Many public-school officials take a jaundiced view of private providers helping with the task of public education.However, a remarkable private school in inner-city Norfolk, Virginia—a school deserving of being a national model—shows that a private, non-profit organization can be a great help to public schools, and to the children who attend them.
Operating in modest quarters in donated church property, Park Place School accepts third-grade children who are struggling terribly in their public schools, systematically instills in them the basic skills of literacy, and returns them to their public schools by the sixth grade when they are achieving at or above grade level in reading and math.
These children from low-income homes are considered to be learning-disabled but their diagnostic test scores are not quite low enough to qualify them for special education within the public schools. Without Park Place’s help, they would fall through the cracks and very likely become dropouts.
In partnership with the National Institute for Learning Disabilities, Park Place School operates on the principle that learning disabilities can be mitigated via science-based techniques designed to stimulate cognitive and perceptual functioning.Through educational therapy and regular classroom instruction, students learn to overcome their disabilities rather than merely coping with them.
The success of private citizens in raising enough money to start Park Place and to keep it going is inspirational. However, in view of its proven ability to assist public education by rescuing needy children, it could be an ideal model for greater public-private cooperation. Opening charter schools on the Park Place model—not just in Norfolk and Virginia but throughout the nation—is an option education policy-makers would be wise to consider.
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