"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Why Some Folks Love Charter Schools

Since there is no reliable evidence to show that charter schools generate equal or higher test scores than regular public schools, there must be important social and economic reasons that some folks, who would otherwise not leave a child behind in a school turning out such scores if it were a public school, see charters schools as the final solution for children who have no choice in the school choice advocates' choosing for them. Here is my list of reasons that some folks love charter schools:
1) Charter schools put decision-making and control in the hands of unelected executives.

2) Charter schools are cheaper because they reduce teacher salaries, health benefits, and retirement.

3) Charter schools make it easier to segregate schools based on race, economics, gender, and ability.

4) Charter schools allow for dumping of problem students whose behaviors are deemed inappropriate.

5) Charter schools reduce teacher professionalism and job security, making them cheaper and easier to replace.

6) Charter schools allow for the imposition of schedules, curriculums, and behavioral control techniques that are not subject to public scrutiny.

7) Charter schools require minimal public investment in building and transportation infrastructure.

8) Charter schools make for easier to hide the problems of the poor and those living in poverty.

9) Charter schools (not for profit types) allow corporations to reap tax benefits for providing financial help.

10) Charter schools (for profit types) expand business opportunities for the education-industrial complex.

11) Charter schools make it possible to take the state tax dollars saved from the imposition of urban charters and use that money to enrich suburban public schools.

And here is the latest news piece on accumlating evidence that points to the fact that there are no good reasons to allow charter schools to snuff out the democratic reality and potential of public education in schools that serve the poor:
Five years after Indiana's publicly funded charter schools first opened, there's no consensus on how well they are educating students.

Some of the schools are making "incredible progress" and have demonstrated they can significantly improve the performance of students from low-income families, said David Harris, a charter supporter in Indianapolis.

State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), who also favors charters, agreed although he said it's "still too early" to draw broad conclusions.

But some observers say charter schools have not lived up to their expectations for improving student achievement.

"They do not perform as well" as public schools, said Lowell Rose, a consultant for the Indiana Urban Schools Association who has conducted a statistical analysis of 28 of Indiana's 37 charter schools. The study concluded that they trail comparable public schools in the percentage of students passing statewide exams.

Charter schools receive public funding but operate outside the rules of traditional public schools, and they are independent of local school boards. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 3,500 charter schools operate in 40 states, serving more than a million students.
Charters have not caught on in some states, including Kentucky, where a charter school law has not been passed.

Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said there has been little interest in charter schools among state legislators. One reason, she said, is that most Kentucky public schools have decision-making councils that include parents and teachers, and permit "a sense of ownership" and control similar to what charter school supporters say they want.
Indiana's 37 charter schools teach almost 8,500 students.

One of them, Community Montessori in New Albany, is among the state's top performers. Community Montessori, founded in 1998 as a private school, became a charter public school in 2001. It will have an enrollment of about 425 students this fall.

Barbara Fondren, Community Montessori's director, said even though students there have done well on statewide tests and the school has been classified "exemplary" by the state, she thinks too much emphasis is put on statistics in judging and rating schools.

Two of her students said the school's success can be explained by its atmosphere and attitude toward students.

Ryan Roark, 14, who will be a ninth grader in August, said that in addition to helping students prepare for the annual Indiana Statewide Testing for Education Progress exams, or ISTEP, the school "gives you some responsibility," such as allowing students to write an "agenda" of what they intend to learn each day.

Classmate Ryan Plamp, 14, said he likes the informal approach to learning that allows him to move around and not sit at the same desk all day.

"It's just so much more relaxed," he said.

ISTEP is the state's yardstick for measuring academic progress, and the scores are used to rate school performance in five categories, from exemplary to probation.

State Sen. Connie Sipes (D-New Albany) said she has a hard time distinguishing the charters from other schools.

"Some are struggling. Some are doing well. They're like the traditional schools," she said, adding that they've yet to show themselves as more effective than other schools, as promised when sold to the state legislature.

Dave Rarick, a spokesman for the New Albany-Floyd County schools, said because charters operate independently, "they're unique in many ways, including demographically."

Also, Rarick said that because of the charters' independence, "the public schools don't monitor or track their performance."

The National Center for Education Statistics reported last year that, overall, charter school test scores in reading and math were lower than scores for public, non-charter schools.

A more recent study that included Indiana reached similar conclusions.

Last month, the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice concluded that Indiana's charter schools "are performing at levels that are lower than demographically similar traditional public schools."

The study added, however, that the charter movement in Indiana is "relatively new" and that the schools are "decreasing the gap in performance" that puts them behind other similar schools in the state.

Members of the Great Lakes Center include the National Education Association and affiliate teacher associations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The NEA position on charter schools says local school boards should be able to grant or deny charter applications. . . .

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:46 PM

    But, here in NYC, how much of this applies? We have the sort of charter schools you are describing, but we also have two run by a subsidiary of the teachers' union, and the same union is inviting Green Dot in to run a unionized charter school (subject to... blah blah blah).

    Don't get me wrong, I don't think we should have them. I just want to find how universal you think these points are (or are not)