Thursday, March 11, 2010

Charter Side of the Coin

With all our talk about charter schools in regard to education reform, it is always important that we look at how we got to this point in the first place.

Though national publications like Newsweek and the New York Times may parrot the "blame the teacher" narrative favored by "school-choice" or educational privatization advocates, it is refreshing to see the Atlanta Journal Constitution put the blame where the blame belongs.

The very first sentence of this article sets the tone in describing systemic problems, by calling out the people who run the system.

Lagging test scores. Crowded classrooms. Inattentive school boards. Aloof superintendents.

This balanced and informative article goes on to describe how the parents themselves lobbied for a charter school, and some of the drawbacks even charter schools experience.

So the Shaginaws appealed to neighbors on an East Point play group Web site. Many of those who responded were also trying to decide between relocating or private school. The neighbors formed an interest group to research the idea for a charter school and held community forums that drew hundreds. They established a nonprofit and cultivated relationships with two national education management firms.


This article is a far cry from the cheerleaderism from the lobbyists, national media and invested public figures that we are usually subjected to on this topic. It also describes a completely different, and probably more healthy, state attitude towards charter schools. Furthermore, you can almost hear the parents' desperate voice through the words on the screen.

The unnerving thing is still that parents feel the need to abandon public schools because those schools are failing them, and there doesn't seem to be anything parents or communities can do about it. One only imagines why that is in a representative democracy, as the individuals ruining our public schools are being hired and paid by someone at the local and state level.

I'm sure this builds a receptive market for those who would privatize our education system, which explains why so many organizations want to get into the business of education.

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4 comments:

Dante said...

"The unnerving thing is still that parents feel the need to abandon public schools because those schools are failing them, and there doesn't seem to be anything parents or communities can do about it. One only imagines why that is in a representative democracy, as the individuals ruining our public schools are being hired and paid by someone at the local and state level."

Atlanta Public is a strong school system these days. One of the big reasons is that you have to watch your ass or they'll send you packing back to Fulton County. The other side of that coin is that in the places covered by both APS and Fulton, Fulton County School System is a cesspool.

In Athens, enrollment shot up in the two private schools the year they ended school choice in Clarke County. And Clarke's property values still haven't recovered from that decision.

When public school systems start offering wholly separate schools for parents and students who actually give a shit, you'll see public schools wipe the floor with their charter brethren. That is what parents want, and that is where they are being let down the most. In fact, the current trend of integrated classrooms with differentiated instruction are the exact opposite of the parents' ideal.

But you'll never see a politician waving that flag because nobody wants to feel bad about themselves even if they are letting or outright encouraging their kids to throw away their futures. Those left-behind parents will outnumber the give-a-shit parents, and the left-behind parents will resent such a move when local elections roll around.

patsbrother said...

For those of you reading this, I believe that when Dante refers to "integrated" classrooms he refers to integration of regular and special ed students.

That took me a second.

Dante said...

I hadn't even thought of the other definition. But for the record, I mean integrated by aptitude. In other words, sticking everyone from special ed to gifted into the same class and expecting them to all learn something meaningful.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I didn't think of the other definition either, but that's because mine eyes gravitated towards "differentiated instruction" and I knew exactly what was meant.

I can deal with "differentiated instruction" when the aptitude or learning style difference is closely bracketed.

But there is NO reason to put students that cannot read on a first grade level in a class with students reading at a high school level in any subjects other than those like art, band, and PE.

So I'm in complete agreement with Dante on that. And I absolutely agree that is one of the systemic modifications strangling public education. I also think that pressure on teachers to successfully "differentiate" their lessons is one reason they have to work impossible hours.