In education, keep the focus on quality

Aug 11, 2013 by

Tom Watkins – The debate about the value of charter schools rages on. Are charter schools a success or failure? As someone who was part of the “movement” nearly from the inception 20 years ago and can lay claim to helping create the first charters in two different states (Michigan and Florida) and having consulted with countless others in their quest to start a charter school, I can say “both.”

In 1995, I wrote an article for the national education weekly magazine Education Week ( foreshadowing what sadly has played out in the charter school movement and what we are witnessing today. I said at the time charter school advocates tend to fall into one of three categories:

• Zealots and ideologues: These people tend to view charter schools passionately as a way toward “the truth,” or at least as a stopgap solution to public education’s problems that will suffice until they can get a voucher system in place.

Entrepreneur scoundrels: There are gross profits being made and some charter management are getting the gold mine while the taxpayers and students are getting the shaft.

There are clear cases of charter school management companies making hundreds of thousands — if not millions — in annual profit on real estate deals alone, while failing to educate children. Sadly, their actions are not illegal under current law, but should be.

Their motive is greed, not service. Look out for these so-called entrepreneurs in education.

• Child-, parent- and teacher-centered reformers: These individuals and organizations realize that reform requires boldness and risk taking. To them, charter schools are not anti-public education, but pro-child and pro-public choice.

Not much has changed. Today, similar to traditional public schools, charter schools have a network of apologists and lobbyists intent on protecting their gains into the educational market and have become in many cases the new status quo. Like traditional public schools, charter schools today cover the spectrum — from the good, the bad and the ugly. This includes both traditional and charter schools not educating our children. We need one quality and accountability standard. We must demand transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in how billions of our tax dollars are being spent and quality outcomes for our students.

via Tom Watkins: In education, keep the focus on quality | Lansing State Journal |

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