Getting In: Charter School Lottery Anxiety

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Getting In: Charter School Lottery Anxiety

    Charter schools have been sweeping the United States as the proposed     solution to our failing education system. The past five years have     seen countless charter schools popping up and promising a brighter     future for children of all ages who attend. First, however, these     kids have to get in.

    The documentary film, Waiting for “Superman,”     directed by Davis Guggenheim – the director of the popular film An     Inconvenient Truth – exposes the anxieties of parents and     their children, who are hoping to escape their public schools and     get themselves on track for a better future. Most of these families     are low-income, Black or Latino, and come from major cities.     Chicago, New York, and New Orleans, for example, are three cities     that have been major hubs for rising charter schools.

    Waiting for “Superman” plays a lot off of the idea that     charter schools are a solution, but its major goal as a film is to     expose the anxiety around getting into charter schools. Because     charter schools fall squarely in the realm of public education, they     cannot require any admission fees or exams (although they receive     funds from the state) and so instead operate on a lottery system. If     families choose to try to get their children in, then these kids are     often competing with hundreds of other children from similar     backgrounds for, depending on the school, a dozen or so slots.

    With this in mind, prospects seem grim. The charter schools that     require a lot of good luck to get in tend to be the ones that are     very well known and regarded, but the odds are against kids who are     trying to escape their failing neighborhood schools. In some cities,     like New Orleans, charter schools are becoming more the norm than     neighborhood public schools. This brings up an interesting     statistic, however: only one in five charter schools actually     achieves the promising results that the reform movement touts as the     solution to the education problem in the U.S.

    A study conducted by Stanford University economists concluded that     students’ progress in mathematics in charter schools, versus     traditional public schools was, in fact, inconclusive. 17% of     charter school students scored higher than those at a matched     traditional public school; 37% scored lower; and 46% had no     difference in academic results. With this in mind, the enormous     amounts of anxiety surrounding the lottery seem a little out of     place. With such uncertain results stemming from the results seen in     charter schools, it’s no wonder why people across the country are     questioning their existence.

Check out the trailer     for the film Waiting     for “Superman,” a documentary about charter     schools and the charter school lottery system. For more information     and for a critique of the film, see author and activist Stan     Karp’s talk, “Not Waiting for Superman.”


PDF version on Slide Share – The Chicago School Reviews