Charter hypocrisy

I am not a blogger; I’m more of a writer who puts stuff on a blog. Well, actually, I’m an opinionator who is a decent writer and puts stuff on a blog. And at times like this, that’s irritating. I can’t write a pithy statement in a few minutes that get to the heart of the matter. With three different interesting things to write about, as well as a needed second half to my last post, which got a gratifying amount of attention, and a day job, I get overwhelmed and start watching reruns of The Mentalist. This is why I stopped writing for a year, and why I’m going to try and push past this.

Lots to think about in this Rick Hess post, but I wanted to focus on this complaint:

First up, people sometimes ask why I’m a little nervous about the Gates-sponsored urban “charter compacts,” pledges by charters to ensure their students are demographically representative of the community, or state efforts to apply teacher quality legislation to charters. Well, the problem is that each step along this path does a little more to import into the charter sector the pathologies and pettifogging bureaucracy that so hinder district schools.

And Hess gives an example of the Office of Civil Rights demanding that DC charters prove compliance in diabetes support, even if they don’t have any kids with diabetes.

Gotta admit, I don’t want teachers doing PD on diabetes services. I’d much rather they put the time into, you know, instruction. District schools don’t meet every need of every child, but use some schools to meet the needs of particular students. Rather than ask every charter to invest a lot of time and energy in training and planning that will apply to, at most, a tiny handful of children, I think it makes more sense to acknowledge that small, stand-alone schools aren’t equipped to meet every special need for every child, and to proceed accordingly.

Sure. That way, charter schools and their advocates could brag about how much more efficient they are than those loathsome, wasteful public schools.

I really don’t understand this sort of thinking. Charter schools are smaller and therefore can’t possibly scale. Many of their advocates are in favor of charters because the schools are allowed to skate the regulations that districts are bound by. Meanwhile, they continue their assault on public schools without acknowledging their circular thinking.

If charter schools had to follow the same crap that public schools did, they’d be less efficient. So they aren’t, in fact, more efficient, they are just designed to escape the inefficiencies, and have lots of powerful advocates to complain about the inefficiencies. Then, after getting those passes, they brag about the improved results, greater flexibility, and more effective cost structures of charter schools.

I’m not a fan of charters. They can’t possibly scale. They bleed off strong students in urban areas and middling students in suburban areas. Very few high school charters are any good, except the ones dedicated to academic excellence—actual excellence, not faked transcripts. (Think Pacific Charter, not Summit.)

But my contempt for charter advocates is in a whole different category. They are not willing, for example, to risk the wrath of parents with “disabled” kids by going after the mandates themselves. They are not willing to take on disparate impact by arguing that disruptive and unmotivated kids are a huge suck on the time and income of public schools.

So instead, they pretend that charter schools are superior simply on their own merits, not because they have a escape pod from the structural restrictions that plague public schools. Or they acknowledge these inconsistencies but nonetheless support charter schools as a “stopgap” of sorts (as Hess does).

By pushing for charters, these advocates pretend (or fool themselves) that they are interested in helping students, by getting around restrictions that were put in place to help students. Don’t like the restrictions? Argue against them and take the heat of millions of furious parents. But no, it’s much easier to argue for a magic bullet that conveniently, just as a total “wow, who’d have thought it?”, skates those same restrictions—and then, constantly denounce the schools that are bound by those restrictions as not caring about students.

Nice work if you can get it.

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6 responses to “Charter hypocrisy

  • Hattie

    “They bleed off strong students in urban areas and middling students in suburban areas.”

    But wouldn’t it be worth it, simply to give those stronger students a better education? I spent most of my secondary school years in mixed ability classes. It was hell, because the stronger students were bored and frustrated, and the weaker students were too embarassed to ask for help at best, and actively disruptive at worst.

    Why not just allow the top pupils to get the best education possible? They might bring the average of a school up, but their presence is not going to magically improve the performance of the average and below average pupils.

    Obviously, this mindset would require an acknowledgement of the inherent limits of peoples’ ability, or else schools would be punished for having less intelligent pupils. But, if you’re going to stream classes based on ability, why not extend that to schools?

    • educationrealist

      No, it wouldn’t be worth it, since the price is constantly pretending that the other schools are bad. The other schools aren’t bad. They are merely forced to take everyone.

      If charter schools aren’t actually better–and they aren’t–then harter advocates should cstop pretending that they are merely to bleed off a few kids. The should stop pushing for charter schools in the pretense that they “care about the kids”, when in fact they actually DON’T think that many of the accomodations put in place for kids work, whether they be special ed mainstreaming, heterogeneous classes, or lax disciplinary policies.

      And really, charter schools are pretty bad for the “top kids”. Most charter schools are good for mid-level hardworkers. Top kids are almost always better at comprehensive schools–even mixed ability ones.

  • KLO

    The problem is that if you do not allow the charter movement to have its victories, it will never collapse under its own weight. You need to give the people what they want, so that they can figure out on their own that charters are not THE answer to the achievement gap and the supposed poor performance of American students more generally.

    What I don’t understand is why no one seems to be aware of the fact that the only reliable data we have from NAEP show that schools have improved over the past several generations. Only after we acknowledge this can we intelligently discuss “what works” and what doesn’t.

  • The Fallacy at the Heart of All Reform « educationrealist

    […] of rage that would turn in his direction were he to be so foolish; instead, they’ll just talk up the charters that get to skate those […]

  • In the Interim, Your Thoughts? | educationrealist

    […] may want to check out The Parental Diversity Dilemma, Why Charters Skim, and Why They Should Stop, Charter Hypocrisy, Diversity Dilemma in Action. If anyone has any links or interesting article about education reform […]

  • surfer

    I don’t see the problem. You are pro tracking. Consider this tracking by behavior. At least there is a benefit to the kids in the charter. Why have everyone in the muck?

    Also, having the two side by side allows seeing how the charters function better BECAUSE of not dealing with as much BS. It sort of sets things up to lead to changing things. Works better than direct conversion. Allow a different model to show itself.

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