(I would love to see more policy discussions here … charter schools are a great place to start. – promoted by mooncat)
Adding to the debate regarding charter schools in this state, there are a few op-eds across the state worth noting. Two of the following are supportive with the third opposing them, and they each bring up some thoughts worth considering
Novack, a longtime education leader in this state, makes a strong case for charter schools in Alabama. She states that the purpose of charters “is to develop successful public school models that increase student learning. These models can then be replicated in other public schools.” She later points to success that charters have had with poor and minority students, and suggests they can help Alabama continue to work to close the achievement gap.
Novack goes on to point to concerns some have, including those raised here. One such concern is changing existing private schools into charter schools–some states have prohibited that practice and Alabama should do the same. Furthermore, charters are not allowed to cream students but must take those who apply or select in a fair manner if there are more applicants than desks. She also states that many charters are dedicated to serving students with the greatest needs. Each of these concerns need to be addressed in the laws drawn up to establish charter schools.
She offers her suggestions for things needed to be addressed in a charter school law, including supervision from both local school districts and the state board, with a spcific focus on struggling students; strong accountability laws; provisions to be flexible; as well as a deliberate expansion plan. Her final point is worth quoting:
Equitable funding and facilities — Less successful states have hampered schools by providing lower funding per student than other schools.A+ was organized almost 20 years ago when citizens across the state agreed that students' access to top-notch public schools shouldn't be determined by their zip codes. While good progress has been made, far too many Alabama students still don't have the opportunity they deserve. That's why A+ believes it is time for charter schools in Alabama.
2) Former Congressman Jack Edwards in the Mobile Press-Register
Congressman Edwards, and yes, I know I'm bringing up a Republican (who has been good on the issue of constitutional reform), also makes an arguemnt for charter schools in this state. He writes this artice from the perspective of a former truste of the SUmmit Charter School in Cashiers, NC. In his experience, this community greatly supported the school (both summer residents and permanent residents), which improved involvemnet a tother schools as well. He makes his argument for charters to work in conjunction with all public schools, where charters in communities that want them and that will support them will benefit public education not only for the students of that school, but of all schools in the system.
Shirley's editorial makes the argument that charters are not a silver bullet. He spends over half the piece trying to define charter schools, then raises the points from the Stanford study about charter school performance. He ends with this argument:
Oftentimes, success stories and reports are fabricated, distorted and can be misleading. When regulations are applied equally to traditional schools and charter schools, then an accurate comparison may be made. The Race to the Top Fund should be channeled to high poverty and rural areas where local sources of funding are limited. The lure of the federal dollar is the driving force of supporters of charter schools.
Some analysis below…
As Alabama Possible with the Alabama Poverty Project mentioned yesterday, it is worth having this discussion (check their link for more articles). My thoughts based on this:
Novack is very effective in addressing some of the objections and issues that must be considered. Edwards also helps with this, and I raise three of those questions.
1) Do we allow current private schools to become charters? We should not. Current private schools need to remain private.
2) Do we intentionally find communities that have a need for charters and place them there, or do we allow them to grow everywhere? As she argued, we need to be intentional about their location–charters are not the answer everywhere. However, they can be an answer to assist in specific areas of need.
3) Finally, do we use charters as a way to go around the traditional public school system in the state, or do charters serve in conjunction with the established system? My belief is that charters need to work as a component of the local systems, focused on the needs of students in those particular communities. It is not a silver bullet, but charters can provide opportunities for some students who need it, while also encouraging parents and communities to not only support the charter but all public schools in their area.
In response to Shirley's arguemnt, and my question for those who oppose charter schools (which I might have raised before) is to name other solutions to the educatioanl issues we face.