I was courted, along with the rest of the staff at my school, by a group that was interested in turning our public school into a charter school. This was some time ago, back when it seemed as though this was the future of education. So it seemed. When asked, I would often tell those who were curious, that I understood what a great idea charter schools were. There are lots of good ideas out there, but not all of them to see the light of day. For a while I felt that by sticking with my traditional public school model I was impeding progress. I didn't want to be the one who left a child behind.
Getting a group of like-minded parents and teachers together in order to create a true community school sounds like a great idea, especially in neighborhoods where kids have been underserved by the school down the block. Shake things up, right? Turn things around. What charter schools did do almost immediately was to deliver higher test scores. Part of this was momentum was a gimme, since the students who found themselves in these new schools were the ones whose parents cared enough to put them somewhere that they felt success would be a fete accompli. When the emphasis is on education and not just housing kids with the hope of educating them, charter schools would obviously win out.
Did I say "obviously?" If everyone is on board with the curriculum and the charter, this thing would have to work. Until charter schools started to get some of that undesirable element, the families who had been struggling with the realities of public school: attendance, grades, parental participation. Back at my school, we felt that initial wave of students leave to check out the sunnier side of the street, and now we find them coming back. They are coming back because it turns out that charter schools aren't all that different from public schools after all. Except public schools don't suspend and expel students as often as their charter counterparts. In Boston, for example, students are being suspended for violating dress codes, or being disrespectful. This is according to a report just issued by the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. Teachers and administrators defend their practice. Meanwhile, teachers and administrators in my school have been discouraged from suspending students, choosing instead to keep kids in school whenever possible.
Two different schools of thought. Two different schools.