Monday, August 18, 2008

Charter Schools ... Washington Post

Journalists, particularly me, tend to get excited about charter schools, the independently run public schools that have produced -- at least in some cases -- major improvements in achievement for children from low-income families. The charter educators I write about are often young, energetic, witty, noble and pretty much irresistible. But their charter schools, which use tax dollars with little oversight, are relatively new and untried. Like all experiments, they could easily fizzle.

That is the point of a short, readable and fact-filled new book, "Keeping the Promise? The Debate over Charter Schools," available for $16.95 at The seven chapters make the best case I have ever read for a skeptical attitude toward the nation's 4,000 charter schools. For reasons I will explain, it did not change my view of charters, but it should spark, as the subtitle says, a thought-provoking debate.

Read the rest of Jay Mathews here.


Anonymous said...

There is nothing to like about JM - how can he make observations like this:

Amy Hanauer, founding executive director of the nonprofit Policy Matters Ohio, reports that more than half of her state's taxpayer funds for charters "goes to for-profit companies whose bottom line is sometimes less the well-being of the children than the balance of their bank accounts. The largest and most well-known of the charter operators, White Hat Management, had only two of its 31 schools make the federal benchmark of 'Adequate Yearly Progress' in 2006-2007."

And still reach the conclusion that charter schools are good? If I was liberal socialist, I would be mad too, but I wouldn't be making excuses for my political cronies in the Washington Post.

Matthews looks like a neoconservative - he is promoting a mixed bag that is intended to 'tweak' school reform. From an earlier piece he did this year, he outlined's ambitions (Rotherham)

1. put a smart cap on charter school growth.

2. allow smart charters to lease more space.

3. offset fixed costs by giving adjustment funds to public schools that lose students to charter schools.

4. allocate additional money to individuals that need extra help.

5. let charter teachers join unions, but not have academic tenure.

Why use charter schools at all, when something very similiar is already being done in public schools? Our district created a number of small schools using the charter school provisions and had them all managed under one administrative umbrella. It is even more critical that such schools be run by a competent administrator. Indeed, most schools fail because they lack a competent administrator. My principal says you need two leaders really - one a right- brained eccentric (5 ex-wives and 5children) and the other left-brained who can follow procedures, so they both don't go to jail.

Firing a teacher, because they don't happen to share the philosophy of a principal seems counterproductive.

Change is meant to be difficult and teachers are skeptics for good reason. However, a funny thing really, is that most are not very good at judging the quality of textbooks. Change is meant to be lasting and conclusive. Not permanent, but that is the intended effect.

Interestingly, its principals that gave up their tenure for higher salaries. Years ago, teachers and principals were all a part of the same union and the system worked surprisingly well.

Anonymous said...

This is how a pre-millenialist thinks - you take half of everything and label it stupid or evil - then throw it out of the formula. Then you go back to step 1tweak it some more with common-sense ideas (untested) and proceed to step 2. Take half of everything left label it stupid or evil and throw it out of the formula. After three decades of fervid you will be left with a wasteful, top-heavy, scandal riddden, bureaucratic piece of garbage and a society that is left to fend for itself. Such was Capetown in 1799 when it was run by the Dutch West India Trading Company.

What a nuisance!

Anonymous said...

Premillenial reformers like change. They need to screw everything up, so they can go hide under a rock and hope nobody notices while they collect exhorbitant fees for doing nothing beyond making novel conjectures.

UW applied math and the cog.psch. profs. should stay out of the curriculum business. Absolute stupidity to write a textbook based on principles like natural learning. There idea of a study is answering a textbook survey. What was N? 10?

Think carefully UW...don't want to pop a breaker... Classrooms (the ones with four sides and a door and thirty kids and one adult on slave wages!) are not natural settings, they were designed for efficiency and MASS education.

Anonymous said...

Of course, you can't massively educate students if the textbooks fail to deliver what they promise over and over to the public.

Do you get the picture. B. is going to lose this primary and that will be the end of the reform movement. Adopt Singapore and you will solve the biggest problem in education today.