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Report Advocates for “Assembly-Based” School Choice to Address Inequity

BOULDER, CO (November 8, 2022)—A report from Bellwether details what its authors call “assembly-based education,” a concept described as a hypothetical ecosystem that removes schools as a central education component. A review of the report exposes this concept as unworkable outside of a miraculous private marketplace, and thus a shortsighted attempt to invalidate public schools.

Carrie Sampson of Arizona State University reviewed Some Assembly Required: How a More Flexible Learning Ecosystem Can Better Serve All Kids and Unlock Innovation and found it to be based on a fallacy that flexible learning for all families can succeed in an ecosystem (or market) driven by choice and profits.

The report’s plan proposes giving families the ability and funding to choose among varied learning opportunities. The approach is presented as helping to remove some barriers for lower-income families and to facilitate new communities based on shared interests rather than geography. The report also argues that the approach is timely and practical, pointing to the recent growth of school choice and supplemental learning.

Dr. Sampson cautions that the report is poorly grounded in research evidence. There is only minimal reference to peer-reviewed research, and that data is presented in misleading, decontextualized, and inconsistent ways. She also points out that this concept undermines societal investment in neighborhood schools and therefore runs counter to research demonstrating that many families, youth, and communities work hard to protect and improve their neighborhood schools, especially in marginalized communities.

Although a deeper examination of education from an ecological perspective is warranted, this proposal ignores research reflecting the voices and stories of those who are most marginalized. Thus, Professor Sampson concludes, this concept of an assembly-based education ecosystem fails to genuinely center equity and educational excellence and instead elevates choice as the greatest good in an education system.

Find the review, by Carrie Sampson, at:
https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/assembly

Find Some Assembly Required: How a More Flexible Learning Ecosystem Can Better Serve All Kids and Unlock Innovation, written by Juliet Squire and Alex Spurrier and published by Bellwether, at:
https://bellwether.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/SomeAssemblyRequired_BetaByBellwether_August2022_FINAL.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We publish original research, policy briefs, and expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu