by David Safier
I'm often accused of being against charter schools. It's more accurate to say I'm against false, inflated praise of charter schools by the conservative "education reform" movement in its relentless drive to demonize what "reformers" like to refer to as "government schools" and to promote school privatization. I try to burst their inflated bubble whenever I get the chance. When the charter cheerleaders start telling the truth about their schools, I won't have to expend so much time and effort countering their propaganda.
The truth is, charter schools are a mixed bag with good schools and bad schools — kind of like those much maligned "government schools." The vast majority of studies have concluded that when you compare similar students, there's about a dime's worth of difference between their performance in school district schools, charter schools and private schools, and that dime of difference shifts back and forth between one type of school and another year by year. If you want to see examples of quality education, look for schools offering quality education. Don't look for labels or categories.
Which brings me to the wise words about charter schools. They're not mine. They come from Conor P. Williams at the New America Foundation. This is the money quote, part of a longer piece, worth reading, in today's Talking Points Memo.
Charters are diverse to such an extent that they almost cease to be a definable subset. For instance: charters are union-busting drains on public education — except when they’re founded and run by teachers unions. Charters are test-centric “drill and kill” factories full of aggressive, teacher-driven, “no excuses” pedagogy — except when they’re devoted to the Montessori method or discovery-based learning. Charters pretend that teacher quality is the primary variable affecting students’ academic trajectory — except when the charter is part of a community-wide organization fighting child poverty. Charters are proof that traditional public education is stultified by too much government regulation — except when they become entry points for bad actors to access and divert taxpayer education dollars to other purposes. Charters are proof that parent choice and market demand are enough to shutter bad schools without top-down accountability — except when ineffective, inefficient charters limp along despite strong evidence of persistent failure.