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The Opt-In, Opt-Out Advantage

Schools-within-schools make opting for something different as easy as opting for status quo. They also make it easy for students to opt out of something if they find it’s not working for them. This is the situation with the pilot programs proposed by Vision 2020 by 2020. Students can try democratic learning without getting trapped in a program. Those who opt-out can also easily opt back in if they decide to give it another try.

Providing this flexibility not only benefits students; it creates the conditions needed for the proposed studies. Compared to charter or magnet schools, participation is less influenced by parents’ inclination, their savvy, and their financial means. No application process limits who might apply. No alternate transportation needs to be determined and students don’t have to leave their friends. Schools-within-schools are the best way to eliminate factors that could skew a cross-section of students participating in a study. From the human rights perspective, they are also the way to provide equal opportunity for all students.

A question often asked is: “How do students adjust to a regular classroom after experiencing the freedom of a democratic learning environment?” Evidence from the Chip program indicates that students have no difficulty readjusting. A study of Sudbury Valley students who went on to study in more structured environments confirms this. One student is reported to have said, “It was easy. They told you exactly what to do.”

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