Saturday, August 25, 2012

Make Charter Schools Accountable?

Waitaminute. Today I am reading in the Austin American-Statesman that the people most concerned with the growth of charter schools at the expense of beleaguered public schools are now arguing for more accountability in charter schools.
You’ve got to be kidding.
One of the ways that charter schools have gotten where they are is through the fact that there is no accountability for them. Charter schools, you see, are exempted from any state-mandated high-stakes tests that are administered in a public schools. Tests that determine how you are placed in the 4-level school rating system that we have here in Texas
They don’t have to worry about them, prepare their students for them, or burn any of the 25 to 45 days of instruction for state-mandated testing administration.
All they have to do is teach their students (or should I say “clients”).
What luxury is that?
But now we are reading that this is not desired, no not at all. They want testing, and they want to be held accountable for what they are teaching their clients.
And I have to ask why, as one who is subjected to testing, and performance-rated by their results, why in all eternity do they want that?
Said Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers:
“If our goal is to increase the number of great schools, you can't get there by approving bad schools and letting them stay open."
Well that makes sense. The greatest objection to the growth of charter schools is that they are not as effective as public schools. By some comparative measure, according to the article, 6% of public schools are rated “Unacceptable” in the state’s rating system compared to 11% of all charter schools.
I think that even this is a low figure, and in truth, there is no way to compare the two because as I wrote above, students at charter schools do not take the state tests. I prefer to point to the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, whose 2009 study demonstrated that 37% of all charter schools underperformed compared to their public school equivalents.
Nevertheless, it is nice to see that charter school proponents want this in the face of the fact that, historically, charter schools do not perform as well as their public peers.
But then I have to stop myself and ask why. Why submit themselves to this abuse? Ever the pessimist, I have to suspect some sort of agenda, and I think I have happened on one.
In Texas we have a cap on the number of charter schools that may be authorized. That is, there are a bunch of low-performing schools that are taking up some of these spots. It does no one, who is a proponent of charter schools and vouchers, any good if some of these schools are stinkers. And wouldn’t it be better if the stinkers were shoved out in favor of high performers? High performers who are also known as “our friends?” Friends who can cherry pick and put together schools with motivated students?
And in doing so, by increasing the cherry picking, charter school proponents not only enrich their friends but also turn around the unfortunate statistics that seem to haunt them and give public school proponents such fodder for their cannons.
Because when you load up the charter schools with the state’s best students, the state’s least students concentrate in the public schools, and all of a sudden we have a taxpayer hue and cry over why we are throwing our tax money away at low-performing public schools, fueling movement to privatize the rest of the public schools.
And then everybody gets to cash in.
And then we have a world where public education as we know it disappears forever.
Also known as Republican Heaven.

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