Bruno: When Is A Charter Not A Charter?
The Oakland Unified School District has just granted two elementary schools permission to convert to what they're calling "partnership schools": quasi-charters, essentially, that will continue to pay for and participate in many of the district's programs, but will also have site-level autonomy in terms of staffing and curriculum.
It's a little bit difficult to discern how satisfied the various parties are with the arrangement, which is actually a compromise between the district (which had rejected a previous charter conversion proposal) and the schools (which had appealed the decision to the more charter-friendly county). Superintendent Tony Smith is putting a positive spin on the "partnership" model, but at least some members of the school board are saying the "partnership" model was just the least-bad option available to them.
Click below for my thoughts on the situation.
Given that both ASCEND and Learning Without Limits had achieved some significant successes recently, I'm personally disappointed to see these two schools leave the district proper. Ostensibly and ideally, charters are supposed to illustrate how bring success to the district as a whole, not siphon successful schools away from the district. And districts may be understandably worried that we're getting a glimpse of the future of the charter school movement: individual, successful district schools, dissatisfied with district control, demanding more site-level autonomy.
At the same time it's hard not to symphatize with the communities at these schools, both of which perceived a threat to their existing operations from district-level policies, particularly in terms of staffing. If you believe strongly in your school community it's natural enough to want to protect it.
Arguably there's a lot to admire in the spirit of cooperation represented by this compromise, but one also has to wonder if we're seeing another significant crack in the status quo of district-level control of schools. Indeed, it's hard not to wonder if the Oakland Unified's recent failure to replace seniority-based teacher placement with a "mutual matching" system isn't going to nudge some of the other numerous small schools in Oakland to push for their own accommodations from the district. If so, the critics of mutual matching may regret not having conceded some ground earlier. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)