Thursday, October 16, 2008

One more time

Erick Huth, president of the Metro Nashville Education Association, which advocates for local teachers, said charter schools are not the answer to the district's woes and could end up hurting more than helping because they will take tax dollars away from already struggling schools. Per-student funding follows students to the charter schools they attend.

"There's not much a charter school can do that public schools couldn't do," he said. "But some people rally around charter schools because of a belief that public education is evil or awful."

Let's go through this lesson one more time.

First off, money does not equal a good education as MNPS has so clearly demonstrated and every charter school demonstrates.

Secondly, charter schools ARE public schools. Obviously, charter school parents don't believe that public education is evil or awful. It's working well for their students.
"They're making better grades, their scores are up. I see a big difference in my kids." [East Nashville father Scott Gray]

Thirdly, there is, apparently, something those charter schools can do that some public schools can't:
"Publicly funded but independently operated, all three of Nashville's charter schools met state standards and had waiting lists at the beginning of this school year for the first time." Tennessean
The only people standing in the way of more charter schools (and so the education of children) are those who are already running or enabling the ailing public education system--like the MNEA. Let go of the children and let them succeed in the school that suits them best.

1 comment:

N.S. Allen said...

This is an issue that always hurts my head, especially given that I was fortunate enough to graduate from one of MNPS' high-performing high schools.

The thing about managing to set up, say, a single, successful school, charter or magnet or whatever else, is that it is, at most, a tiny victory. For instance, the high school I went to was, in a word, wonderful. The teachers were, on the whole, great and engaged, the administration was reasonable and seemingly efficient, and the students' performance was, by all objective standards that I'm aware of, excellent.

But those positive conditions that a relative handful of students enjoyed did no good to the MNPS population as a whole. To my knowledge, at least, no attempt whatsoever was made to take whatever made my high school successful and to utilize those features in the failing schools in the district. It's possible that, because of the semi-unique conditions of the school, such application would have simply been impossible, though I'd hope not.

So, while I'm not anti-charter school in the least (I don't think any bit of education-related news has made me as happy as some of the articles about charter schools that I've read in the past months), it depresses me that charter schools, vouchers, and school choice have combined into the biggest focus of education debates. (Possibly excluding performance pay.)

Obviously, when we're dealing with kids' educations, every victory, however small, ought to be met with boundless enthusiasm. But we shouldn't forget that a series of tiny victories doesn't make a dent in a systemic problem, and it worries me that I hear so much more about setting up three or four schools that will work than about making the district as a whole function like it ought to.