Florida Reformers Got It Right: Hybrid Schoolers Reap the Benefits

Article excerpt

My son Richard has the chutzpah of Hank Greenberg, the greatest Jewish baseball player of all time. So, soon after we moved to Florida, Richard tried out for the baseball team at Tallahassee's Leon High, even though he didn't go to school there!

Richard was considered a home schooler at the time, but "hybrid schooler" would have been more accurate: He took classes from an online provider, a small private school, and a performing arts program.

Richard made the team, and by midseason lots of new baseball buddies were hanging around our house on weekends. Soon we discovered that Richard wasn't the only "hybrid student" on the ball club that year. Leon's first baseman spent his mornings taking online courses through the Florida Virtual School, the knuckleball pitcher was taking a "dual enrollment" English class through the community college, and the left-handed pro prospect had enrolled in a financial management course at a local college (in case he was drafted).

Moreover, one of Leon's outfielders had figured out an ingenious way to get a music education few families could afford out of pocket. This kid took mostly music classes at Leon by day and then several online courses at night and during the summer. He ended up being a four-time All-State musician and getting a college offer from Juilliard.

When I first encountered all these hybrid students, I figured there must be something in the water at Leon High. But I came to realize that many of these unconventional schooling options were the by-product of reforms former governor Jeb Bush had initiated, especially the creation of the Florida Virtual School.

The rise of hybrid schooling bodes well for students whose needs, gifts, interests, and learning styles do not align with the factory school model of the 20th century, and for parents who know that no school can maximize the potential of every child every year in every way. (There is a Magic School Bus, but no magic school.)

Customized education is good for all kids and not just for academic reasons. …