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Charters: Advocates Play Catch-Up On Accountability

Photos-625x389Can charter schools' reputation be rescued before it's too late?  In a situation that seems like an eery preview of what will soon happen in online learning, charter advocates are now madly -- belatedly -- trying to play catch up on charter quality and accountability issues -- even as lawmakers and charter operators ramp up operations.  

The Huffington Post outlines the push for accountability and claims from CER that closure rates are north of 15 percent (Charter School Proponents Focus On Accountability In Word If Not In Deed). You can watch the live press conference going on now here.  

The problem is that the Obama administration opened the barn door wide open with its irresponsible Race to the Top charter cap elimination priority, left the charter quality/closure issue to the SIG process, which is a mess, and in the meantime the national charter school groups are limited by their operators/ association members from taking a strong stand on charter closures and revokations.  The National Alliance figures are a little different from CER, as you can see here, and has been somewhat stronger on charter accountability than CER going back a couple of years now (see here).  NACSA, the organization of authorizers, has been trying to bring attention to quality issues for years now, but has for the most part been drowned out by the enthusiasm of the charter operators and reform folks pushing charters to their current 5600-school level. 

Meanwhile, states continue to expand charter options -- the latest being Michigan (Charter School Expansion Underway in Michigan State EdWatch, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signs law lifting charter school limits Freep).  

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The various Democratic groups (DFER, Students First, and so on) named in the article should focus on improving the quality of the assessment systems they are using as tools to judge schools, rather than trying to shove their current curricularly narrow, cognitively low, internationally uncompetitive, linguistically truncated, expensive multiple choice data dashboard systems down the throats of educators, parents, and other citizens who seriously doubt the efficacy of this standard approach to educational measurement and who have been using charter schools to flee it. If I were leading a chartered school patronized by families similarly displeased with the relentless second-rate test prep going on in our public schools and sending their children to my school to avoid it, and then found that a charter association I had been paying dues to was advocating the closure of my school, should I be pleased with this new establishment orthodoxy so puffed up with its accomplishments in serving a self-selecting student population that it would actively seek to close off other options supported by parents who happen to disagree with that establishment regarding the education they want for their own children?

Well, this is confusing, @Bruce: "a chartered school patronized by families similarly displeased with the relentless second-rate test prep going on in our public schools and sending their children to my school to avoid it ..."

Yet it's the same forces who attempt to narrow public-school education to "relentless test prep" (which I would say is second-rate by definition) that promote charter schools as the magical miracle solution. So what gives? They force public schools into bad practices and then push a competing model to escape the bad practices they forced on public schools.

As a side issue, those forces include what you describe as "Democratic groups." But they aren't really or primarily Democratic groups. DFER chose the name to obfuscate the far-right, free-market-worshiping, anti-worker, anti-public-sector nature of the ideas for which it advocates. And has Students First characterized itself as a Democratic group at all? If so, I call BS, as it's engaging in the same calculated dishonesty as DFER.

Caroline, you make errors in every sentence you write here, so it's hard to know where to begin. The test prep extremists are not the same as the charter school advocates; the groups often overlap, but not always. Not all test prep is second rate, but the tests being used in America usually are, and that was my point there. I don't know anyone who thinks charter schools "the magical miracle solution"; that exaggeration is yours, and doesn't reflect anyone else's sense of reality. Public schools aren't forced into bad practices; they may cave in to them, but that's from a lack of spine. It was the parents in the charter school I briefly led, who had fled the public schools and who refused to allow their children to take the CSTs, that I was referring to as attempting to escape bad practices. And so on.

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