Monday, March 07, 2016

Charter or Public?

Anyone who actually follows reality knows charters don't outperform public schools. Even Waiting for Superman, that steaming pile of propaganda, acknowledged that only 17% of them actually outperformed public schools. And the big secret, not so secret anymore, is that charter students that do better tend not to reflect the same demographics as a public school. My public school takes everyone that walks through the door, no matter what disability, and no matter if they speak not a single word of English. I don't need to check very thoroughly as to how many Moskowitz Academy students just got here yesterday from El Salvador.

It's kind of amazing. If we could make rules that demanded parents participated in our school, if we get rid of students who were inconvenient, if we could harrass parents into withdrawing students who didn't get high scores, we'd have even better stats. Now that's not anything I want to do. As a matter of fact, of the kids I teach, approximately zero of them would make it into the much-coveted Moskowitz Academy. That's better for my kids, because I don't make them pee their pants so they can get in a few minutes of extra test-prep. It's better for them because I can actually teach them English rather than make them close-read tedious crap that they would surely hate.

But it's better for me too. For one thing, I don't work for Eva Moskowitz. No one makes me get onto buses and go to Albany and rally for miserable, no-excuses conditions for kids. No one makes me use lesson plans written by people who have no interest in anything but test scores. No one makes me live in fear that I must abuse children for scores rather than make them love learning. No one makes me march children around like they're little martinets, or make them submit to tedium and "rigor" that no children ought to endure.

Young teachers are acutely aware that public schools are better places to work than charters. Right now, for example, it isn't all that easy to get a job teaching in public school. And every single charter school teacher I've ever met, without exception, is there because there were no available public school jobs. Who on earth wants their jobs to be subject to the caprices and whims of Eva Moskowitz? Basically no one.

So if your kid is in a charter, even if your kid is far away from those scary public school kids, your kid has teachers who, for whatever reason, are unable to get public school gigs. Now I know some very good teachers who've had to teach in charters. After all, insane public school supervisors, of which there are plenty, can and will fire untenured teachers for petty personal reasons, or to make themselves look good. The bad luck of these teachers is the good luck of charters.

On the other hand, I'm gonna doubt that's the majority of charter teachers. I recall a particularly inept student teacher I had a few years back. She demanded a reference, which I declined to give, and them complained to my supervisor about it. I'm not exactly sure what she thought my supervisor would do. Would she place a letter in my file for not recommending an incompetent teacher? In any case, she did not.

But that student teacher, after an exhaustive search failed to yield a public school gig, ended up in a charter. This teacher placed things on the board that my students recognized as incorrect. I hope her charter students are as perceptive as mine were. If not, well, too bad for them. In fairness, she doesn't work for Eva.

But it's hard for me to imagine why anyone would rather work a charter than a public school. We serve everyone. That's our job. If you don't think it's yours, maybe you shouldn't have gone into this whole teaching thing in the first place. I'm sure there are good charter teachers, teachers who are there by choice. Maybe they aren't crazy. But I don't think those teachers ought to work under those conditions, and I don't think the kids I serve should grow up to face those conditions either.
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