What impact are charter schools having on public education?

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DeLois Thomas (not verified)

Ditto

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I agree with David B. Sommerville for reasons he has stated. Mr. Sommerville what is the name of your charter school and where is it located?

Anonymous (not verified)

This guy sounds like he is

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This guy sounds like he is trying to blow his own horn. He cites a book he co-authored, and is superintendent of the school he references. Google his name and you find out he tried to start a charter school in his district but got cold feet.

Chuck Robbins (not verified)

I currently teach, and have

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I currently teach, and have taught for the last 12 years at a suburban district-sponsored charter high school in Northern California. Previously, I taught at a traditional school in our district, and prior to that at a rural Catholic high school and an inner-city high school in San Francisco. (And my own children have attended both parochial and public schools.) Our school's relationship with the rest of our district has been an interesting, and at times, contentious dance. But both sides have persevered, and students have benefitted. Many of the postings speak about the wide range of quality among public charter schools (yes, charter schools ARE public schools). That is absolutely dead-on; but it's equally dead-on about traditional public schools as well (and private schools, for that matter). DV Edgar (8/31/06) notes the , "The charter schools who are successful have a strong, well-educated, committed administrative team who excel at creative problem solving." That is also an accurate comment about traditional public schools, except that often good administrators are legally prohibited from "creative problem solving" - which makes their task even more difficult. Charter school success could be/should be used by the traditional education establishment to lobby for some of the "deregulation" which Dr. Soto (9/4/06) advocates, rather than attempting to pull charters back into the same box. Another comment in the postings, which I regularly hear is that charters can pick and choose their students. In California, at least that is not true. Charters may be designed to service a defined type of student (i.e. performing arts), but more often than not, charters are intended to serve students who are currently perfoming poorly academically in the traditional setting. To my knowledge, there has been no "flight" of gifted students to charter schools on a statewide or national basis. Indeed, most charters that have been revoked, have been closed because of poor academic performance. And yes, charters can "require volunteer hours...abide by a behavior and/or academic contracts...and have strict attendance requirements" along the lines of a private school. In California "the intent of the Legislature [was]...to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure," it makes sense that charters be allowed to operate differently. That they will be allowed to use some of the student accountability tools that have contributed to the success of private schools. Finally, many of the negative comments about charter schools are about the alleged lack of school accountability. In California, charter schools must demonstrate fiscal, educational (including testing results) and managerial competence, not just when they are initially chartered, or when up for official renewal, but every year. And not to an objective third party, but to a potentially hostile chartering district that may have a vested interest in discrediting and shutting down a charter school. Chartering districts can shut a charter down litterally within months or weeks, during a school year. That is accountability with teeth. On the other hand, a school district that is making "poor use of taxpayer monies" can go three years with a non-performing budget, or any number of years with poor academic performance before a state conservator might be appointed. I am not of the opinion that charter schools are "the answer". I'm not sure that there is "the answer." The issue is complex and evolving. There may need to be a variety of answers to meet a variety of student needs. But our current educational system is antiquated. It is based on an Agrarian (summer vacation) - Industrial (large "factory" schools) Model. Charters are one effort to create Information Age Schools; like the Internet, such endeavors will inevitably be out ahead of law. And also like the Internet, instead of trying to make charters conform to Ed Code that does not fit them, why doesn't the educational establishment creatively problem solve (the way they want students to do) to create appropriate structures for a new dynamic? Probably a better use of resources than arguing about whether change is good. Change is here whether the educational establishment believes it or not. Just ask Ford and GM about that one.
Ron Sofo Ph.D. (not verified)

There needs to be another

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There needs to be another option to activate choice for ALL students that possesses funding equity and accountability for all schools that use public funds, including charter and private schools that benefit from Title I, special education, and busing services. Check out the book, NO BAD SCHOOLS, Renko-Sofo 2005, for some key ideas around these issues If charter and private schools are inherently better in part because of the lack of bureauracy and regulation, why not deregulate public schools to the same degree and give everyone an even playing field? I think public schools are and can compete for positive results with/for all students because we have had to do this more than the overwhelming majority of private and parochial schools. The outcome we seek for ALL students, high achievement of rigorous and relevant academic standards was never part of the design, structure, or funding scheme of our current public schools. Charter schools scratch the surface of where our system of public education needs to go. Charter schools are a glimpse of the direction where our system of education needs "to go" just like the Wright Brothers first flight hinted that putting a person on the moon might someday be possible. NCLB attempts to address a 21st century problem with 19th century technology, systems, red tape and assumptions. Will someone with clout with the media come to FREEDOM, PA. to see what a small, primarily rural, relatively poor district is doing to begin to create and apply a new set of assumptions and structures to reinvent k-12 education for ALL Students????????????? We have hard data to prove our approach is starting to work and can be replicated in any school or district that has the political will to do so NCLB must "account for the performance" of students in private schools as well as charters if ALL children are Not to be left behind.
David B. Somerville (not verified)

I teach in an area charter

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I teach in an area charter school. Our school is unique in that we focus on a strong Science-Mathematics based curriculum. Although we are much smaller than the area's "regular" high schools (200 as opposed to 4000 students), we seem to have higher scores on all standard state and national tests in mathematics and our students perform extremely well in science competitons. We have been open for eight years and have made some enemies amongst local supporters of the local high schools. They accuse us of "stealing" their top students. In truth, most of our students feel safer in a small school and don't feel distracted by a sports-mad mentality, which sometimes pervades the thinking of our local community. We have given our students an opportunity to play sports in a limited season and we have active league soccer, volleyball and basketball teams. We also offer students "typical" prep school club sports like rowing and cricket. In all sports, however, students admit they love to play and winning is only an extra benefit, "if that happens". Our music program is outstanding. We have emphasized quality rather than quantity, so we have an award winning choir and two excellent symphonic orchestras and no marching band. With all of our successes we are still the bane of the many "good ol' boys" who see us as a threat to public education. Our local electricity company refuses to give any money to support charter schools, although they will support private and other non-private schools. We have to go out of our community in order to get support for our robotics team and our various science, mathematics, business teams. Very recently,we have been getting some local support and we think more will come as our alumni base matures. It gives one a feeling of great satisfaction to see our local school districts become bothered enough to feel that we are a threat to their stance as the only provider of education in the area. They have gone out of their way to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertisement to say they "are the smarter choice" when the figures prove differently. One district even tried to mirror our success by attempting to open a "magnet" school. Their staff did not have the dedication, nor the qualifications to make it a viable operation, so they are trying other ideas to attract more students to their already over crowded schools. In the meantime, we are happy to continue offering areas students and parents a small charter school with a dedicated and very well qualified staff (most have masters and doctors degrees) which is not mired down in bureaucratic decision making and very happy to have a large waiting list of children who can't wait to become part of our academic community. Did I mention that we are also offering our students high school/university dual credit classes in nearly all disciplines?
Ellen Karnowski (not verified)

For the 2006-07 school year

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For the 2006-07 school year I accepted an assignment at the only site-based charter school in our county. I found it is well supported by a parent committee, a charter committee, and many volunteer community members and parents. The curriculum is project-based and the students practice inquiry methods. Individual differences are accepted and accomodated. With a competent administrator, a great staff, and many high hopes, this school is flourishing. The standards guide the instruction, yet the division of curriculum into six different units of inquiry has been coordinated into the state standard accountability. I fullyu support charter school, as this one operates well.
Alan Robbins (not verified)

As a fairly new middle

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As a fairly new middle school science teacher, who has entered teaching as a second career, I find that the idea of charter schools is missing the point. The entire reason why charter schools, vouchers and other non-traditional educational band-aides are being discussed is because the only other alternative is to discuss public education. The impetus behind all of these initiatives is the fact that public education requires more resources than it did 30 years ago. Schools are a reflection of the greater society and if we neglect to take car of our inner-cities, least capable citizens and working-class families, then these problems will continue to enter our schools via our students. As a nation we must decide whether to start paying for enabling programs such as HeadStart, after school programs, adequate health care, adequate housing, teacher training, summer job programs and skills training, or do we want to continue to build prisons and incarcerate the large number of citizens who do have the resources to make better choices. Unless we commit to adequately funding our schools and the communities that they support, we will be continue this game of blame, finger-pointing with dog and pony tricks to divert our attention away from the real problems that exist in our country.
Dlanane (not verified)

The problem with statistics

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The problem with statistics is that they can always be slanted. Among homeschoolers, statistics are quoted proving that homeschool is superior to public education. Among educators, students who enter public education and are far behind because they were homeschooled are proof to them that homeschooling fails. My questions would be, "Who put together the statistics?" and "What was it they wanted to prove?" Usually and unfortunately no group is unbiased. How is it that my homeschooled son missed only one problem on the SAT his first time taking the test in his junior year, yet according to the public school his education was inferior and his advanced math courses do not deserve weighted credit? I teach public school as well and have seen both sides. Who do you want to see fail the public schools or the charter schools? I can find statistics proving the failure of both. So who is right?
Lisa Ehrlichman RN (not verified)

A comprehensive high school

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A comprehensive high school is NOT for everyone. For many students each day is a social and emotional disaster. It's a wonder most of them actually get dressed and show up with all of the stressful dynamics. I have had several academically advanced students find the atmosphere of a comprehensive high school to be overwhelmingly negative. They just couldn't see the rationale for "putting up with all of the crap." They wanted an education without the bullying, drug problems, sexual harrassment, violence, social pressure and bureaucracy of the comprehensive high school. They complained that too much class time was taken up by the teacher's need to discipline a small number of students. The 20/80 rule....20% of the kids take up 80% of our time. I have seen Charter School be a life saver for many high performing students in addition to the usual "cast offs" who are sent to charter to catch up.
Dolores Amato (not verified)

Many of the lowest

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Many of the lowest performing, highest risk students are "counseled" out of mainline comprehensive high schools to attend charter schools. Districts see this as declining enrollment and a fiscal drain while the mainline schools see this as one way to avoid becoming a Program Improvement School. The realities are that the accountability of NCLB is pushing and pulling on all public schools including charters based on flawed accountability models. Charter schools are held to the same accountability under NCLB when they accept Title I and the Local Education Agency is supposed to provide technical assistance without additional funds or personnel. Charter schools are often managed by former mainline public schools who are bound by most of the same laws in mainline schools and often have fewer dollars to deal with the most at risk of low achievers and thus both models vary little in the real day to day struggles to make education exciting, meaningful and productive. Until there can be honest and diligent dialogue about the value of a common public space and the contribution of the public sector to the social fabric, as well as the underlying social upheaval this country finds itself in, no experiments with structural changes in education will matter. It is not merely a matter of economics or hard work or creativity. We are a quick fix society that finds deep discussion and structured problem solving something to be avoided assiduously. Education has historically reflected the cultural values of society. Thus, in many ways we get the schools we deserve whether public or private.
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