I waited until I had finished my series on charters. I gave time for readers to read the series and hopefully, thoughtfully consider the evidence and experience that other states have had. You may have noticed that I put the series (with links) at the top right of the blog along with a link to the State Legislature page that shows how to contact your legislator to give your opinion.
I will say this again - this blog is the only place that truly tried to give factual and complete information in order to allow readers to educate themselves on this issue. We have never had charters in this state and so there are likely many, many people who don't even have a vague idea about what they are.
(Update: a lot of egg on my face from a brain that sometimes doesn't fire on all pistons. Of course, I left out the wonderful work at the Seattle Education blog written by Dora Taylor and Sue Peters. My apologies.)
This did not happen at LEV, Stand for Children or through the state PTSA organization. They could have done this but chose not to do so. Ask yourself why. Why would there be pro and con discussions about charters from those groups without providing complete information first?
No big surprise - I don't believe in charters.
Charters were about better outcomes in exchange for fewer regulations and more autonomy in teaching and learning. For only 17% of ALL charters to do better than traditional public schools, after 20 years of trying and with the federal government now giving grants to start-up charter schools - I do NOT see the cost benefit ratio that makes sense. What is most troubling is that if a school was not performing academically within a certain period of time, it was to be closed down. That has not happened in the numbers you would expect given that 17% figure.
Why don't I support charter schools?
- First and foremost, after 20 years and 42 states, they have still not proven their worth in a large enough way to support their costs. With the stats standing at 17% of charters (in all those states) doing better than traditional public schools (and about 43% doing the same and 33% doing worse) - those are not odds even Vegas would go with.
- I really support why charters started. As you may recall, it was about creating innovation within a school. Innovation created by teachers. It has not turned out that way.
- From a review by Richard D. Kahlenberg of the book, "The Charter School Experiment: Expectations, Evidence and Implications edited by Christopher A. Lubienski and Peter C. Weitzel - The Minnesota legislator who authored the nation’s first charter school law also noted that “many teachers were frustrated with their work and were leaving the profession. I wanted to give them ownership.” In practice, however, Lubienski and Weitzel note that most charter schools actually reduce teacher voice and have come to “represent the institutionalization of anti-union interests,” which is why Shanker came to reject charters by the mid-1990s. With only 12 percent of charter schools unionized, charter school teachers are less well paid than regular public school teachers and leave the profession at much higher rates.
- Again from the book review - According to researchers at the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, 70 percent of black charter school students attend “intensely segregated” schools, compared with 34 percent of black students in regular public schools.
- Charter schools are more likely to serve minority and low-income students but less likely to serve students in special education. They serve fewer homeless students. This has a two-fold problem. One, the resegregation of our schools. Two, it puts more of the responsibility on traditional schools and the accompanying costs.
- Charters are less likely to employ teachers meeting state certification standards. Studies point to that issue as one likely reason charters do not perform as well as traditional public schools.
- Teacher and principal turnover at charters is greater than at traditional public schools.
- Charter schools do not face sanctions often. Most often charters go out of business because of problems with compliance with regulations/finances than student performance. Authorizers in many states have problems with closing schools that have issues.
- From the DOE, There is a general expectation in the charter school sector that authorizers have a responsibility to regularly oversee charter school operations and progress toward meeting the goals in the charter. The reality is that only 36 percent of authorizers had a charter school office or staff in 2001-02, suggesting limited capacity to address charter school oversight. However, this finding varies by type of authorizer. For example, 85 percent of states that are authorizers have an office or staff dedicated to charter school work. Because states are more likely to authorize a large number of schools, they may require an infrastructure to provide adequate oversight. More important, more than half of authorizers report difficulty closing a school that is having problems--a key responsibility of authorizers in this educational reform.
- Despite the hope that charters would put competitive pressure on traditional public schools, there is little evidence that has happened.
- Charters do better academically when they operate within a traditional school district and yet, there has been rise in in CMO-managed charters.
From the book review: Charter schools remain popular with Americans because they serve an important function: providing an educational alternative for poor kids in lousy public schools. But the fact that charters are not, on the whole, any better than public schools suggests that the key impediment to equal opportunity does not lie with regulation or teachers unions or modes of school governance. Several successful charter schools throughout the country—such as High Tech High in San Diego, and the Denver School of Science and Technology—consciously seek a socio-economically diverse student population, heeding decades of research that suggest that low-income students will perform far better in economically integrated environments.
So what about those that do well?
- One thought is that charters are smaller than most traditional schools (just as most private schools are).
- Another thought is that charters have been shown to be able to manipulate who comes in (and stays in) at their schools. Any time you are able to manage the population group, you will get better outcomes.
And yes, absolutely yes, there are some great charter schools out there.
Just like great private schools.
Just like great traditional public schools.
So a charter law for Washington State means that perhaps 20% of the charter schools would perform better than traditionals but there is no guarantee they will.
Meanwhile, a school district loses money, the state takes on a huge burden of oversight and costs and all that for hope and a prayer for better.
It does not cost out for me. I believe our own district is slowly but surely doing better. I believe a lot more attention is being paid to our lowest-performing schools. I believe our labor partners know all this and understand there needs to be more give and take. Tacoma School District wants to be an innovation district and not just a district with innovative schools. I believe that is what Seattle Schools should be as well.
I believe it can be done and done without charters.