What Charters Will We See?

The Times has an article in this morning's paper about what we might expect about what charters come in first.

They get it right in the opening paragraphs (with some irony):

The first charter schools in Washington probably won't be run by the nation's best-known charter groups with years of experience and strong reputations.

During the successful campaign for Initiative 1240, which will allow as many as 40 charters to open here over five years, supporters talked about wanting Washington students to have a chance to attend the kind of schools operated by the nation's top charter operators.

But the highest profile chains are in such demand that most won't be looking to expand here anytime soon — if at all.

Some national charter-school experts say the wait-and-see stance of many big charter groups is not surprising.

Of course not.  No high-profile charter group will want to come into an uncertain situation.  It costs them time and money and those are items no group wants to waste.  The one exception seems to be Green Dot out of California. 

So, despite the campaign claims, I wouldn't expect to see these great groups here for years.  And so it becomes the grassroots charters coming in first.  This has an upside and a downside.

Upside?  That the creators would be people who genuinely know our state and probably the communities they want to be in. 

Downside?  With no experience and probably little money, they will be easily co-opted by people waving "expertise" and money in their faces. 

The law's limit of 40 charters may also be an issue.
Rocketship, for example, wants to have at least eight schools in any area where it operates. Given the cap, Haines said that might be more than Washington would want from any one group.

And hey, big excitement - one of the billionaires who sponsored 1240 finally speaks.

Through a spokeswoman, Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and the third-largest donor to the campaign, said he's just pleased that students in Washington will soon have more choices.


dan dempsey said…
Green Dot ... who cares about Green Dot?

Now Rocketship ... they are worth a look.
dan dempsey said…
Rocketship Education HERE
n said…
What would stop any school - high end even - from applying to be a charter by teachers who wish to get out from under the massive administrative oppression at their schools? Want to be a principal, Eric M?
n said…
A repeat of Ring of Fire today had a guest talking about charter schools and how they are really the products of Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. Big business and making big profits. How little people really know about just who is in charge of all their "choices."
Catherine said…
Dan... wait... Rocketship... the one that has as an advisor a Gates Foundation Director?

Don Shalvey
Ed.D. Deputy Director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's US Program Education Initiative... on Rocketship's national strategy board?

Catherine, it's all the same people and groups in rotation. The Gates Foundation funds everyone and that's why you always see the same names.

It's been a horrible dilemma during this recession as Gates has been one of the few money spouts that is open.
Po3 said…
I spent some time reading up on Rocketship and honestly not seeing anything innovative unless a longer school day (8-4), 1.5 hours/day on computers, MAPS testing every 8 week and required parent volunteering/meeting participation is the key to their success.

And honestly, I can't really figure out if they are succeeding?
Po3, Rocketship is so small and so new that it is very hard to determine how successful (by academic measures)they are. But they are quite popular and I think the technology piece is one reason.
Po3 said…
Funny, because the screen time is the one thing that popped out to me as something I would not want for my students. But I am old fashion in that I believe in more tactile learning.

The screen time could also help with those MAPS scores.
suep. said…
I've read that kids in Rocketship charters spend many hours of the day in computer labs individually "interacting" with the computer program. One facilitator or teacher oversees this room full of kids and computers. Sounds like a method to hire fewer (and less qualified?) teachers for more kids, and not demand much of the teacher. Sounds like a lot of screen time too.
Po3 said…
Rocketship Education is built on three ideas. Innovate (screen time) Lead (TFA) Empower (parent involvement), which then leads them to Impact (open more schools)

That's basically it.

They probably won't come to Seattle as they like to open schools in clusters of eight.
mirmac1 said…
yeah, I can see how Rocketship "works" for special education students...NOT!

WV: 32430 nowayge, seriously.
n said…
I'm in favor of a longer school day. I have been for many, many years. We rush through the day. We'd have more computer time if we had more time!

I wonder when they talk and reflect on their learning? Sounds like an absence of thinking time to me. But, maybe thinking isn't important anymore.
Charlie Mas said…
I'm intrigued by the Rocketship model. You can see something like it at Queen Anne Elementary.

The idea is to use the computers for the things that the computers do well and to use class time for things that can only be done during class time.

So the computers are used to teach skills, provide skill building practice, deliver information, and to individualize instruction. They are particularly good for math.

Because the teachers don't need to spend class time dispensing information, skill teaching, or skill building, they instead focus it on higher level cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, and individualized support. They do a lot of project-based learning during the class time.

The early results from Rocketship in San Jose have been promising. We'll see.

What makes Rocketship work is the blended learning, not the charter school governance. It will work just as well at Queen Anne Elementary or any other school that does a good job of implementing it. Blended learning is not a silver bullet - it still has to be done well.
suep. said…
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suep. said…
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suep. said…
I still believe that parking a child in front of a computer for hours on end is a cop-out and does not serve the child well.

"deliver information" -- Charlie, do you realize how sterile and robotic this sounds? Have you really bought into this Brave New Cyberworld mindset?

Btw, I'd heard that QA Elem was moving away from a tech focus to "project-based-learning."

Speaking of which, when did that term get invented? Projects, papier-mache, dioramas, presentations, etc. have always been a part of school experience in my lifetime. When was this suddenly re-discovered and labeled "PBL"?
n.seattleparent said…
It's a shame really that truly breakthrough, unique, imaginative charter schools won't appear, under the new law:

Schools that decrease the number of school days,
schools that use educator/professionals-in-their-fields to teach rather than 'certified' educators,
schools that devote time to integrated subjects and skip the individual-subject testing shenanigans,
Schools that could devote their entire theme and school-year momentum to music, art, phys ed, dance, and/or technology instead of math, science, and oh so much language,
Schools that understand that a board, an elected super, and/or a headmistress/'school director' (i.e. the corporate biz structure) aren't the only models of school leadership available -- that a collaborative team of equals could produce great learning & growth,
Schools that value field learning so much that a brick&mortar classroom is entirely unnecessary,
Schools that might be able to show - beyond reasonable doubt- that the state board of education, the OSPI, and the teacher certification organizations (and their stamped-approved colleges), with their antiquated school system 'wisdom', are NOT the only people qualified to determine what a good education might be (or be able to become).
Schools that don't just shake up the status quo but shake it off completely.

Too bad. We'll get some twists on old classics, sure, but nothing truly INNOVATING so long as the old arbitors remain enthroned and in oversight positions. It's like all we've done here is add Tea Party and Green Party to the same ineffective old two-party system.

mirmac1 said…
"When was this suddenly re-discovered and labeled "PBL"

when it was discovered by business schools in the 80's and pushed as yet another game-changing "innovation" stemming from free enterprise and the capitalist system yadda yadda.

I see MGJ, first thing, used Gates money to bring on "project managers" (in this instance basically someone who checked off the "community engagement" piece and Gannt Chart) furnished by Strat360 or some other personal services consultant pushed by A4E.

math guy said…
Skepticism of educational software is well justified, and it isn't going to work for every child, but some of the latest stuff really does seem to be providing individualized instruction across a broad range of abilities - particularly in math.
Anonymous said…
We had a great experience for two years at QAE, where our child used computers for research and creative expression, at no cost to "quality time" with her fantastic teacher whose background is in theatre and used to great effect. At home we use Khan Academy for math and science and LiveMocha for language. These all complement our kids' classroom experiences and I wish all kids could take advantage of them.
Rocketship's 1.5 hours of screentime a day is not excessive in my book. I look forward to learning more.
--QA Mom
n said…
mirmac, you're so smart. Yes, it is all about marketing! That made me laugh.

I'm a recent convert to computer time. It is an efficient way to motivate low readers and deliver math skills. I'm stuck in a school where labs are mostly dominated by intermediate classrooms and where individual classrooms have too few computers. I have three and five-to-seven would be better for grouping.

Khan Academy? One of my parents steered me to that and I started talking it up. Other parents said it was over-hyped and gave me other sites. There are a lot of them out there. Can't recall them off the top of my head but math sites have really become sophisticated, user friendly and motivating. Now all I need is time . . .
What I find interesting is that in my day it was about learning from tv teachers. I see that has worked out.

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