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You’re forgiven if you found it hard to get a complete take on last week’s hearing on charter schools before the House education subcommittee.

You’re forgiven if you found it hard to get a complete take on last week’s hearing on charter schools before the House education subcommittee.

As Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss writes in a recent Answer Sheet post, Republicans and Democrats had “such different takes on the session that it doesn’t sound like they were in the same room during the proceedings.”

For their part, the Democrats’ release was critical about charters, raising concerns about accountability and the growing number of charters run by for-profit operations.

“The privatization of public schools under the guise of charter operators is very troubling to me and I intend to keep a close eye on this issue,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller of California, in reference to the nearly one-third of charter schools that are now operated by private management organizations.

And with only four percent of public school students attending charter schools, most communities, parents and educators are far more concerned about the need for real and meaningful systemic school reform.

For their part, the Republicans who lead the committee showered praise on charters. In fact, their press release had nothing but praise for charters, which are given regulatory leeway to try new strategies from which other public schools can learn.

One quote in their release even called charters’ focus on performance “a brilliant marriage between business and education.” Given what we’ve seen from large businesses in recent years, we’re not sure if that’s such a good marriage. But that’s fodder for another piece.

Missing from the GOP account was the testimony from Western Michigan University researcher Gary Miron, who noted that a growing body of independent research on charters finds that “charter schools are not achieving the goals that were once envisioned for them.”

An important piece of research on this is a report from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University called“Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States”.  

That 2009 study found that of the 2,403 charter schools studied, 46 percent schools had math gains that are statistically indistinguishable from the average growth among the traditional public schools with which they were compared.  

Charters whose math growth exceeded their traditional public schools equivalent growth by a significant amount accounted for just17 percent of the total. The remaining group, 37 percent of charter schools, posted math gains that were significantly below what their students would have seen if they enrolled in local traditional public schools instead.

We clearly haven’t heard the last word from Congress on charter schools. We just hope the next words are a bit more honest and complete while fully reflecting the needs of all students – not just the handful that continue to be part of an education experiment with mixed results.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    Tina Dove Director, National Opportunity to Learn Campaign

    by Tina Dove on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 01:10:44 PM PDT

  •  Democrats too close minded about charters (0+ / 0-)

    While I can't stand the right wing wackos on anything, I do think Democrats tend to get hysterical about the so called greediness of private schools as if public school boards are so community minded. Just look at the LA School Board. Jamie Oliver may be annoying, but when I was reading about the Oliver show, there were reports about conflicts of interest and contracts given to cronies. Public schools may be public in name, but you are buying textbooks from private entities, contracting with private food vendors, hiring private contractors to build the buildings.

    Also public school systems are racist, the way they are designed now. They are limited to neighborhoods in several states which means a poor black family is out of luck if they dont hve the funds to move to a better neighborhood.

    Also, doesn't a charter school have to get local approval? So it's not like it is going to be imposed on someone.,

    Private universities are no less serious about education than public universities. Once there are more private schools for lower age groups, you will probably see some scams(which are no worse than a bad school board run system) and some great educational bodies competing with each other to boast a better chain of schools, the same way Harvard competes with another Ivy League school.

    you can call me praveen.

    by pravin on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 01:21:53 PM PDT

    •  How does Harvard compete with other IVY (0+ / 0-)

      league schools?

      Don't squander your youth. You never can buy it back.

      by fredlonsdale on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 01:29:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They compete for the best students, (0+ / 0-)

        facility, research grants, alumni donations, formation of important new programs, getting graduates better jobs, better admissions to graduate schools, etc.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 05:00:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Many charter schools are (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grimjc, Azazello, Tonedevil

      funded by big business/corporations with an agenda. Local approval is not necessary, depending on the state. But even then, big business interests have deep pockets for PR stunts (Waiting for Superman ring any bells? teacherken did some great analysis on that crap.)

      In other places, charters are community based reactions to intolerable school situations. Where I live in a rural area, the consolidation of schools was so ridiculous that there were students with 2hr bus rides- 1 way! The community organized and re-opened the local (small) school as a charter. It operates much like the public school (similar days and curriculum) and preforms no better or worse.

      So, mileage varies. I approach charter schools with some skepticism, but there are genuinely good and excellent ones out there as well as mismanaged hells. My basic criteria is to ask how much control does the local community actually put in (not just have, but actually support their school). That to me says more about the success or failure since success of students will have much to do with the environment they are in.

      I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

      by WiseFerret on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 01:37:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Public school boards dont have agendas? (0+ / 0-)

        http://www.laweekly.com/...

        http://laist.com/...

        I am not for or against Flores. I dont have a good opinion of the entire board after wathing Jamie Oliver's revolution.

        But the teachers union was trying to micromanage even these experimental small groups in who they need to hire- only the senior most teachers. Opponents of reform kept hurling juvenile insults like "you are in bed with Nabisco" when the pro[osal by a school board member was to limit alternatives to non profits.

        You haven't heard of schools having contracts with coke for vending machines? Public schools are already private in some ways, you just dont realize it.

        you can call me praveen.

        by pravin on Fri Jun 10, 2011 at 09:02:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Your not going to get a K-12 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tonedevil

      version of Harvard under privatization. Private for-profit universities are much less serious about education. They're all about the bottom line. See my comment below.

      ¡Viva Baja Libre!

      by Azazello on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 01:40:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  India has them (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        InAntalya

        There are schools that compete for the name recognition and some feel obligated to give a quota to poor students. Even though I was born here, I went to India for middle school and I schooled with kids of different neighborhoods, some of who were on assistance at a private catholic school. THere is no reason why they can't place a restriction for charter schools in doing that. Maybe have a blind lottery to restrict too much selective screening . Combine that with some selective scholarships. A little bit of everything. Not one approach will solve the problem.

        You got to hit this with every angle and let the best solutions win in each community.

        you can call me praveen.

        by pravin on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 05:07:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Have no problem if you restrict to non profits (0+ / 0-)

        There is no indisputed solution out there. If some communities want to restrict alternative schools like charters to be run only by non profits, I have no problem with that.

        you can call me praveen.

        by pravin on Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 05:09:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Charters are part of the privatization movement. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lilypew, RetAZLib, Tonedevil, spaceshot

    Anyone who is wondering what to expect for K-12 in a privatized system can look at what's currently happening with for-profit colleges like University of Phoenix. They cost more and deliver less. Here's a little primer on how they operate. Private schools aren't necessarily better because they're private. For-profit corporate schools are the goal of the privatizers. Don't kid yourselves, they're after the money. They don't give a damn about improving education.

  •  Teacher salaries (0+ / 0-)

    I have seen the experiment of many private schools work wonders for teacher pay in India. The top teachers in one of the southern indian states are known by reputation over the years and they make good money. Exceptions abound of course. Some of the top teachers advance quickly to this level based on the demand their reputation generates.

    you can call me praveen.

    by pravin on Fri Jun 10, 2011 at 09:04:30 PM PDT

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