I was reading Stephanie’s SFER post and thinking about Shaun Johnson’s @thechalkface post while giving some further thought to Peggy Robertson’s Eye on the ball post (I know that is a lot of thinking going on, but it’s late and Kid Cudi is in my ear) and I started to see the common thread in the issue. When one hears the term “charter school,” they either think elite public school or rouge frienemie of public education. However, when one hears the term “public school” they think either embattled counterpart of public government or dismal place of dismal prospects. So the question becomes, which one of the two is the true evil? Which one of the two does more harm to children, the one using competition, and building itself upon the teach-to-the-test system or the one forced to do so because of mundane “reforms”?
The answer however, is neither…
When it comes to charters, it is important to admit that charters have their downside and when run by the wrong people for the wrong motives they are a dangerous tool of manipulation. When used for the wrong reason they not only defraud taxpayers and educators but they defraud children and parents as well. However, when existent for the right reasons and built upon the right principals and for the right motives they can become powerhouses, mini hubs of innovation, and potential blueprints for a better public education system. However, the latter…seldom seen; we frequently see charters committing acts of distrust, running on models that indoctrinate, and pushing agendas that have no clearance within the public education complex.
The problem with charters however lies within the concept upon which states support them on. States expect charters to innovate but force them to conform to the already disproven NCLB structure, the hyper-rigid Common Core Standards Initiative and if they are really unlucky the horrible Race to the Top initiative . On top of this, states and the federal government give them too much freedom from transparency, accountability, and responsibility, which allow some charters to become frequent violators of student’s constitutional rights. When states and the federal government are pushing this innovate tab but forcing innovative educators to reside within the conformities of conformism the whole concept of a charter school becomes ignored. This system of redundancy in turns hurts children and districts, especially urban districts, more than what the initial public school could have hurt them. This is because when state and federal governments force these hubs of innovation to innovate within finely defined terms they often find they can’t and thus become labeled as “ineffective” and the teachers who became dedicated to what they seen as innovative become labeled as “bad.”
The problem with public schools however is broader and lies both heavily within policy and within societal expectations of success. When it comes to public education, it’s important to note the fact that public schools aren’t backed by fancy ventures but instead they are backed by what the community is willing to put in. Another thing that is important to note is that while there have been instances of first gen public schools turning away students, forcing them out, or coercing them into attending “alternative” schools, is that when students come their way they are stuck with them. There is no “lottery,” no admissions process, for public schools there is just a enrollment process that exist regardless of how many “seats” a school has.
Therefore, there you have schools built to house X number of students with X number of students being in each classroom overstuffed with Y number of students to a building with Z number of students being placed in each classroom. Therefore, with this, you have teachers who depending on the district and union agreements do not have the luxury of a Teaching Assistant having to deal with Z number of students. And then to add insult to injury you have the expectation of having to “teach within the system” instead of teaching and then to poor sulfur in the wound you have charters which parents choose because they are supposed to be “better” sending children back into the overcrowded building, which no one checks to make sure they arrived.
It is a cycle of irresponsible and damming actions that in the end hurt everyone involved when it should be a system of cohesive understanding and shared responsibility. If states are going to allow charters or “community schools” to exist then there should be a system of cohesion in place and the federal government should get on the page too. This whole system of competition to drive, innovation within conformation, and “I got mine so you worry about yours” needs dismantling. The amount of problems is too expensive and extensive to have additional problems like this added on when there is no need. This system, allows too many regressive steps to be committed which purposely fails the most endangered and leaves no room for moving beyond conformism. Charter schools that are honestly operated and public schools can become allies and can become counterparts in dismantling the school to prison pipeline, the school to welfare pipeline, and the attainment gap but this system of indifference makes that a pipedream.
- As usual, if I’m wrong feel free to set me straight.