Saturday, December 09, 2017

Kim Frencken: A few thoughts about charter schools

I don't know what to think about charter schools. I mean, everyone should have a choice, right? But, then don't they take away our choice. And, what about charter schools affecting my retirement? Doesn't seem fair that those newly elected into office want to rob me of something that I spent over 21 years earning. And, let me tell you teachers earn every last penny (and then some)!!! My blood pressure is starting to rise just thinking about it. If I am willing to agree that we need choice, fair choice, then why can't politicians. Come to think of it, why are they even interfering with education. They certainly can't agree on anything in Washington, what makes them think they can make educational decisions?

So, getting back to charter schools. The ideology behind charter schools sounds good. A school free from some regulations that public schools face. A school where there is transparency and accountability from the top down. A school where everyone has a voice and the overall goal is to provide excellent education. Then it starts to get tricky. All charter schools are not the same, nor all they all managed by the same group. Some are run by organizations. Some of the organizations may be a state or two away from the school (meaning communication is basically on-line or phone, no hands-on). Many are a 'for-profit' business. Each state has a committee to authorize a charter school. Any group can submit a proposal to the committee. The committee is organized based on state laws. Some charter schools receive public funding based on attendance. Not all teachers in a charter school are required to have certification to teach. This is a decision which varies from state to state.

So charter schools in a nutshell have many similarities to public schools. But there are some glaring differences. A public school operates under regulations mandated by the state. These mandates are similar throughout the U.S. All teachers in a public school have to be certified to teach. This is a license requiring a college education with training specifically geared towards working with kids. A public school is immediately governed by a school board which is made up of locally elected patrons wishing to volunteer their time to represent the needs and wants of the taxpayers in the district. They are local and provide hands-on guidance. A public school is not run like a business, by a business, or for a business. A public school provides an education for all children free from the influence of a business or organization.

One of my pet peeves (and I think most teachers agree) is a non-educator telling an educator what is best. I am speaking for myself and making a generalized statement when I say that most teachers do not want, nor do they need someone from "outside" the world of education telling them how to 'run' their classroom. Each classroom is unique. Its' own little world. It functions based on the individualized needs of each child. A teacher doesn't need a test or a bystander or a suit telling them which children need help with math or who reads below grade level. They don't need someone telling them that a child has a vision or hearing problem, or is hungry. They just know. Usually within the first couple of days, or even the first couple of hours.

That should make clear what is my largest concern with charter schools. An alternative to public school run by an organization or business. Supporters may say that they know what is best for their kids. I would dare to argue with them. Supporters may say that charter schools are held accountable and are transparent. I say attend school board meetings and ask questions. Volunteer. Visit the school. Bring treats for your child's classroom. If supporters of charter schools are only supporting them because of the control that they can personally have over them, they need to realistically ask themselves if they are trained in education and have the skills to teach. If they are only concerned with accountability, they should invest some time in their local public school.

To me, a charter school is simply another way for businesses and government to control the education of our children. What seems like a privilege today could actually turn out to be tomorrow's manipulation.

(For more of Kim Frencken's writing and information about her educational products, check out her blog, Chocolate For the Teacher.)


Anonymous said...

Our public education system is already corrupted by business interests for profit. Which text books, software programs, cafeteria food, etc schools purchase, get bid on and picked by politicians. There is ample opportunity for bribery and corruption. Under the current system. Administrations are exploding and eating up more and more budget while teachers are getting left behind. In the state of Michigan (a voucher state that incorporates charters and traditional public schools), teachers are paid better than any other state after adjusting for cost of living. I can see pros and cons to both sides of the debate. I'm afraid that if something isn't done to change the way things have been going in the past, our teachers are going to keep getting left behind as politicians and administrators handcuff them with ridiculous programs, standardized tests, and curriculum requirements that teachers don't want or need. Oh, and don't forget that there still isn't any money in the budget for teacher raises because we blew a ton of money on an administrative position that has no impact on actual education. Or we spent a fortune on a program that senator so-and-so's cousin was selling, that just so happened to become a requirement for every school to shove down students throats. I think a healthy mix of funding for private and public education can help keep administrations in check and introduce more innovative and streamlined ideas into Missouri schools.

Anonymous said...

7:18: you must have lost your mind...

"Michigan’s K-12 system is among the weakest in the country and getting worse. In little more than a decade, Michigan has gone from being a fairly average state in elementary reading and math achievement to the bottom 10 states. It’s a devastating fall. Indeed, new national assessment data suggest Michigan is witnessing systemic decline across the K-12 spectrum. White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income — it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live. ..."

I just quoted the New York Times by the way. And really it doesn't matter who you quote....the consensus is that charter schools are monumental failures with NO supporting data whatsoever.
Furthermore...I have no problem at all with most administrative salaries. These people invest thousands upon thousands of their own money in their education and you obviously have no idea the scope of responsibilities they take on. Go ahead, start reducing administrative pay and see where that gets you. I want a strong school leader in my community and I also want that local control as to where my community has the ability to set that salary. Having said that, I also want my teachers to be paid better as well.
Finally, do some true research. In Missouri, the disparity between teacher pay and administrator pay in charter schools far exceeds that of public schools. I look forward to a rebuttal. I can provide numerous dats and resources to back my claims, can you?

Anonymous said...

Loos like the teachers in SW MO have a dilemma. Most teachers and school advocates that I know have voted for the very party that is promoting charter schools and taking money from public schools and taking benefits from teachers. I would encourage a research of Education Secretary Bettsy Devoss' family. Joplin teachers did take a step in the right direction when they recently unionized, but it will still be a tough battle if they continue to vote against their own best interests.

Anonymous said...

@10:48 Your quote from the vaunted NYT had nothing to do UNKNOWN's statement. He spoke of teacher pay in MI, not scores. But it does correlate to me that higher teacher pay does NOT equal higher student achievement.

Anonymous said...

9:14: he actually spoke of quite a few things, not just teacher pay. He was complaining mainly about administrators and politicians and their role in governing schools. He also spoke of administrator salaries eating up the budget when in reality they're very microscopic part of each budget. To me, and I hope many others, the most important thing in education is actual student achievement. Unknown above failed to even talk about student achievement whatsoever but simply talked about Michigan teachers getting paid more. He actually made my point, and yours, that throwing money at a problem does not result in an increase in student achievement. All of which backs my point that charter schools and increase in teacher pay will not result in better student achievement. In this case, teachers are putting more money in their pockets in Michigan and obviously teaching less than they used to given the huge drop off in achievement scores. No one has yet to debate that charter schools have proven to be colossal failures throughout the United States as a whole. It's a failed model of education so it makes absolutely no sense to continue to push this false narrative about Charter Schools being the answer to anything whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

You missed the point. How many posts have we seen from Randy about ridiculous administrative positions created and money spent on wasteful things by administrators? How many posts about teaching "initiatives" that don't actually work, but are required without input from actual teachers? There is a post about one of those this weekend. "Call backs". When DeVos was first nominated by Trump, I read everything I could find about her and charter schools. At the time there were multiple articles both good and bad about both. Now it's impossible to find anything good at all about either with a simple Google search. Detroit schools are still a nightmare, but many other districts have seen success. Michigan is not the only state that has a charter system along with public education. Texas has had success with their system as well.

My argument is that we bitch about the status quo and then fight tooth and nail to keep it. Missouri schools are falling further and further in student achievement, teachers aren't getting paid more, and we keep spending more and more money on education. I don't understand why we can't look at the places that have seen success with implementing voucher systems and raising student achievement, teacher salaries, and less spending, and learn from them how to improve Missouri schools for everyone.