students are not able to get home, students will have developed a family of peers who come from similar backgrounds, teachers, and residential staff. In a sense, public boarding schools promote a healthy culture of achievement and success, respecting everyone's background.

Public boarding schools cost too much money and detract from advances in traditional schools.

Georgia cannot afford to overlook a solution that works. The costs of attending a public boarding school can be met if lawmakers and advocates work together. Furthermore, the long-run costs of such a model diminish over time, as public boarding schools, if implemented correctly for the purposes of closing an academic achievement, should eventually become obsolete.

The cost of traditional school is rising; No Child Left Behind mandated Supplemental Education Services for Title 1 schools. In addition to some $18,000 APS pays per student per year, the state will pay additional thousands for tutoring service providers per student in one academic year. Additionally, targeted students are likely to have parents living on welfare. Instead, a portion of those funds could be allotted to students' tuition, food, room and board, etc.

Public boarding schools weaken familial ties and are detrimental to families

Students can maintain relationships during the weekend, during designated family dinner days, or through email, skype, letters, etc. Also, parents have an opportunity to save money, gain ground financially, focus more resources on younger children, and take more time to plan for the future. A parental outreach model could help parents optimize their newfound time and resources.

Public boarding schools are not healthy for a child's development

Public boarding schools would provide students with life skills, social growth opportunities, and an environment to exercise independence. Anyone who has gone away to college knows the value of transition periods which encourage self-sufficiency. Additionally, target candidates would typically come from environments and situations that are not as nourishing or sound for growth and development.

If you would like to support the boarding school model, please contact your local representatives and ask them to sponsor a bill that would 1. Designate a special school for at-risk students and 2. Mandate a public boarding school for those students who are underprivileged.

Rep. Roger Bruce 404.656.0314 rbruce5347@aol.com

Rep. Tyrone Brooks --404.656.6372 tyrone.brooks@house.ga.gov

Simply put, if we really want to get serious about closing achievement gaps, we must figure out how to control for variable that are currently out of our schools' and teachers' control. A solution has been identified. The only question is, do we think disadvantaged students are worth the cost and effort? Are we really ready to make sure that substantial numbers of--and eventually all--students adversely affected by the academic achievement gap have a safe and intellectually-stimulating learning environment?  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Amelia Barney January 24, 2013 at 03:24 PM
I agree that sometimes a child needs extra help and there are some great <a href=http://www.discoveryacademy.com/>boarding schools</a> available. It is important to check them out to make sure they are a good fit for your family.

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