The Charter School Craze: What the Movement Means for Public Education
We all know that the United States public education system is not doing well. Schools are closing left and right and last September, the Chicago Teachers Union held its first strike in a quarter of a century. The Teachers Union spent an eight-day strike in opposition of a kind of “education reform” that was ending in school closures, teachers losing their jobs, and, ultimately, causing the most harm to students as a result.
The charter school movement has been touted as a solution to the problem of a failing public education system in the United States. The Center for Education Reform proposes that charter schools are an innovative alternative to conventional public schools that are designed to show results. Because charter schools are still public schools, but operate autonomously – that is, they do not have to abide by most of the regulations that govern most other public schools – founders have free rein over how the schools are run.
This can be both a blessing and a curse, as it turns out. Charter schools, in practice, have not been found to be as promising as they seem. The biggest of the issues with charter schools, as a number of parents have found out, is that they are ranked based on – you guessed it – students’ high stakes standardized test results.
Because charter schools are public schools, they are not tied to any school district, but they also do not require students to pass any entrance exams. As such, a major selling point on the charter school movement is that anyone can choose to attend one of these independently run schools. However, because so many parents, especially in low-income urban neighborhoods, are hoping to send their kids to the best schools possible, the highest ranked charter schools end up admitting students based on a lottery system. Even then, not everyone who gets in is prepared to succeed.
All public schools are required to administer high stakes standardized tests to all of their students. Even so, kids who have special needs or specific learning disabilities end up less able to succeed than they might otherwise be in a more specialized or better-funded school, and they end up falling by the wayside. When charter schools are more invested in upping test scores than supporting students with special needs, these students often drop out in favor of other schools – which, in turn, results in improved test scores for the host charter.
Not all charter schools are anything like the advertised ideal. While many of them are modeled after schools like KIPP or Success Academy, which have over 90% of their students at or above grade level, the rest struggle behind in testing, a trying experience for parents, teachers and kids alike.
To learn more about the ideas behind charter schools in education reform visit the following sources:
PDF Version on Slide Share - The Chicago School Reviews