Thursday, December 16, 2010

Charter Schools Aren't a Magic Bullet

You would think from Arnold Schwarzenegger's editorial in the Washington Post that all you need to do to fix a failing school is have a charter school organization take it over. Job done, wipe your hands and go home. Schwarzenegger speaks of a troubled elementary school in Compton, California that is being converted to a charter school based upon a law that provides for reorganization "if 51 percent of parents sign a petition."

The thing is, as of right now nothing has changed. The charter school organization has not taken over. The students... well, they have shown improvement over the past couple of years, albeit not to a level that's going to satisfy concerned parents, but obviously the charter that hasn't yet taken over can't claim any credit for that. Saying, "The school was failing so a charter is taking over" isn't a success story - it's a preamble. The story starts next year (assuming the petition drive is determined to have been properly conducted).

And although I wish it were otherwise, there is nothing magical about charter schools or the formula applied by the modest percentage (about 17%) that outperform matched public schools (as compared to the 37% of public schools that outperform matched charters - but we're not supposed to mention that in polite company). The charter schools being offered to the inner city seem either to follow a model of rigid discipline crossed with rote learning and an extended school day, or they perform no better or worse than their matched public counterparts. And unfortunately, even when we speak of improvement we're not speaking of bringing the kids up to the level you would find in a typical middle class public school.

Maybe Celerity Educational Group, the charter school organization selected to take over the elementary school, is exceptional. Maybe they have a superior model to the much ballyhooed "long school days with lots of group chanting" model that is usually held up as the solution to inner city schools - they say that their "curriculum progressively deepens students' understanding of core concepts while avoiding needless repetition", so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they can achieve parity with schools that perform at a level acceptable to middle class Americans. I'm happy to give them a chance.

But despite Schwarzenegger's bravado, I'm not prepared to declare this a victory for the children until I actually see the school improve.

Because teaching is really easy, I'll close with this example of the pedagogical style demonstrated by the governor in his past life as the star of Kindergarten Cop:


  1. Why is it that the foreign Gulen Movement that manages over 150 Charter schools in the USA continues to falsely obtain h1-b work visas for un qualified teachers from Turkey / Turkic speaking countries? In the Los Angeles County the Gulen Schools are called Magnolia Science Academy. Read the h1-b Visa report below, they are claiming they cannot find math, science, computer and English teachers in the USA. These schools have recently been busted in Ohio for hiring foreigners via the Concept Schools.
    H1-b Visa info here:
    In fact, did you know that the Cosmos Foundation part of the Gulen Movement has immigrated more foreign teachers in than the largest school district in the USA. Of course that would be LAUSD, who is allowing this? That number for Cosmos Foundation alone is over 1,100 h1-b visas since 2001 and Cosmos Foundation is only ONE of the Gulen Movement’s NGOs that are doing this. Who is dismantling the American Education System so followers of Islamic Imam Fethullah Gulen can teach our children?
    Not only visas for teachers but now they are getting h1-b visas for finance managers, business managers and legal counsel (as if America doesn’t have thousands of qualified people for these jobs)
    If you are a proud American Teacher and have been laid off, do what the teachers in Chicago and Ohio have done…………………………fight back against the Gulen Movement overtaking America’s education.

  2. The question germane to this discussion, though, would be how well the school performs. Do you have any comment on that?


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