I’ve had a recent email discussion with a fellow GMP editor on the topic of charter schools. We have a bit of a disagreement about their merits.
So let me say up front that I am unabashedly in favor of the charter school movement, and the philosophy behind them.
My intention is to do a series of posts outlining the various arguments in favor of charter schools. And I welcome disagreement! We only grow if we’re challenged, as we learned from the various stories of personal triumph in Rio. (Okay, I’m still in Olympics withdrawal).
My first argument here is not extensively documented or long-winded. It is simply an observation about the nature of sprawling systems, and the folly of imagining some panacea to perfect them.
The public school system in the United States currently employs 3.1 million teachers. It operates across fifty states, all with their own, separate standardized tests and graduation requirements.
Schools run from Pre-K – 12th grades, from rural districts with just dozens of students, to dense urban districts numbering in the many thousands.
These multifold student populations are as diverse as our country, and would be radically different from previous generations even if demographics had not changed since 1950. That’s because technology has transformed their everyday lives, not least how they “consume” learning.
In the rapidly changing world of a growing, and increasingly diverse nation, coupled with the daily disruption of new technologies, the very concept of centralized planning for education seems farcical on its face.
But we know public schools are not keeping American students competitive with their international counterparts. We know thousands of parents are unsatisfied with their local school, and most of them cannot afford the costly tuition of private school, or the personal sacrifice of homeschooling.
That is where charter schools come in. The very concept of charters was that of “little laboratories,” where teachers with different ideas about best practices for optimal learning could try out their theories, and (in best case scenarios) share their successful strategies with neighboring public schools.
Charters and public schools: a partnership for everyone’s benefit.
The biggest advantage a charter school administrator, or teacher, or curriculum planner, has over public schools is that they can tailor their instruction model for their specific student body. Having worked in a poor, rural school district before moving to a wealthy, suburban district, I can tell you: though those two middle schools were less than two hours apart by highway, the needs of my 8th graders differed radically.
I have no faith that Washington DC would, even if it were possible, discover and implement necessary improvement to American public schools. Look at the V.A. Look at the DMV. Look at our wholly absurd tax code.
The government is not going to “fix” public schools from on high.
So though I concede that not all charter schools are great, or good, or even minimally satisfactory, the better opportunities afforded to students by this model of allowing motivated, invested educators the freedom to try something different: I’m totally for that, every day of the week.
Source: 30dB.com – Charter Schools
“44% positive may not sound like all that much of an endorsement but compared to public schools that come in at only 34% positive Charter Schools do appear to be a better option, not optimal but better to social media.” – Howard K. 30dB
Photo: Getty Images