Monday, August 05, 2013

On Charters, Daily News Gives Us Half the Story (If That)

In yet another incredible feat of utter arrogance, Bloomberg's Tweedies have invested 4.5 million in having charter schools teach public schools how to teach. They've taken a charter school, which has "Excellence" in its very name, and paired it up with a public school. Since the charter has 4 times as many kids passing the reading tests, it's obviously superior.

Not mentioned in this article is the percentage of special ed. students, their level of learning issues, the percentage of ESL students, nor their level of English. Nor does the article mention the respective percentages of students below the poverty level. The article also neglects to mention the attrition level of this amazing charter school, because how many kids it dumps back into the neighborhood public school is of no consequence whatsoever.

Interestingly, the article interviews the charter leader, and prominently features New York's "Charter Center CEO" while neglecting to get one word from the public school principal, even though the school is described as "popular." Naturally, no criticism of this program is even implied, let alone spelled out.

Another detail here is that the public school does have something to offer the charter--it will show the charter how to get parents on board and supportive. So, essentially, this public school is being offered the opportunity to cut its own throat, and the charter CEO appears thrilled at the prospect.

Aside from the one-dimensional presentation, the underlying assumption here is that charters are simply better than public schools, and can therefore show us what to do. In fact, there are plenty of public schools that achieve higher test scores, if we are to accept that as the sole criterion. More importantly, public schools are a reflection of their neighborhoods, for better or worse. The "no excuses" crowd is relentless in its determination to ignore what ails neighborhoods, to wit, poverty. Bill Gates has stated he can't address that so everyone reformy has decided the hell with it.

Another thing you won't see here is that any prospective teacher with half a choice would prefer to work in a public school. Student teachers I've met have complained to me about how tough it is in this economic downturn to get a job teaching. They reluctantly look to charters as a last resort. I'd certainly expect to find teachers who made better impressions in public schools.

The thing that charters have, in case this is not already clear to everyone reading this, is a highly selective and selected student body. Frankly, when you pick and choose students, it's not all that challenging to raise test scores. Maybe the charters will teach public schools how to dump an entire cohort, as charter hero Geoffrey Canada did. That'll get those scores up.

Underlying this story is a willful act on the basis of the demagogic Bloomberg administration to leave the public with a false assumption--that charters are simply better than public schools, and that we should take this for granted. An article like this one, lacking detail and balance, certainly encourages him to continue pulling the wool over our blurry eyes.
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