Home > Uncategorized > When Can We Stop Fighting About Charter Schools? When We Start Measuring What is Important Instead of What is Easy?

When Can We Stop Fighting About Charter Schools? When We Start Measuring What is Important Instead of What is Easy?

February 23, 2021

The NYTimes on Monday featured an article by Eve Ewing with the plaintive title: “Can We Stop Fighting About Charter Schools? unlike many NYTimes articles on public education, this one was fairly balanced. It acknowledged that there is no clear evidence that charters are superior to “government” schools and DID point out that the headline grabbing schools tend to receive lots of external funding. I was pleasantly surprised to see a NYTimes article that included the observations in this paragraph:

Efforts to push forward the “disruptive” innovations that charters promise rely on a narrative that paints traditional public schools as outmoded, and their teachers as inept — while those same schools have the mandate to serve all students, not just those whose parents signed them up for a lottery. Large charter networks, sometimes bankrolled by hedge fund money, overshadow smaller homegrown charter efforts. When many people think of “charter schools,” they think of the glowing profiles or troubling revelationsat networks like Success Academy. But unlike Success Academy, most charter schools are not receiving $35 million donations.

The article also included many data points that are too often overlooked… like the ones in this paragraph:

Yet from all the attention this debate grabs, you would never know that only about 6 percent of public school students attend charters. More students have parents who are undocumented immigrants, and far more are disabled. More children live in states where corporal punishment is still permitted in schools. But these students’ needs generally don’t have the kinds of impressive “change agents” associated with them, the smiling faces who attract big donors and awe-struck media coverage. They lose in the financial economy and the attention economy.

But the article fell short in one very major respect: it neglected to flag the horrific role that standardized testing and college and career preparation play in assessing the quality of schools. The whole notion that we need to have charter schools to take the place of public schools is predicated on the idea that public schools are “failing”, the “…narrative that paints traditional public schools as outmoded, and their teachers as inept“. And what is the basis for this narrative of “failure”? Standardized test scores. If we REALLY want to change the principles that have guided education policy we need to work on devising metrics that get away from cheap, easy-to-administer tests that measure what’s easy to measure and ignore what’s hard to measure. When we are as worried about the mental and physical fitness of children as we are about their math and reading scores… when we are worried as much about the arts as we are about coding and preparing children for “jobs of the future” schools will be places where children are happy.

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