If these recent articles had been more balanced, conceding the extraordinary achievement of high quality charters while exposing problems among others, I might feel differently. But no such distinction was attempted: “bad” was sought throughout, even in the good, and generally bad was reported, whether real or not.
To get a sense of what lies at the bottom of all this propagandistic “reporting,” I engaged in a back and forth in a recent Facebook exchange with an advocate of the anti-charter line to better understand the opposition. While I concede this is but one exchange about differences on the topic, I believe this account of charges and responses is reflective of the battle that is being waged and worth examining.
Charge #1: The attack began with the assertion that it is a matter of Republican philosophy that charter schools are a panacea for all education issues.
Response #1: I responded that no one believes that charters are a panacea for all education issues. Yet, it is significantly Democrats, including President Obama, both of his Education Secretaries, a multitude of Democratic citizens, parents, teachers, and funders, and even those who prepared the current draft of the next Democratic Platform, who have joined many Republicans in supporting high quality charters.
Charge #2: Charter schools seek out and enroll the best kids, which is why some appear to do better.
Response #2: Most charters use a lottery system that prevents cherry picking. Plus, high quality charters generally show significant gains for the students who enroll, as measured against their own past achievement in previous schools.
Charge #3: Charters fail miserably by not teaching the arts.
Response #3: One of the great things about charters is that citizens, teachers, and parents have the flexibility to create greater differentiation in school offerings. If parents and school founders want more band, orchestra, arts, etc., they can create a charter that places special emphasis in these areas.
Charge #4: Charters steal good kids away from traditional schools.
Response #4: No one is stealing anyone from anywhere. Parents are choosing among public schools, when they’re given a choice. They’re making a choice based on where they believe their children can get the best education.
Charge #5: Parents are only (or primarily) choosing charters because charter advocates are telling them how amazing charters are.
Response #5: It’s presumptuous and wrong to think that parents who make the choice of a charter do so for any other reason than others do for their children. They pick based on what they legitimately think is in their child’s best interest.
Charge #6: You always talk about successful charters but never successful traditional schools.
Response #6: I am always happy to talk about success in public schools and frequently do so. In fact, I’ll be posting soon on successful public schools in Austin (whose success, by the way, is too little recognized by the system itself!).
Charge #7: Charter school success reminds me of taking vitamins and thinking you’re healthier though the vitamins had nothing to do with the success.
Response #7: How do you explain the voluminous data that have been provided showing generally not only strong overall achievement but also significant academic growth over time for the students who enroll in high quality charter schools?
Charge #8: Is it possible that this improvement is due to the fact that these students have been removed from an environment with poorly performing students?
Response #8: I don’t like the idea of poorly performing students anywhere and have worked for almost three decades to change that in the public schools. But are you saying parents ought not be able to seek out other public schools where their children might have a better chance at success?
Charge #9: Students who do not participate in debate, the arts, and other activities are not as successful as those who do.
Response #9: That may or may not be so, but, again, shouldn’t parents, not charter opponents, be able to decide what public school alternative is best for their children?
Charge #10: Let me show you some website “stories” that show that some people are making a lot of money off of charters.
Response #10: Let me show you who are operating/funding those websites. Then let’s get back to the issues relating to what’s best for children and their parents and the facts demonstrating clearly the positive and promising results in high quality, non-profit charters.
It’s obvious charter school success has struck a nerve in a good part of the public school establishment. At the very time educrats have had success in reducing the pressure of accountability, parents are increasingly inclined to move their children to more effective, high quality public charter schools.
Whether accountability and increased funding for traditional schools will be restored is unclear and in doubt at this time. What’s not in doubt is that funders, citizens, teachers, and parents are sprouting high quality charter schools like beautiful flowers all over the landscape. Bless them with even greater and speedier success in doing so!