Sunday, February 28, 2010

The real charter school threat to APS Supt Winston Brooks

By any reasonable measure, the leadership of the APS is treating charters as a threat. Where is the threat, exactly?

The threat lies in their success and in his failure in comparison. Many charters are doing things that APS schools cannot. They are seeing successes that many APS schools are not.

One can argue, correctly, comparing charters to conventional public schools is as comparing apples to oranges. The populations are not comparable; the average student is different, the average parent is different, and average community support is different.

Yet there are things that charters do, which lead to their greater successes, that public schools do not do, but could.

For one, they don't tolerate chronically disruptive students. The leadership of the APS is as far behind the eight ball on that one as they could possibly be.

The leadership of the APS is so averse to dealing with the issue of student discipline that they have yet to even articulate a discipline philosophy. They are so dedicated to allowing site level administrators to exercise their "best judgment", they will not articulate any guidelines at all, to which they might be held accountable. Even the Student Behavior Handbook, which is presented to stakeholders as a policy statement from the board, begins with a "weasel clause";

Nothing in the following is intended to prevent a ... principal or other administrator from using his/her best judgment with respect to (any) particular situation.
Administrators can do what ever they want, whenever they want, and excuse it all under their "best judgment" at the time. "Best judgment" is not subject to review; it requires no explanation and no defense.

I would suppose that social promotions are not the norm in charters. I cannot point to empirical evidence to support the supposition, but it stands to reason. No parent who goes to the trouble of enrolling their child in a charter school, does so with the expectation that they will earn a "social" diploma.

Winston Brooks has reason to feel threatened by the successes of charter schools because they highlight his failures in comparison.

In so far as charters are apparently an idea whose time has come, Brooks would do better to raise performance in the schools over which he has control, beginning with getting a handle on chronically disruptive students and social promotion, than engaging in continuing his tilt against windmills.

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