This is a comment I made on the main page. The diary was My Experience with an Alternative Charter School. To be clear, upfront and honest, I am pro public school, and quite distrustful of the charter school movement that I see today. I believe I explained it in another comment in the diary. I will always support the notion of not-for-profit in any way (by that, I mean the charters who insist to the public they are the same as the public schools but have hidden investors getting the public school funds to push their agenda) PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR ALL. I am totally against "merit pay" or the notion that schools should compete against each other in anything but sports, debat, intellectual competitions.
Competing for dollars for education is just wrong imo. In the end, and we all know it, the balance of power will go to the corporations and the oligarchs behind the scenes rooting for the end of public education.
But this comment is more of a general comment about students, learning, teachers and what education is....to me.
Here's the deal from a forty year veteran (now retired) teacher who taught sixth grade for almost 30 of those years.
There is NO MAGIC POTION for teaching/educating/learning whether in public, private or charter schools.
Children can be and often are learning regardless of what any tests say. Children learn in different ways, at different rates, even when they are in the same grade. Children are not widgets. We know this because they physically grow at different rates; develop all kinds of skills at different rates.
Curriculum is not the problem. Standards are not the problem (just a joke). The problem is that children are not widgets. Teachers are not robots. Over their 12+ years in school, fortunately students will get many different teachers. That is a good thing.
Even the best teacher ever, will not succeed with 100% of the students 100% of the time. It's nonsensical to even think that is possible.
We accept that all children may run different speeds and we do not deem them failures if they run slower than some of their peers. We urge them to get to the finish line regardless of their speed. But in reading or math or writing, heaven help them if they are slower.
Here's the thing. Tests only are valid for a portion of learners. Those of us with good auditory and/or visual memory do well in tests. But those of us gifted with our hands (able to draw, or build), or gifted with our voices or with our ears in hearing music and language may not be good at testing.
When I was in school in the 1950s, I was in a catholic parish school (paid for the then large and very rich parishes so even the poor could send their children to catholic schools). Back then catholic diocese how their own version of NCLB. Every quarter, starting in grade 1, students in every school (urban and suburban) were tests. Schools and teachers were compared. I was one of those kids with better than average auditory/visual memory so always scored high. It did not take me long to figure our why teachers liked me. My geometry teacher (a lay teacher, not clergy) in tenth grade was in his first year. When I got the highest score possible in the diocese test, I thought he was going to give me a halo and a chance at beatification. He was a struggling new teacher finding his way. My scores helped him.
Did that mean I was learning? Not really. Once I saw him work out particular theorems I pretty much visually retained it. I did not necessarily understand it but I could redo it with different variables.
In English classes I could memorize any and everything.....and retain the explanations of the teachers and give them back. Is that learning? Partly. But when I got to college and had to write on my own, use my own theories, my own interpretations, my own opinions, I was stumped. What I got in basics (grammar, punctuation, times tables) were all valuable tools not to be discarded for sure. But I missed out on the creativity party, on the experimental parts, on the parts that cannot be tested on paper.
And while I did well, many of my peers failed, were deemed "unteachable" and sad parents told they must go to the "public" school (unless of course the parent was a rich donor and gave money to buy a statue or a stained glass window...then somehow the student got to stay).
My point is this. THERE is no one way to teach or to learn.
I feel confident about saying I was a successful teacher because I tried to vary my teaching hourly....from sage on the stage to guide on the side.
I honestly have always gotten back very positive feedback from students and parents and colleagues alike whether in an upscale, high socioeconomic area or in a low socioeconomic neighborhood.
I believe in the environment now (I still sub) I could not do it. Scripted for teachers texts are pushed because they "reflect for the tests". Creativity is frowned upon unless you are in a school already "scoring well on state tests."
Teachers are not trusted to be professionals. Instead they are the conduits of the "testing" corporations. All classes must now post the standards they are teaching thus, imo, sending a message to children that learning has limits of what is important. What a sad, terrible message to send to wide open minds.
It's not about public or private or charter. It's about what we, as a society, believe about learning. If learning is just about getting into the best schools to get the best jobs to make the most money to get the best house....we are doomed no matter what the system.
***Regardless of all of what I said here, I believe public schools are the best way to go because the concept of making sure ALL children have the same opportunity, in a system always working for the ideal of a "equalizing the playing field" has to be in a not for profit, for the common good atmosphere. When investors are involved to make a profit (and they are in charters and privates), we have diminished the concept of "the common good."