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What are the top 5 barriers for public schools to perform like successful charter schools?

dbixby001 Citizen who understands Education is the most important piece in society.

I often here that charter schools have a lot of advantages over public schools and "that won't work here". What do you consider the top 5 barriers for public schools to perform like successful charter schools?

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I don't know whether these

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I don't know whether these goals are achieved in most charters, but class size is a major factor. Also, second language and arts programs being part of the standard fare are often differentiating factors.

3rd grade teacher, Milwuakee, WI

Level Playing Field

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I don't think you can compare the two. Charter schools have the freedom to deny students. Every year my school is inundated with students after the state-wide count for funds. The Charter schools hold on to all of the students until they are guaranteed money for the students and then ask the parent to take them somewhere else. The second reason I have for believing that the playing field is not even is because in my state ( WI) the Charter schools are not required to administer the state test. The Charter schools are not being held responsible like the public schools for showing their test data. Last year, when they were required to take the test the voucher and Charter schools did no better and in some situations worse than their public school counterparts. Let's be fair and hold all schools, that the citizens of the state pay for, accountable.

High School Science Teacher

Barriers

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Primarily I'd like to say that I'm not sure charter schools are more successful than public schools. However here are the barriesr as I see them:
1) Charter schools get to chose the number and make-up of their students.
2) Parents have to apply to get their kids into charter schools; therefore you probably won't hear comments from them such as "why is homework important" or "plagiarism shouldn't count in high school."
3) Students (at least the older ones) chose to be at the particular school.
4) All the teachers at the schools "buy-in" to the schools philosophy.
5) Teachers have more say in how the school runs (eliminating "Joe's having a hard time staying focused in class, so instead of letting him disrupt class let him leave to walk the halls whenever he asks" better known as wishy-washy policies called "positive reinforcement"
If you want to improve a school's climate and therefore its success you need buy in from all the players: teachers, administration, parents and most importantly students. Finally, it would be wonderful if our profession, particularly public school teachers, was not constantly bashed in the press. It's getting old and painful.

High School Science Teacher

Barriers

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Primarily I'd like to say that I'm not sure charter schools are more successful than public schools. However here are the barriesr as I see them:
1) Charter schools get to chose the number and make-up of their students.
2) Parents have to apply to get their kids into charter schools; therefore you probably won't hear comments from them such as "why is homework important" or "plagiarism shouldn't count in high school."
3) Students (at least the older ones) chose to be at the particular school.
4) All the teachers at the schools "buy-in" to the schools philosophy.
5) Teachers have more say in how the school runs (eliminating "Joe's having a hard time staying focused in class, so instead of letting him disrupt class let him leave to walk the halls whenever he asks" better known as wishy-washy policies called "positive reinforcement"
If you want to improve a school's climate and therefore its success you need buy in from all the players: teachers, administration, parents and most importantly students. Finally, it would be wonderful if our profession, particularly public school teachers, was not constantly bashed in the press. It's getting old and painful.

Retired teacher and administrator

What is "successful"?

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Unfortunately, most reformers, NCLB, and Race to the Top define succession terms of student achievement as defined by test scores. This is not what successful means to those who care what their own children derive from the school. So the question really needs to ask "what are the barriers that keep (any) schools being the schools we want our own children to attend, and to fulfill their potential as learners?"
Right now, the greatest barriers are the reforms themselves, the degeneration of curriculum to test preparation, the deprofessioalizing of teaching, and removing the responsibility of learning from students.
If some charter schools are successful in the true sense, it is not because they are charters. It is because they are outside the stifling system. But there are traditional schools which have fought the system as well.
The fact that we have mechanisms like charters and magnets is an indictment of the system.

Edutopia Consulting Online Editor

School Size

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Charter schools often have considerably less students. As Kim mentioned in her comment, class size matters. So does school size. Good for districts and public schools that, unable to change a school of 2,000 to 200, are moving to the small learning communities model.

What success might you have had at your school with small learning communities (SLCs)? Please share!

Barriers

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First of all, I personally oppose both charter schools and vouchers-as neither one solves the underlying problem of the failing US educational system-a lack of having a culture that values education.

1. Public schools(overall) neither well-train nor well-compensate teachers(although teaching is the one profession that creates all others). Take Finland, for example-
Well Trained-only 10% of all teaching applicants are accepted and those that are must obtain a master's degree in the subject that he or she wishes to teach(this involves on-the-job training)

Well-Compensated-Teacher salaries in Finland are about the same as in the U.S.(48k yearly). Although Finnish politicians don't think about cutting teacher pay or implementing merit pay.

Respect-Teaching is a respected and honored position in Finland. Those who do teach are given the Finnish national curriculum(universal curriculum, unlike in U.S.) as a blueprint, not a guide(like in the U.S.). Teachers have autonomy and flexibility in developing their lesson plans.

Ex: Compare teachers to doctors-would you want just any doctor operating on you, or would want only the most well-trained doctors operating on you?Furthermore, doctors are well-compensated for their work-average plastic surgeon salary in California-4mil, but noone is complaining about 4mil,they're complaining about the 48k teachers make. Finally, since the qualifications are rigorous to become a doctor, those who do become one are given autonomy and flexibility in their work while being held to a high moral standard.

-Summary:
Teaching has to be approached the same way doctors are-all teachers must be well-trained,well-compensated, and above all, respected.

2.What occurs outside the school-Public schools present major U.S. problems(all of which MUST BE ELIMINATED before any change inside public schools can occur if public schools are to be anywhere near as good as charter schools or private schools): Gangs, War on Drugs, Poverty, Health Care issues, massive illegal immigration(which creates a language barrier), gun violence( a zero-tolerance gun control policy which excludes felons, domestic abusers, and those with mental health issues would cut down on gun violence on school grounds.

3. What occurs inside the school-students: Dealing with tracking,gifted education, and the NCLB Act. Also, public schools are funded mainly by property taxes:PROBLEMS

-Property taxes are inherently unequal. The more affluent the neighborhood, the more property taxes they pay, the more funding their schools receive, the poorer the community->lower house values->lower property taxes-> Thus, the poorer students in poorer communities do not receive the same quality of education and access to resources as do students from affluent families. The reality of the situation is that distribution of resources for schools is based on the socioeconomic status of the parents of the students. As a result-the U.S. educational system SIGNIFICANTLY AIDS IN WIDENING THE GAP BETWEEN THE RICH AND POOR.
Solution: Funding must be provided for on a per pupil basis and adjusted for living expenses:
y=12,000x+12,000
y=funding for school community x=# of students y-intercept=price ceiling on difference of living expenses:this would eliminate the inequalities of spending between different educational districts.
-Class size: Class size does affect student performance-smaller class sizes->for teachers: more individualized attention can be spent on students who show academic trouble->for students, its a chance to better know their peers/classmates.

4.Student's innate intelligence:Different people learn different things differently. Also, not everyone who's going to college is going to be a doctor or lawyer, furthermore, not everyone is going to college(everyone has something valuable to contribute to society, and that something doesn't always involve a bachelor's degree).
-Public high schools are comprehensive(include both academic and vocational courses). This is unique compare to many other industrialized nations-who have it separate. I don't believe comprehensive schools should be eliminated(for they allow students to figure out what they enjoy in high school instead of receiving a label,but I do believe we need to seriously develop our vocational system: it'll allow many students who have valuable vocational skills that are wasted because their environment(school system) dictates that everyone should go to college.

5. America's attitude toward education. Education is the single most beneficial societal mechanism that the United States has up its sleeves. With a superb public educational system, poverty and gangs wouldn't be running rampant. We wouldn't be facing overcrowded prisons, high crime rates, gun violence on school grounds, or politicians who get elected for promising to improve public schools and then turn around don't(by either cutting funding-aka RAISING TUITION or increasing class sizes). Most of all, with a superb public educational system, there would be no need for merit pay, vouchers, charter schools, or even private schools for that matter.

Citizen who understands Education is the most important piece in society.

Level Playing field?

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Jackie, thank you for your feedback. I respectfully disagree about "Let's be fair and hold all schools ... accountable." There is a lot of discussion in other questions and outside Edutopia that the quantity of testing IS the problem.

I agree that you need ways to measure progress, but that does not have to be state standards. State standards are not necessarily the best measure of intelligence and success.

What I hear you saying is "let's hamper the charter schools with all the burdens and hurdles we have because its fair." That is like saying "let's bog down the networks of schools that have good network connections so that they are on the same playing field as the schools with bad networks." Isn't the right answer to look at the differences and focus on the ones with bad networks. Use those differences to fix the problem rather than try to bring everything down to the same lowest common denominator. Shouldn't we try to remove those hurdles from public schools rather than try to add hurdles to charters?

Citizen who understands Education is the most important piece in society.

There are comparable and successful charter schools

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There were a few comments suggesting that charters have an advantage because they can pick their students and don't have to pass the same tests. There are examples of successful charter schools who share these burdens. The KIPP school in Austin is one. They get some public funding and are required to do all the same testing and can not "pick" their students; however, they are more successful than most other schools in the area. On top of that, they apparently do it more efficiently because they are in less of a financial crunch. Yes, many charter schools are successful and/or not good comparisons, but in this case, it is a more level playing field and they are clearly doing something better. Rather than complain about the playing field, can we leverage what makes a positive difference?

Citizen who understands Education is the most important piece in society.

Shaq, thank you for your

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Shaq, thank you for your comments and perspective. You bring up many good points.

Regarding your second point, that is a dangerous statement. You mention several things like gangs and drugs that must be eliminated before change can be made to schools. I respectfully disagree. In fact, I think you have it reversed. It is education which will help reduce those issues. If you are going to wait for gangs and poverty to go away before changing schools, then shut down the schools now because the battle is lost.

Also, your points related to money are valid, but is money really the issue? I don't have the stats here, but the amount of money going to schools has increased substantially in the past 30 years, but the results have actually gone down. If people to believe teachers will teacher "better" if they get paid more, teachers should be insulted. Also, there are examples of very successful schools that do well with the limited resources they have.

That said, I could not agree more with your last two points! Thank you.

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