Increasingly, I’m hearing a question that drives me crazy: “Are you for or against charter schools?”
There can only be one legitimate answer to that question: It depends.
Are you speaking of the situation in Michigan, in which four out of five charter school operators are for-profit entities? Or the overall tendency for charters to be even more segregated than their public school neighbors? Or the reluctance by some charter leaders to hold themselves to the same standards of transparency and openness as traditional public schools?
If so, thumbs down.
But if you’re talking about places like Baltimore, where all charter school teachers are unionized (and the charters themselves are almost all locally conceived and teacher-led), or if you’re pointing to the growing movement among some charters to intentionally enroll and serve integrated student bodies – by way of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools – the picture takes a very different shape.
And then there’s what’s happening with Summit Basecamp – a new sort of partnership between charters and traditional public schools that may very well offer the best evidence so far of what Al Shanker first called for back in 1988, when he imagined a new kind of school in which teachers could experiment with different ways of reaching students, and then inject that wisdom back throughout the public school system.
Yesterday, Senator Lamar Alexander stuck his foot in it when he suggested that not all charter schools are, in the end, public.
“There are some private charter schools, are there not?” Alexander said at a Brookings Institution event about school choice.
On a recent weekday morning in Washington D.C., several hundred teenagers hurriedly made their way through their high school’s hallways in a frantic effort to get to class on time.
I know – nothing new there. Except that in this particular school, the hallways had ubiquitous electronic clocks that measured time in bright red numerals down to the second, and these particular students had just three minutes to move from one class to another. “They had five minutes last year,” principal Caroline Hill told me, in between passionate exhortations for her students to keep moving. “And it was a complete waste of time.”
This weekend’s story in the New York Times about former NFL star Deion Sanders’ struggling charter school lays bare much of what’s wrong with the way Americans think about public education in general, and charter schools in particular.
This week, the last five traditional neighborhood schools in New Orleans’ Recovery School district were closed – making it the country’s first district made up entirely of charter schools.
That’s a good thing, right?
As I travel around the country this month, participating in public conversations about the promise and peril of school choice, it seems fitting that right as we marked the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, I would end up having lunch with Michael Alves.
Tags: Brown v. Board of Education, charter schools, diversity, education policy, Equity, Integration, school choice, school policy, segregation
I’d characterize this one as a pretty reasoned conversation about the issue — which is surprising, since it comes from Democracy Now, which is pretty clearly in one camp and not the other. I attribute that to Steve Barr bringing some nuance to the conversation. Still, listen to both sides, and judge for yourselves . […]
At the New Teacher Center conference a few years ago, I watched a master teacher model a great way to introduce students to new material. She projected a single image onto the screen in our conference room — it was Liberty Leading the People — and asked us a single question, over and over again: “What do you see?” Any observation (“I see a strong woman”) would prompt a second question from the instructor (“What’s your evidence?”). It was fun, and illuminating, and after ten minutes, based on nothing more than our own close observations, we were ready to study the French Revolution.
I was reminded of that workshop recently, when I saw someone on Twitter share the following picture:
In case you missed it, the Public Charter Schools Board of DC has proposed a common framework for assessing the quality of all preschool and lower elementary programs. The original proposal sparked arguments for and against the plan; led to a petition campaign of protest; and anchored a lively hourlong discussion on public radio. Lots of people wrote the board to share their own ideas and feedback, and, earlier this week, the Board unanimously approved a revised policy.
What did the PCSB get right, and where is its plan still lacking?
Three recent articles seem to capture the promise and the peril of the charter movement all at once. First, there was my piece exploring the evolving case law that challenges the notion that public charters are indeed, under the law, public schools. Then there was the news from a recent study suggesting that charters are […]