Another take on bundling: The diverse provider model

On the subject of unbundling (I discussed a section of November’s Phi Delta Kappan that focussed on the subject in a post of mine last week)…

The less ideological articles in this section drew the attention of my persistent school design lens. One comes from Mehta and Spillane who offer an interesting analysis that the core debate between the ideal of system coherence and the alternate vision of unbundled services. In explicating the arguments the authors write:

Perhaps ‘system-wide coherence’ is an illusion. Similarly, while unbundling could increase inequality across providers, existing policies designed to achieve greater standardization have made little progress in reducing inequalities” (p. 50).

I am convinced by this argument. The centralized, bureaucracy of schooling has not shown itself to be an engine of effective teaching and learning. We need many different kinds of schools for many different kinds of students–we had better start thinking about how to meet the needs of diverse learners.

It seems unlikely to me that a massive, centralized bureaucracy is going to control and dictate policies that translate into individualized learning. Large, central systems aren’t good at personalizing. I have become quite convinced that undbundling at the district level is an essential ingredient of effective change. Let schools of all forms and configurations (what has been called a “diverse provider model”) take on the job of bundling teaching and learning.

There is some appeal, therefore, to the principles of unbundling–unbundling might lead to better neighborhood schools. Such schools would be more flexible and independent than traditional school. This doesn’t mean there is no value in some traditional structures of schooling. Take the building, for example, unbundling (or what Mehta and Spillane call “rebundling”) could lead to the configuration of school building as community center that community schoolers (like we aspire to be) advocate.

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