All Charters, All the Time



Though, really, children arent freight...
Those possessing a pulse and working sensory organs can't help but be inundated these days with news of charter schools, "school choice," and the chorus of voices proclaiming the coming of the education Messiah (i.e., charter schools). As I noted on my own blog the other day, charters have been near universally embraced. They're the zeitgeist, the must-have accessory for any education reformer these days.

Of course, charter schools aren't that new, and haven't been the panacea that everyone claims we don't expect them to be.

One of the real frustrations with education reform is the time that it takes. Charters satisfy that urge to do something now. They're flashy — we can have hearings, and take positions on things, and millionaires and billionaires can feel good about supporting education reform.

I get into this a little more in my original post, but what we've got to remember is (1) there have been numerous education flashes-in-the-pan over the years (open classrooms, anyone?), and most (all?) of them haven't really panned out; (2) momentous reform doesn't happen overnight; and (3) proof of concept is just as important as the concept itself.

A lot of folks are saying all the right things about charters (i.e., we can't put all our eggs in one basket), but we need to make sure to continue to demand excellence and accountability. The recent developments in MNPS make me hopeful that we're using charters in the right way — as a potentially promising part of a solution, but one that has yet to show results:

For better or worse, though, this is what has to happen with charters. We don’t want to be Ohio. I’m glad to see that MNPS, Nashville, and Tennessee are (or at least are seeming to be) careful and thoughtful in our embrace of charter schooling. It’s a fad to be sure, but a fad that has at least some merit. I continue to believe that charters are not a full-on system-wide scalable solution to what ails public education in this country, but I do believe they can be part of the solution. We just have to make sure we implement them correctly. It looks like, from what I’m seeing, we’re treading a careful path. Measured steps, folks. Measured steps.

I wouldn't call myself an education traditionalist by any stretch of the imagination, but I can't be a full-throated supporter of a movement that, to me, has shown about as much success and failure as the regular public school system. Why invest millions of dollars, time, energy, and political capital advocating for something that's just as good (or bad) as what we have? I demand proof (and so should you). Data, transparency, and openness. That's what we need. Charters must be kept under a watchful eye — fixing education needs to be about doing the right thing, not just something.

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