Andrew Rotherham’s School of Thought column at Time this week is about the current attack on charter schools. Many of the STC Member schools are charter and the top performers in their cities and states. So why the outcry against them? Because they operate on their own terms instead of the school district, and they can fail the same as any other schools.
“Charter schools range in quality from among the absolute best public schools in the country to among the absolute worst. That variance in quality is proving a political Achilles heel for charter schools and is fueling a serious backlash.”
Rotherham has been professionally involved with many charter schools and charter alliances, so he is a good judge for the situation. He points out two lessons to be learned from the current controversies:
1. Charter schools are not created equal, so the term is almost meaningless. Even between two successful charters there may not be much in common in terms of operation.
2. Good charter schools are recognized much less frequently than the bad ones, so the public’s view is probably skewed against them. “So one spectacular charter screw-up counts more than 100 quiet successes, and the good and great schools can’t overcome the headwind created by the laggards.”
Read the points in his words here.
These points hit on some major issues that STC tries to overcome by bringing together the quality schools, regardless of governance type (charter, district, private, faith-based), find their effective practices and share them with one another. It’s hard work for successful schools in low income communities to stay open because of the lack of public support. Our entire network is comprised of top performing schools in low income communities, and because media mostly picks up on the failing schools, a huge part of our nation doesn’t even think schools like this exist. Also, common public knowledge right now seems to be that if a school’s achievement increases dramatically from one year to the next then they’re cheating (Diane Ravitch frequently focuses on this), and it’s simply not true. Reform is possible, even with children that some people seem to think are uneducable based on what the kids eat for breakfast. We’ve skipped several steps in this education reform – the first being that we must believe it is possible. When adults believe in children, they can feel safe enough to believe in themselves and take charge of their futures.