Monday, July 11, 2011

Charter Schools are not the answer

It is suppose to be the quick fix for everything that is wrong with Detroit Public Schools and public schools in general.  Open many more charter schools in the Detroit district, let parents select where their children attend school and they will do so much better that everyone will want to shut down the city’s school district.

Or, at least that is the promise.

After all, charter schools have everything going for them.  Let’s go down the list.  First, since parents have to be motivated to enroll their children in the schools, the children would come from families that have higher expectations than those that don’t make any changes.  The charter schools can demand that parents attend meetings at the school, volunteer time and be involved in the education process.  Charter schools have greater control over the staff, especially the teachers, so they can discharge those people that are not performing well.  Charter schools are usually operated by a market based philosophy, with accountability standards that are higher than public schools.  Failing students or those that are disruptive can be released from charter schools and set back to public schools.  This list is not all inclusive, but it is the primary reason given in support of charter schools.

Well, guess what?  A new study conducted by a Detroit newspaper demonstrates that charter schools in the city of Detroit overall, are worse then the public school district.  Only 17 percent of the students that attend charter schools in the district perform better than the average public school student.  (Understand here, that half of the public school children do better than average, only 17% of the charter schools students do better.)  But, there is more.  Only about half of the students in the charter schools are on par with public school children.  Finally, about 33% of the children that attend charter schools did worse.   

The difference is what many involved in education know too well.  Until the student, the family, the institution and the community work together, education will not do well.  The student must be engaged and excited about getting a good education.  The family must be fully functioning and prepare the student for school.  The institution must be given the authority to make demands of the student, the family and the community.  Finally, the community must step up and make a full commitment to the future.  (The community in this case includes the private and public sector.)

An analogy here that people in Detroit can understand is what it takes to build a quality automobile (the student).  We can have great people working on the line (teachers/institution) but if the parts they install come from vendors (families) that are shipping defective parts, it will not matter.  If the company doesn’t pay its bills (community), vendors will stop shipping parts.  Until everyone involved in the building of the car is held accountable the product in the end will be sub prime. 

If has been a long held belief of mine that if one part of the quadrangle fails; the student, the family, the institution and the community; the other three have to work twice as hard to make up the difference.  If two parts fail, it will be nearly impossible to make up the difference. 

Detroit schools are not doing a good job at educating the youth of the community.  They do need to be held accountable for their failings.  But, until the other three parts are also held accountable, children will perform poorly.  


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