Brickman: Course choice can modernize, customize education


Imagine if parents could pick and choose individual courses for their children, from an endless array of different providers, in the same way they now pick and choose other products online. Michael Brickman, the national policy analyst for the Fordham Institute, says that world may not too far in the future, thanks to a budding parental choice trend folks are calling “course choice.”

“Ideally parents and students can sit down at the computer and “shop” online for courses,” Brickman said during a live chat Wednesday with redefinED. “This is so commonplace and mundane when we go on sites like and add items from different sellers from around the world to our virtual shopping cart. Hopefully through (course choice), education can catch up to the rest of the world in this regard.”

A handful of states are moving ahead with course choice, including Louisiana and Wisconsin, where Brickman served as a policy advisor in Gov. Scott Walker’s office before joining Fordham. Florida is among those taking a close look. Brickman recently authored a policy brief that gives education officials a primer on course choice and the challenges ahead.

Course choice is complementary to parental choice options such as charter schools and vouchers, he said during the chat. But it can spur those options to innovate even more.

“I love traditional school choice and think it’s nowhere near obsolete as of now,” he said in response to a question. “But one of the frustrating things about these reforms is how similar the schools look to one another. The point of additional flexibility is to INNOVATE. Some charter and private models are off and running with this but many are still lining up 30 desks in each room, putting a teacher in front of the class for 7 hours a day, etc.”

You can read the entirety of the chat in the transcript below.