"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then

Yesterday's post quoting Dov Rosenberg's WORKING LIST! Why Testing and Privatization are Harmful - Not Helpful - to Public Education brought a comment to my blog. I was about to answer it in another comment, but then I decided that the topic was important enough to deal with in a post of it's own. So here goes...
Bella said...
I know that this is a little trivial, but it irks me when people say "charter schools do this/that" as if they were all one homogeneous entity.

I get that privately-managed charter schools are detrimental. I know. I read this blog and Diane Ravitch's blog and many more.

But I work at a charter school that is a genuine non-profit; it is managed by a Board that consists entirely of elected parent representatives, an elected teacher representative, and founding community members. It is more racially diverse than the local schools, which are 100% black. The application process is very simple; most of the families come from very disadvantaged homes and have never had a problem. And here in MD, charter school applications must be decided by lottery, and it is illegal to either deny special ed services or deflect certain children back to neighborhood schools; they can only be expelled if do something that would be worthy of expulsion at any public school.

So can we start saying "privately managed charter schools" or "corporate charter schools" or even "most charter schools"?

Have there been any studies on the effect that progressive local charter schools (that start because they advocate for a progressive educational philosophy) have on communities, attitudes about learning, etc.?
Bella,

Thank you for your reasoned and gentle manner of taking me to task. I'm glad you did because 1) your objection is valid, not at all trivial and 2) you're correct.

Not all charters are the same. I think Dr. Ravitch would be the first to say (and, in fact, I've heard her say), "Some charters are excellent!" Grouping all charters together is no different than grouping all regular (or neighborhood) public schools together by someone who says, "public schools are failing." By the way, Dov Rosenberg did use phrases like "most charter schools" or "some charter schools" in his piece. He also wrote things like "Charter schools often..." or "Charter schools can..." implying that he was not talking about 100% of charters. He didn't do it all the time in his work in progress -- but if you look you can see he made the attempt. That doesn't mean that your objection is not warranted. I think it's important that everyone understand that not all charter schools damage the public school system...just like not all public schools are failing.

The phrase "corporate charters" works for me. I hope, in my own writing, when I have talked about the research into charters I have used a phrase similar to, "charters don't perform any better than regular public schools." By which I mean...there are some which are better...and also some which are worse...which is, in fact, what the research shows. I have tried to keep a balance and not say things like "all charters are bad." Further, when I complain about charters soaking money from the public schools, or not doing their fair share of educating the hardest and most expensive children to educate I am, indeed, usually talking about corporate charter schools. If I have erred in that respect, I apologize.

When I am quoting someone else's work, which is what I did with yesterday's post, I don't think about that balance since the writing is not mine. However, I don't think I want to begin every quote I put in my blog with "Not all charters are bad." Hopefully, if I do a good job with my own writing people will understand my position in these posts.

Dr. Ravitch has spent a lot of time in her talks, her writing and in her latest book discussing how charters got started...and what the original intent was. She has said that they were to be places where people could try new things...do research...find answers to some of the problems we're facing in education. I understand that there are some charters which actually do this. I don't dislike charter schools...or private schools for that matter. I think there's a place for all of us (see HERE, for example)...I do have a problem, however with some of the ways states are funding their schools...public and private, but that's probably a different discussion...for another time.

Part of the problem with charters in general is that state laws often allow (or encourage) money to be stripped from needy public schools to fund them. That's not the fault of the charter schools...especially the non-profits...however, fixing public schools is where my focus lies. That, too, is probably a different discussion...for another time.

As far as Special Education is concerned...that has been the focus lately because of research showing that some charters have been manipulating their special ed numbers in one way or another. If MD has a way to make sure that doesn't happen that's great...it's too bad that not all states are as genuinely interested in the education of all children to follow suit.

In the future I will endeavor to make it clear in my own writing that my objections about charters are usually with corporate charters. That is, after all, an accurate description of what I feel to be the "Charters" aspect of the drive to privatize. I do, however, reserve the right to complain about any school, public, charter, or private, which, in my opinion, somehow does damage to a public education system locally, statewide or nationally.

Thank you again for your response. I appreciate the mirror you held up for me to look into.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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