Well, there’s a post title I never imagined writing.
From philly.com [HT Pete Cook]:
The Chromebook laptop and hugely popular Dr. Dre Beats headphones – which retail for hundreds of dollars – were on the table this summer for students willing to abandon rivals such as Chester Community Charter School and return to Chester Upland classrooms or its new cyberschool.
“We realize we’re in a competitive environment,” said Joe Watkins, the state-appointed receiver tasked with developing a recovery plan for the cash-strapped Delaware County district.
The giveaways are the latest salvo in the battle between the struggling school system and its charters, which educate almost two-thirds of Chester Upland students.
Some assorted thoughts:
- Economics: The numbers are simple – a student probably brings in ~7-10K of revenue per year. Dr. Dre Beats headphones cost much less than that. At the very least, the headphones are a loss leader. More likely, they lead to surplus revenue in year one.
- It’s not just the district: I’ve heard of charters doing similar things in Detroit.
What to make of this?
My inclination is to not make much of this. It feels like a blip. When families get real choices, the organizations serving them have to figure out how to respond. Sometimes they will respond well, sometimes not.
Do I think Dr. Dre Beats headphones have any educational value?
Do I think using Dr. Dre Beats headphones to promote online learning is way of providing information to families about their options?
Somewhat. The fact that the story was in the newspaper provides evidence that the tactic is working.
Is it possible that this tactic works so well that families get lured into awful schools by the promise of Dr. Dre Beats headphones?
I think it’s unlikely. But I admit that it’s possible.
What should we do then?
Regulation could be considered.
But what should we remember before regulate?
Public school families have been denied real choices for far too long.
It might take sometime for both families and schools to learn to navigate a world where schools actually have to serve students well to ensure enrollment.
And regulation itself might not solve the root of the problem: if parents are choosing where to send their children to school because of Dr. Dre Beats headphones, we have a lot of complex issues with which to grapple.