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Quotes: "Is This When Things Start To Really Change?"

Is this when things start to really change? When upper-middle-class charter parents start bragging to their friends? - Brooklyn mother of three on the spread of mixed-income charter schools

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If they have schools to brag about, such middle class parents have the power to change our education landscape. But this assumes such schools can get their charters approved, a political issue. Without local help, well-meaning educators can spend years in the wilderness, while better positioned friends more successfully move through the political minefields and get their schools approved, only to discover that the compromises they made in their charters, at the insistence of well-meaning but narrow-minded authorizers, have led to schools no more effective at changing youth trajectories than the schools those authorizers had been running for years. Recapturing the tolerance for experimentation of the 1990s seems increasingly difficult as educational reform has ossified.

An elite charter high school, Pacific Collegiate in Santa Cruz, CA, is always at or near the top of every list of high school rankings anywhere. So you'd think there'd be a lot of bragging. But the school has been a bone of contention in its own community for its entire existence because its demographics are strikingly unrepresentative of the greater population, so they all stay on the down-low a bit and keep the bragging hushed.

I am nearing the end of a book on a similar subject, "Exam Schools" by Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett. While PCS is not a selective admission, elite public school like those in this book, it is similar in that it produces very high exam scores. I referred (positively) to Pacific Collegiate in our school's charter, which may have made it less appetizing to the various authorizers who read through it. Comprehensive public high schools have difficulty competing with such models; yet their relative absence hurts the competitiveness of U.S. public education compared to that in countries that do have such schools, such as Switzerland and Denmark. (Of course we do have similar private schools, but if you don't have the money, you're out of luck in the U.S.A., in so many ways.)

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