A.G. Rud, the dean of the College of Education at Washington State University, and Ken Zeichner, professor of Teacher Education at UW, have written a quiet op-ed reviewing the most important ideas in enacting charters in Washington State.
They express the concern, based on fact, that some of the more successful charter models have a "stripped down" curriculum that focuses on the basics but has little else for a well-rounded student.
A lean curriculum focused only on improving standardized test scores is
common among schools run by charter-management organizations elsewhere
in the country. As documented by prominent education historian Larry
Cuban, franchise-school operators such as Rocketship often target
low-income communities and offer a stripped-down version of schools that
most charter advocates would not want for their own children.
They also offer these recommendations (and they are valid - transparency and accountability are key):
• Ensuring that the charters offer a rich curriculum and not just
stripped-down test preparation.
• Making sure the charters are
judged by more than whether they can raise standardized test scores. We
must also look at such indicators of success as the completion of
secondary and some form of postsecondary education or job training.
Giving parents a voice in how the schools are run. We must avoid the
parent disempowerment that has occurred elsewhere with privately run
• Acknowledging that the charters are not necessarily
nonprofit. The organizations that run them and receive money from school
districts receive tax subsidies and can outsource services to
If the law remains as written, we need full public transparency: the
names of all applicants for the charter-school commission should be
publicly available and the selections explained by state officials;
charter applications should be available online; money and buildings
transferred by districts to charters, and any additional public funds to
charters, must be made public.
Likewise, all evaluations of the
charters by the commission must be open to scrutiny.
Speaking of the Charter Commission, you can apply online at Governor Gregoire's office (although Governor-Elect Inslee will pick his three). I have attempted to find out about how to apply at Lt. Governor Brad Owens' office but no reply yet. I am in touch with Speaker Chopp and will find out how he proposes to review applications.
It seems that the best method might be for the Governor's office to gather all of them and then have the three offices review them for the most qualified people. Then they can sit down together and figure out geography, gender, political party, etc.
Also, a good laugh about the upcoming Charter Convention on Saturday - turns out the Tacoma News Tribune (which sponsored the ad) printed a huge mistake. As a long-time public education activist, my number one concern was always getting that word right. It was the fault of both the writer and the copy editor, apparently.