Saturday, July 07, 2012

In praise of charter schools

Wall of inspiration in the library at Harvest Prep School in Minneapolis.
I've spent a few weeks looking into the issue of charter schools and last month went to the recent convention of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Minneapolis. I came to the subject with an open mind as to whether they were useful or not, but having looked at the evidence I'm convinced that they can be a fantastic opportunity for urban and low income children in America. The very students who have been so failed by the education system. I think the evidence is firmer that they don't work in rural areas. One person I spoke with speculated that this might be because they have trouble recruiting good teaching staff.

This actually hints at one real reason why charter schools do better in urban areas. Critics constantly harp that charter schools are cherry picking the best students, or that their parents are in some way more motivated. This sort of explanation harps back to education's long history of blaming the students for being unteachable. In fact, what is far more likely is that charter schools in urban areas are able to attract better teachers and are able to hold them accountable for their work.

Charter schools have far more flexibility in the way that they teach, someone I spoke with described this as 'agency'--which is attractive to those who want to make a difference in education. Furthermore, charter schools can reward the best teachers if they wish to do so.

Links to the piece, and the leader (op-ed) that went along with it, follow:


Charting a better course 

Charter schools raise educational standards for vulnerable children 

Jul 7th 2012 | CHICAGO AND MINNEAPOLIS | from the print edition 

“EVERYONE'S pencil should be on the apple in the tally-mark chart!” shouts a teacher to a class of pupils at Harvest Preparatory School in Minneapolis. Papers and feet are shuffled; a test is coming. Each class is examined every six or seven weeks. The teachers are monitored too. As a result, Harvest Prep outperformed every city school district in Minnesota in maths last year. It is also a “charter” school; and all the children are black. [More...]


A 20-year lesson 

Evidence from America and Britain shows that independence for schools works 

Jul 7th 2012 | from the print edition 

FOR decades too many educationalists have succumbed to the tyranny of low expectations, at least when it comes to those at the bottom of the heap. The assumption has been that the poor, often black, children living in some of the world's biggest and richest cities such as New York, Los Angeles and London face too many challenges to learn. There was little hope that school could make any difference to their future unless the problem of poverty could first be “solved”, which it couldn't. [More...]

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