Edreform epiphany: Charters on crack   Leave a comment

(If you are reading this, my sensationalized headline served its purpose!) By now I know better than to draw conclusions based on a sensationalized headline, so I took the time to read through the recent @AJCGetSchooled blog post by Maureen Downey. Actually, it was a  letter written by University of Georgia professor Peter Smagorinsky who suggests that we can fix education by making every school a charter school.

According to Smagorinsky, “Charter schools have been offered as one way of invigorating public education by excusing them from many of the rules that bind ordinary public schools. In exchange, they provide charters that outline their mission and means of accountability.” He’s kinda right and kinda wrong. Just like a lot of other people who have not actively engaged (Read: Devoted 2 or more years to developing a charter application) in the charter ‘business.’ Yes, petitioners (those who write and submit charter applications) can opt to seek waivers for some of the state regulations; however, some regulations must be followed, e.g., attendance rules, accountability measures, etc. Be leary of anyone who says that charter schools have different or fewer accountability measures. Any charter school operating in the state of Georgia is required to administer the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), End-of-Course Test (EOCT) and/or the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT). Why? Because that is how Georgia’s Department of Education determines whether a school/district meets Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). No publicly funded school can opt-out of those tests. Not one. Ultimately, the decision to grant any waivers lies with the State Board of Education. We have to stop alluding to the fact that charter schools can pick and choose the laws/rules to which they will adhere.

Here is where my frustration lies (ok, at least one of them): I have yet to hear or read anything about the role lack-luster leadership has played in the demise of public education. Ineffective teachers – check. Bad-arse students – check. Apathetic parents – check. Irresponsible single parents – check. Poor kids – check. When will leaders own-up to their failures as leaders? You know, wasting money to fill unnecessary central office positions. Or wasting money on textbooks not supported by classroom teachers. Changing instructional models/methods every 2-3 years without giving the previous one enough time for implementation and tracked results, or with every new superintendent. Does anyone reading this have any links to any stories covering screw-ups of overpaid central office administration, aside from the indictment of a metro-Atlanta superintendent? I’m still looking…

So here’s what we need to realize: Whether districts opt for charter schools, turnaround schools, firing every staff member, etc., none of these methods will deliver the results they seek. Why? Because some people (leadership) fail to accept that they may be a key contributing factor to the problem. From what I’ve learned, a true leader knows when it is his/her time to move-on to something else. The problem with education is that many decision-makers have been in authoritative roles for 20+ years and still think that solutions of the 90s are applicable to the problems of 2010.

But that’s just me: A crazy mom and former Special Education teacher. What do I know?

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