Sunday, September 16, 2012

One on One Education: Is This an Example of Privatization?


by Chris Boyette, CNN

(CNN) Like many students his age this time of year, Luke Gulley, 16, sits at a desk in a small classroom waiting for his lessons to begin. What sets this young man’s experience apart from most other students is that while many public schools across the country are dealing with overcrowding, Luke is the only kid in his class.

Luke is a student at Fusion Academy, a chain of private for-profit schools with 12 locations in California that boasts a highly personalized curriculum and a 1:1 student-teacher ratio.

On Friday, the New York State Education Department approved Fusion Academy’s application to operate in New York. Classes will begin this week at campuses in Long Island and Manhattan, with a third scheduled to open in Westchester in January, according to school officials.

Fusion was founded by Michelle Rose Gilman in 1989 as a tutoring center. It grew into an alternative, hands-on approach to educating a special brand of students, grades 6-12.

“Our students are the kids who have not been successful in traditional education,” Gilman said, “They could be kids with learning disabilities like ADHD, maybe they have social issues, like having been bullied, or maybe they are gifted and aren’t challenged enough in other schools.”

The idea behind Fusion is a completely personalized education experience, from how the courses are taught to when.

“School is open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.” said Steve Racelis, director of marketing for American Education Group, which owns the school. “Students can work out what schedule works best for them.”

Luke, who is in the 11th grade, runs his own lighting and entertainment services company, LG Productions. “Running a business and going to traditional school wasn’t working,” he said.

Racelis said some students at one of the California campuses were professional surfers. “They’d surf all morning and then start classes at noon,” he said.

This flexibility also attracts other athletes who may be off competing and actors who have to leave for shoots.

“It’s not like class is going to go on without you,” Gilman said. “When you have one student sitting in front of one teacher, you can totally customize the class for that student. The teacher knows the student, their strengths and weaknesses.”

“You get to really talk to your teachers,” Luke said. “You connect, which makes class less boring. Instead of writing a book report in English class, I could write up a cover letter for my business.”
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Once again, the urban centers of America aren't able to afford this opportunity!

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