Sometimes the comments on my blog are so much better than my original post that I hate to see them buried down in the comments section.
My postings about the Romney education plan and long waiting lists for New York City charter schools generated the not uncommon complaint that charter schools cannot be fairly compared to traditional public schools. I responded with a link to a Harvard Center for Education Policy Research study comparing students who won admission to charter schools and those who did not not win admission to the same schools (in other words, presumably students with equally involved and dedicated parents.)
One of my frequent commentators in turn replied:
I read the study. I think the problem is that we always want to find one variable and have that be the answer for our educational “problems”, we want one magic pill, that will cure all our educational ills. Right now for the far right that is charter schools. In the summation of the study I read “Longer school days, more instructional time on core content, a “no excuses” philosophy, and other structural elements of school organization appear to contribute to the positive results from these schools.” The authors of the study were right on and they pointed out some of the most important differences between charter and traditional schools. The “no excuses” philosophy is a huge difference between charter and traditional public schools. But then they lost me with the next sentence: “Perhaps most importantly, many of these elements could be implemented in traditional public schools, providing us with potential models for improvement across the Commonwealth”. Those elements cannot be implemented in traditional public schools because federal and state laws do not allow for it. I can speak for myself as a traditional public school teacher and tell you that I would love to implement a “no excuses” philosophy, but we can’t. When a student at a charter school doesn’t comply what happens? They are sent back to their neighborhood traditional public school. What happens if that student doesn’t comply in the traditional school, can we kick them out? No, we must invest ridiculous amounts of our very scarce resources in trying to get them to comply. We can’t we kick them out? The federal and state government won’t let us. We need to quit trying to compare apples to oranges and pretending that charters and traditional schools will ever be the same. Think about it, why do we call them Charter Schools? Because they get to write their own rules. Who rights the rules for traditional public schools? The state and federal government.
This commentator has more to say. You can find the entire comment at http://educatingourselves.blogs.deseretnews.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=860&action=edit
But I’m stopping here because I wanted to respond to the notion that regular public schools cannot adopt a “no excuses” policy. My first reaction was that maybe we SHOULD think about changing the rules for all schools. Before I had a chance to write a post about this, however, charter school principal Carolyn Sharette beat me to the punch. I thought her comments and proposal were so sensible that I wanted to give her a post of her own. That’s coming up next.