A “school” can be defined as a set of teaching and learning services that occur between students, educators, and the larger community. Schools may include in-person learning, community-based learning, and virtual/remote learning.
Schools can be categorized on two dimensions – who funds/authorizes the school and who operates the school – typically resulting in three categories of schools: district schools (funded/authorized by the government and operated by the government); charter schools (funded/authorized by the government and operated by an authorized non-government entity); and independent schools, including homeschooling (funded/authorized independently and operated independently).
Funding is a necessary but not sufficient condition for student success. Funding should be adequate (comparable to similar communities); predictable (similar from year to year); weighted (more money allocated for more students and students with more complex learning needs); flow as close as possible to those teaching students, with efficient charge-back mechanisms to providers for services rendered (e.g., budgeting, hiring, enrolling, scheduling, purchasing, transporting, insurance, legal, curriculum, professional learning, etc.); and portable (funds flow to providers proportionate to actual services).
Portable funding and choice mechanisms (school and course choice for students and families; service provider choice for educators) can help strengthen schools over time through continuous improvement driven by healthy competition across a portfolio of provider options.
Education governance power should be shared among educators, students, and families with mechanisms to respond to community, post-secondary, and workforce demand.
Shared leadership, although theoretically established through governance structures and processes, is functionally meaningless unless there is diversity of representation, political activation, and effective influence mechanisms.
Education leaders typically acknowledge a responsibility to “engage” with students and families. Although listening to student and family feedback is a necessary condition of school success, this strategy alone flows from an asymmetric power dynamic, where educators and other experts design the constraints first and listen to the reactions of students and families second. Providing design- and decision-authority directly to students and families is a more symmetric power dynamic, where the students and families influence both the problem-sets and the solution-sets at the beginning, rather than merely react to such parameters at the end.