Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Mailbag: Controversial Charter Schools And Achievement Gaps

    Our article about the controversy surrounding charter schools created some controversy of it’s own. Reader inteach expressed concerns about the non-unionized nature of many charter schools.

    Teachers are wary of charters for three reasons. First, they see them draining money and the best students away from traditional public schools.

    Second, they see the working conditions in charters as a step backwards…longer hours, less protections, lower pay, no collective bargaining, etc. These are issues teachers fought against for years, only to see them as making a return under the guise of reform.

    Third, teachers view education as an essential public service, one that is too important to hand over to the private sector. Profits and kids don’t mix.

    Eduction Week featured an article not too long ago which explored a similar issue, from the opposite perspective.  Charter school teacher Marilyn Rhames describes the experience of dining with the head of Chicago’s teachers union.

    When a friend of mine at dinner asked her how Lewis envisioned charter and district schools working together, she responded, “I want to unionize charter schools.” That’s when my tendency to apply reverse logic kicked in. I thought, If the teachers’ union president started her own charter school, what kind of school would it be? She actually told us that she once wrote a proposal to start a school but it didn’t go anywhere.

    Rhames seems to indicate that charter school teachers may not be enthusiastic about the idea of unionizing.

    Guest 2 commented on another story about how efforts to close achievement gaps may ignore students performing at the highest level.  This reader raises fundamental questions about how schools are evaluated.

    Of course, I happen to think that using ANY type of criteria to attempt to “compare” one school in this state against another school is ridiculous, unless you include a metric that allows schools to be compared only against other schools with similar student populations.

    State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has long argued that home conditions shouldn’t matter when it comes to how well a school performs.  This has caused school officials in districts which have not performed well on state standards to accuse the state of constantly changing its benchmarks.


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