Thursday, April 22, 2010

The failure of charter schools

Three charter schools in the Sisters area closed shop this spring because, for one thing, their parent company, All Prep/Ed Choices in Clackamas, near Portland, is being investigated for mismanagement of funds.

The charter schools in Sisters struggled anyway to maintain enrollment and therefore ran out of money to operate. The Sisters Early College Academy failed to make tuition payments to colleges on behalf of its students. It owes them more $10,000.

The Academy of Fine Arts was a bogus concept to begin with because the Sisters schools do an adequate job of teaching art. It was a glorified coloring school where the students learned little in the core subjects. When they returned to the public schools, they were way behind their peers.

What's problematic about these schools is that they didn't address a real need in the community and went out of business as a result.

In Bend, the charter school called REALMS targets middle school students who have dropped out or are close to dropping out of the public schools. This is a critical age for saving kids before it's too late and nothing like it existed before in the school district. It's still hanging on. Marshall High School in Bend handles the troubled high school students.

The greatest need in charter schools, aside from reaching inner city kids, is in vocational education, which more and more public schools are dropping because of budgets and the lop-sided emphasis on college preparation. Yes, it is well known that college graduates do make more money over the long haul than mere high school graduates do. However, not all students want to go to college. And that's a fact.

Across the country, millions of dollars have been thrown at the charter schools. There have been some success stories in the inner cities, but also some spectacular failures.

Last week, the highly regarded Dept. of Education at Stanford University failed with its own charter school for, surprise, the same reasons that bedevil some public schools serving low-income areas.

Poor academic performance was the main reason why the local school district pulled the plug on Stanford's experiment.

Money wasn't an issue because Stanford spent $3,000 more per pupil than the average public school does.

One of the ironies of the charter school movement is that while the right wing demands increased oversight and greater accountability of public schools, it wants the opposite from charter schools.

And the result of this lack of oversight and accountability? Massive problems, at least in Pennsylvania, which passed charter school legislation in 1997. Read this story for edification.

But, failure of charter schools across the country has not deterred the Obama administration from expanding the number of charter schools. Read this story for more info.

What the Obama Administration should do is listen to the reformed reformers who have seen the light on "No Child Left Behind."

This well-known education "reformer," now considers endless testing and charter schools to be failed policies. (See previous blog entries here and here.)

In an op-ed piece on April 2 in the Washington Post, Ravitch wrote:

"We now know that choice is no panacea. The districts with the most choice for the longest period -- Cleveland and Milwaukee -- have seen no improvement in their public schools nor in their choice schools. Charter schools have been compared to regular public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, and have never outperformed them. Nationally, only 3 percent of public school students are enrolled in charters, and no one is giving much thought to improving the system that enrolls the other 97 percent."

The right-wingers insist that what ails public schools is that they're controlled by the teachers' unions. Charter schools are a way of breaking the unions' grip, they claim.

But, that is the fundamental flaw of the charter school movement. As we've seen, numerous charter schools have failed with not a single union teacher to blame. Also, charter schools can't be based on the premise of being against something -- unions -- but rather for something -- namely higher academic performance.

Ask any teacher, not that anyone in power would do such a thing, but, if you did, you would find that students who come from low-income parents who don't give a damn about education, or even their kids, are the students most at-risk of falling through the cracks of life.

It's not rocket science. It's just the way it is.


  1. Over 80% of the nation's teaching force in k-12 grades are White middle class..Don't be so ready to blame teachers who are not trained in cultural differences of the students in their charge, blame the system for allowing this horrendous situation to evolve ! Please review our new book "Between the Rhetoric and Reality" Lauriat Press;Simpkins&Simpkins.2009..

  2. Realms does not target any specific group of children, it is open to the public and is an amazing learning atmosphere. It gives an alternative style to the educational system but has nothing to do with drop outs.