Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The complicated questions involved in the support or opposition to charter schools

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post has a column, "Do some charter schools have too many white students," quoting former DCPS teacher Erich Martel and his contention that DC charter schools provide misleading reporting about educational outcomes, implying that theiir programs have extranormal benefits for low income children, when higher outcomes are most frequently obtained not from low income children, but by students from higher income households.

There's a complicated discussion in the piece about equity etc. From the article:
He told me he thinks some urban charters with high achievement rates “claim to be meeting the needs of children in poverty, but they are really just skimming off those who have the socialization for success in school and throwing the rest back to” the rest of the D.C. public schools.

This contradicts those who think having significant numbers of middle-class children is a plus for urban schools and should be encouraged. The nation’s leading advocate of giving urban schools a good mix of poor and affluent students is Century Foundation scholar Richard D. Kahlenberg. He has written several books on research showing such balanced enrollment raises achievement for all students. Racial integration is also good, he said, because that reduces racism and teaches students “what they have in common as Americans.”

I have spent much time in charters with almost no middle-class children but impressive achievement rates. The reasons of their success, in my view, are mostly better teaching and more time for instruction. But many educators, including Martel, think their test scores are higher because they attract more children raised with middle-class values, even if their parents don’t have much money.
Partly, the complications ensue because there are at least four reasons for creating charter schools and these reasons can conflict.

1.  Better educational outcomes for impoverished children;

2.  Competition for traditional public school systems with the intent of fostering improvement within traditional schools through organizational improvement initiatives spearheaded by "market-based competition;"

3.  Retention of families that otherwise might move out of center cities in search of better schooling choices;

4.  Demonization of government organizations of all types as failures in the promotion of a  neoliberal agenda promoting privatization.  ("Privatizing Public Education: The Neoliberal Model");

Too frequently anti-government and/or pro-privatization agendas are hidden within stated goals of improving opportunities for either poor or higher income children.

Plus some people object to the concept of "choice schools" being offered as a way to retain higher income families as center city residents, seeing this as ultimately an inequitable practice.

As I keep repeating, the irony of the purported "school reform" initiative of Michelle Rhee, former "chancellor" of the DC Public School system, is that as Mathews says, mostly better outcomes in charter schools comes from more instruction time and a greater variety of resources and programs.

Whenever people would say to Rhee that impoverished children need more resources, her response was "you're saying children can't learn."

And the school system didn't provide, for the most part, the kinds of additional resources provided by the best performing charter schools.

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