This website gets more hits from people looking for information and opinions about vouchers in schools than another website I run, even if I publish a great article about school choice over on that site. That's because this is a niche website, and it has a lot of closely-related articles. There are some positives for websites to focus on a niche, including easier indexing by search engines, a more focused user experience, and money. The money comes from the fact that niche websites (those that get more hits than this one) can make money from ads on the site, and those ads can be very targeted. Niche schools (charter, magnet, specialty, etc.), are similar to niche websites, and there are some positives.

A niche school can have a specific focus. The parents chose the school based on a certain philosophy, and a STEM school isn't going to feel pressure to offer ten foreign languages. That's why new schools should be more focused than "college prep," since true college prep would focus on a very broad liberal arts education. If your focus is on teaching the writing of code, and you've partnered with local businesses, and students are learning the actual process, then you can probably skip the expenses of a bunch of new science labs. With limited resources, a school that can focus will be able to come out ahead in the niche.

The niche needs to be valuable to parents and students. When I search on the internet for a video about changing my car's alternator, I'm looking for a very specific video or tutorial that deals with my car. A video about what an alternator does or how to change one on a Yugo won't help me. It's the same thing with niches. If your niche is fairly useless to students or parents, then you're not going to get the best results in searches and desire to attend the school. Back in my hometown, Boys Tech eventually became Tech, eventually became a neighborhood school, eventually needed to get students to pass all tests, and eventually only offered a true industrial arts education to those who sought it out. The whole idea of graduating high school with a real skill got watered down by the need to pass all the required tests and serve a larger population of students. A niche school needs to have the ability to be exclusive rather than all-inclusive. If your kid has no interest in the arts but wants to attend a school that focuses on the arts because it's highly-rated, then it's not a good match, but that's what happens in a large school district trying to find seats for kids.

Location absolutely matters for charter schools or private schools that might have a niche. While it might be hopeful to create a "college prep" school in an area with lower income, it might make more sense for that school to teach skills that make a student employable without a college degree. An environmental school might not be a hit in a very conservative area of town. Since busing for charter schools generally doesn't exist, it's best to match the niche to the location. In some cases, you might have to alter your focus a bit because of the clientele. For example, there are some Lutheran schools in locations that don't have very many Lutherans. These schools might focus on being "Christ-centered" or "loving" rather than specifically Lutheran.

Proof of concept will help parents to decide on your school. You need to have an outward-facing website that demonstrates your achievements as a school. Not an app or a login area for students and parents. The website should show results. Obviously, if your test scores don't outperform local public schools, then leave them off the site, but you can absolutely show how the students are affected by being part of the niche you've chosen. If you are a STEM school, then photos of students in science labs is a must. If you have a religious school, articles about the latest chapel service would be useful. You don't need to demonstrate that students are getting an hour of code at your French Immersion school if you don't have articles and photos of kids learning in French. Just like I don't write articles about my favorite recipes on this website, you don't want to muddy the message of your school.

Adjusting to market trends can be useful to your school niche. Sure, STEM is all the rage right now, but if employers start discovering that kids who are fluent in STEM tend to have lower creativity quotients, then make your school a CreativeSTEM school. Your English and arts teachers can help with the transformation. Also, I don't know if that's a thing. The point is that no one is telling your charter school that it can't ever adapt. Probably even Montessori or Waldorf schools can adjust to trends. And if they don't (and you do), then good news for you.

Charter schools, magnet schools, and private schools all have a place in our country right now, but it's about more than just fighting for vouchers or tax money. If your school can continue to prove that the investment is working, then the system will adapt to you, and people will want to keep investing. Parents will demand opportunities to send their kids to your schools. Taxpayers and politicians will see the benefits. Even the teachers might want to leave their bureaucratic public school jobs for a chance to teach in new and exciting ways.

Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • How Long Does Google Take To Update Streetview After Taking Photos?
    19 Days and Counting

    We've all used Google Maps, and most of us have used the little yellow guy to access Google Streetview. In this mode, Google tells you when the images were taken. I'd never really questioned how long Google takes to get that new image onto the Google Maps website. Luckily, I have the data I need in order to figure it out for my own neighborhood.

    I have a camera that records each vehicle that passes my house. I don't normally look at the images, but I just happened to be testing the system recently. I saw a Google Streetview vehicle passing my house within the recorded images, and the timestamp means that I can accurately determine how long it takes Google to update one specific street (as long as I visit the site every single day to check on the progress). Even if it takes me a few days to figure it out, we'll get a good ballpark estimate.

    The Google vehicle passed my house on April 29th, 2019, which you can see in the image. A Monday at 10:53AM. As I begin this article (May 18th - 19 days), the streetview for my block has yet to be changed, but I'll update right here at the first sign of a change _______________________.

    It's actually odd that my block needs a new streetview, since the last one was done in December of 2018. The one before that had been March of  2011. So why was the Google car in the neighborhood again? Maybe it's because some areas of my neighborhood are still stuck in 2011. Perhaps the new images didn't all get uploaded properly in 2018, so I was seeing a do-over. I actually hope Google uses the new-new images, since my lawn had some disease issues in December of 2018. Come to think of it, since home-selling websites use Streetview, I wonder if there's a way to request a certain version or a retake for after your cousin moves his RV out of your driveway.
  • Roadside Knife Stand - Only in Florida
    My wife was driving through central Florida when she got to see something that surprised her, even though she's now lived in Florida for a couple of years: a roadside knife stand. I have to admit, I was even a little taken aback. My first question for her was whether or not she took a photo of the stand, which she did not. I'd seen oranges and other edibles before. Nuts, watermelons, etc. Shrimp, even. And you'll see people set up yard sales right out to the street, maybe with antiques (or just old junk). There was a place along Locust in Milwaukee where you could pick up a used appliance right from the sidewalk, which was a little odd, but you can apparently get cutlery along a state highway in Florida.

    My understanding is that anyone who sets up on public property along the road would need some kind of a permit to sell. Even the homeless in Jacksonville are supposed to have a permit to ask for money. I will assume that this guy had said permit from the local jurisdiction. If he didn't, I would not think that a knife stand would last very long along a state highway. Unless, of course, he was the off-duty local sheriff.

    If this man had been selling fruit instead of blades, he would have fallen under the Florida Cottage Food Law, which allows him to sell with:
    no license, inspection, or training from the ag department.
    That's good for up to $50,000 in Florida, and I am sure if you can make a little more than that in cash, no one's going to notice.

    I found some information about roadside fireworks stands and roadside flower stands in Florida, but knife stands were not really addressed. Probably because no one ever thought someone would sell knives along a highway in our state. However, I think that just about anything will be attempted at some point in Florida, so there probably does need to be some kind of regulation as to what can and cannot be sold along the roads. Like guns, exotic animals, and probably fireworks (which are basically illegal to shoot off anywhere in Florida). 

    The best bet is to resist your temptation to stop and check out the inventory. When no one stops at your (hopefully) illegal roadside stand, then you don't set it up too often in the Florida sun.