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Monday, May 3, 2010

Public Vs. Charter

A very good post from the blog, Public School Insights, and repeated below:

Can Traditional Public Schools Share the Limelight with Charters?

vonzastrowc's picture
Finally, a balanced and thoughtful review of the charter school movement!
The New York Times ran a long and fairly detailed story on charters over the weekend. Nothing in the story should surprise followers of the movement. There are some terrific charters, there are some lousy charters, some states' charters are better than others states' charters, and the best charters may be tough to replicate on a very large scale. But major media outlets have been slow to review both the promise and the struggles of the movement. In some cases, enthusiasm has swamped judgment. That's why the Times story stands out.
The Times takes a closer look at this enthusiasm. It describes a recent meeting of charter supporters as "the equivalent of the cool kids’ table in the cafeteria." Charter schools have become a cause célèbre for philanthropists, hedge fund managers, movie stars, rock stars, and politicians from the left and right.
You really can't begrudge the top charters their success with funders and the media. But it would be nice if traditional public schools that beat the odds could share in the limelight. You just don't hear much about them. (We profile such schools on this website, and Karen Chenoweth has written two fine volumes about successful public schools.)
Why is that a problem? It leaves the impression that success is possible only in charter schools. It obscures the fact that the best traditional public schools, like their most successful counterparts on the charter school side, have lessons to share about what makes a school successful. And it fuels disengagement from traditional public schools, which still educate the vast majority of American children.
Let's face it. The best charter schools have come to represent all charter schools. At the same time, the worst traditional public schools have come to represent all traditional public schools. That has more to do with PR than reality, and it blinds us to many critical lessons of school reform.

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