Thursday, June 14, 2007

Learning from Charter Schools

Part one of a Journal editorial two-parter suggests that we have something to learn from charter school successes.

There is some evidence that charter schools are doing better than public schools in meeting some objective goals.

From personal experience; I would suggest wariness about jumping on the existing charter school model bandwagon; and I am a supporter of charter schools. I have advocated allowing all schools to become charter schools in important aspects of their existence.

But it is a very complex dynamic. It would be a mistake to simply jump on the current charter school model and assume guaranteed success.

I would posit that the working component of charter schools, is autonomy; the movement toward site based management. While getting a few schools out from under the thumb of central office is a step in the right direction; it is only a step.

The schools that will succeed are the schools with real site based management; where every stakeholder feels fully involved and respected in the decision making process.

That goal does not require breaking from the APS in the sense that all of our charter schools have had to break so far; requiring new building space and a whole bunch of other unnecessary and punitive hurdles.

The leadership of the APS just needs to move real decision making power and resources down to schools as they are, and where they are.

Those are the aspects of charterdom that actually bear the fruit.

Those are the only circumstances that actually encourage the formation of synergies among students, parents, educators and administrators.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another factor is that charter schools self-select for parents who are committed enough to their children's education to research, choose and deal with the logistics of an alternative to the school on the corner. An engaged parent is the best predictor of student success.
This part of the editorial struck me as the most important. Historically, parent involvement, low pupil teacher ratios, and a great teacher in the classroom have been the three factors in studies for at least the last fifty years. Nowhere in any study did it say bloated administrations and fat cat school boards did any pupil any good.
For the last fifty years editorials have been pointing to parochial schools who traditionally turn out students performing above the national averages. How do they do that? They have hardly any money, the teachers make far less than public school teachers. It is the parents that make a difference. Any one who is going to lay out cash for tuition, or get up and drive the kid to and from school is a likely a very involved parent. And the kicker? If Johnny can't be controlled and is disrupting everyone else’s ability to learn, he is not welcome to come back. Public schools don't have that option. Like the lady at the dinner party said to the business man who was berating public schools for not being run like a business, she asked what he did. I make the worlds best blueberry muffins he proudly replied. And what do you do if your suppliers send you rotten blueberries she asked. I send them back, of course, he retorted. She just smiled sadly and said, we, in public education, can't send the rotten ones back.