On the back page of Education Week this week is my essay about charter schools, including a trip down memory lane back to the meeting in Minnesota in 1988 where the dream took shape. I hope all of you will go over to Ed Week’s website to read it (subscription required), but, before you do, bear with me because the ground keeps shifting under this movement, even as many things remain the same.
I’d like to raise two issues: 1) quality control and 2) persistent opposition.
For one thing, the Obama Administration is embracing charter schools (or ‘chartered schools’) with great enthusiasm. Now, it’s true that Education Secretary Arne Duncan adds a qualification, saying that they support ‘good charter schools,’ but that strikes me as, for the moment anyway, an empty distinction, largely because of an absence of ways of measuring quality.
It’s true that egregiously bad charters get shut down, but mediocre ones keep plugging along, doing just as much damage to kids as mediocre public schools. But what the charter school proponents don’t seem to realize is that these mediocre institutions are also damaging ‘the movement.’ I’ve heard them (and you know who you are!) say that mediocre public schools aren’t punished, as if that justifies not closing mediocre charter schools! It doesn’t, precisely because the charter school advocates are claiming to be different.
I think that charter schools risk becoming like schools of education if they aren’t careful. How many of the 1400 or so schools and colleges of education are excellent? Continue reading