At the Annual School Choice and Reform International Academic Conference, I was reminded of the increasingly common challenge of educating the children of refugees relocated to the U.S. I learned that, in some places, school choice has been an especially successful part of an effective strategy for easing those disoriented children into the melting pot. Sadly, I also learned that many knee-jerk school choice opponents characterize the temporary concentration of refugee children into a school of choice as “segregation”.
Children everywhere learn differently and respond to different subject themes. But upon arrival in the U.S., what refugee children have in common is much more important to their immediate academic progress than the learning style and thematic differences that will eventually integrate them by providing schooling options that address those differences.
Refugee children that do not have the good fortune of a private school or chartered public school specializing in their arrival/orientation issues (language, customs, etc.) will arrive at a traditional public school (TPS) where the appearance of fairness political imperative might lead them to be mainstreamed. That would lead to widespread paralysis and chaos as each classroom teacher attempts to meet their special needs, or quietly declines the differentiated instruction challenge and tries to minimize the distraction entailed by the addition of an outlier. That would be the case even if the language barrier was not still overwhelming. Or the children could be semi-segregated (= not by choice) within each assigned TPS; enough to give the educators a chance to make an attempt at specialized services (somehow quickly discover the issues the charter was set up to address), while stigmatizing the children as outliers. Sadly, there are people willing to mis-characterize temporary stratification that results, by choice, from attempts to provide appropriate transition services to families forced into new lives in a new country. They do it, I suppose, because to some the importance of the traditional public school system monopoly on public funding is too important to risk by making any exceptions, even for chartered public schools.