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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

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

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

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

Katherine, I am going to debate that "number of qualified teachers" is a barrier. I know more good ex-teachers than I should who left the profession by choice because of the nature of the education. I think there are many other issues/barriers in education, that if resolved, would draw in more teachers. I also must add that money is not one of them. Money had nothing to do with why these good people left teaching.

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

Mary Kate, I like your way of thinking on charters having the potential to teach us something new. Good points.

Bonnie Yelverton's picture
Bonnie Yelverton
Still looking for a way to use my credential in secondary math & science

I have very mixed feelings about charters. I have taught for short periods (as part of my credential program) in 2 very different charters in poor rural areas in the high desert of southern California.
Both schools were started by educators who had a passion for teaching.
The one looked particularly to Edutopia and project-based learning, and tried to teach this as PD to the teachers, to the point of starting a mini graduate school of education for its teachers. But the teachers were overwhelmed (all were initially interns, without enough content supervision) so projects sometimes come at the cost of learning (particularly in the math I was trying to teach, where the students were way behind in learning.) This school has good fundraisers and a major funder in the village's main industry. The high school has just moved into its new location with roomy classrooms, and classes of about 25 students. (I was fired through the At-Will employment system, evidently because I was trying to get kids up to speed - using as much reasoning and concepts as possible - but didn't do a project in the 4 weeks I was there.)
The other had initial hopes of bringing high academic standards to the high desert, but, at least in the relatively new high school, has been a gathering point for students who can't make it in the large classes of the regular high schools. So classes were more about class-room management and getting kids "through the system" than the Latin and logic the founders had hoped for. My science classroom had been the kitchen of the former restaurant that formed our physical environment. Classes were usually under 20, so there was a good opportunity to get to know the students. I felt that many of the students were underperforming gifted students, with ADHD, Asperger's and other learning disabilities, as well as the assumption that school will be boring. Others had lost out on a year's learning for some reason or other, and lost when they tried to refocus. The school was able to connect with a number of these students, because of its small size.
But I decided not to reapply for my position, partly because I had a long commute and partly because teachers did everything. There was very little administration - no principal, no councilors - so we had to do a lot beyond preparing lessons and teaching our students.

Peter Smyth's picture
Peter Smyth
Retired teacher and administrator

Sticking to the actual question, charters make it possible to bring together staff who want to be there, with a common purpose. Charters usually offer more freedom from burdensome district oversight and administrivia. So the staff can innovate and have ownership of the program. Just as student must be engaged in learning, the staff of the school must be invested in the school.
I have only worked with charters established an run by community, parents, and educators.
Essentially what make some charters successful are the same things that make other schools successful.
And all charters are not successful.

kim chandler's picture

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.

Jackie Shanti's picture
Jackie Shanti
3rd grade teacher, Milwuakee, WI

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.

Holly's picture
Holly
High School Science Teacher

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.

Holly's picture
Holly
High School Science Teacher

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.

Peter Smyth's picture
Peter Smyth
Retired teacher and administrator

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.

Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Online Editor
Blogger

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!

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