Why Are "Charter Schools" So Popular?

Here (Boston MA area) many of the local cities are launching charter schools. As I understand it, a charter school differs from a standard school in that:
-a regular school is controlled by a town/city school board (elected officials)
-a charter school is run according to a statement (charter) ,and is free of political control
I believe the CS arose because of the increasingly worse results of public schools (lower test scores, inability to teach basic skills). It was felt that removing political control would somehow make schools more effective.
AS for school boards-I think most of them are ineffective (they are launching pads for political careers).
Anyway, is there any evidence that CS are any better than the standard ones?

Maybe because they teach spelling.

When you separate school funding such that schools in rich areas get lots of money, and schools in poor areas get very little, you create a situation that can only worsen over time, it seems to me.

Eventually you end up with poor schools, of such low quality, and so underfunded, they simply cannot get the job done. They are failing their students at providing basic skills.

Eventually the imbalance is so pronounced and blatant that even the ‘haves’ feel to act. Changing the basic problem, (unequal funding based on land values), isn’t in the cards, for some reason. So, instead, they address the symptom-crappy schools failing on all fronts.

Charter schools are a way to address the inequities inherent in an unjust system. It still doesn’t reach but a few of the truly affected, but it’s a start. They are popular because unlike the local public school, they provide safety and actual learning standards. Your child will actually get an education that may take them forward in life, instead of succumbing to gang participation, getting into drugs, or shot in the cross fire.

I always thought Charter Schools were a way of getting the tax payer to foot the bill for the kid’s private school.

I teach at a public charter school. We’re fully accredited and award a high school diploma, not a GED or any other alternative certificate.

Our focus is on dropout prevention (students who will not graduate at their current program) and dropout recovery (students who have already left school). I’d say at least 80% of our student population comes from one of those two categories. Many of them have some kind of exceptionality (emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, severe behavioral problems, etc), and most of them have repeatedly tried and failed to pass our state’s exit examination.

There are a lot of things that we can do differently because we aren’t a traditional school. Probably our biggest advantage is that we’re competency-based, which means that a student can earn credits at an accelerated pace if he or she is motivated/capable, or more slowly than normal if that’s what is needed. At a traditional program, there are seat-time requirements.

The county loves us because we’re willing to take these kids off of their hands. A kid who comes to us from John Doe High School is a kid who isn’t actually dropping out of JDHS, and that means JDHS looks a lot better on the books. We have a lot of students who come to us for credit recovery and then return to their regular schools to graduate.

To my mind, it would be best if our program weren’t needed at all. That would mean that every student is getting what they needed from their traditional program. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

My sister is going on her third year of working for a charter middle school in a low-income area of Texas. They are popular because they provide a better education than public school. They tend to attract low-income people who want their children to have a prep-school-ish education without the high costs. School activities are* very *highly structured, and students are intentionally given large amounts of homework every night (the thought is to keep them from having enough free time to get in trouble). They have higher-than-average standards, and charter school kids end up mostly staying out of trouble and scoring better on tests than public school kids.

The biggest difference between public and charter schools is, if a kid is a royal fuckup, continually disruptive, or has any level of gang involvement, they get kicked out. Public school doesn’t have the luxury of kicking out the kids who aren’t there to learn, so it becomes the catch-all lowest common denominator in extremely economically-depressed areas. The fact that charter schools *do *have that luxury is probably the single largest factor in why they provide a nicer environment and better results than public schools.

Of *course *admission is insanely competitive; very few moms (rich or poor) don’t want their kid to have the best possible education. But rich moms can afford to send little Blaine to private school. Poor moms have a choice of charter school, public school, or nothing.

Another factor worth mentioning is that Charter Schools are usually (always?) non-union. This means that underperforming teachers can be fired. Consequently, the quality of teaching tends to be higher than in public schools.

Being in a union does *not *prevent performance-based firing. The only thing it does is help prevent termination without cause. If a teacher isn’t doing their job, that’s cause for termination.

So did I.

Typo in thread title fixed.

I am sorry for the typo (:D).
the discipline angle puzzles me… if you suspend, expel a student for bad behavior, what have you accomplished?
You are just dumping a problem child onto another school. Of course, you have to measure this against the loss of opportunity of the students who have to endure the disruption.
As for the political school boards, I do see them as a problem, for most schools.

The thing about charter schools is that they are all different. Some are absolutely fantastic, full of dedicated teachers and motivated students and others are really pathetic, with very low standards and no rigor at all. Anyone who generalizes about charter schools is talking about theory, not practice.

If you dump a problem child onto another school, then the child is no longer YOUR school’s problem. And that’s what most people are focused on.

I think that would be a voucher.

In our area, charter schools at the middle and high school level tend to have a theme to the curriculum. My son attends a charter high school that is strictly college prep with an emphasis in the areas of law and government. There is also a charter high school in the area that caters to kids involved in fine and performing arts. In fact, it’s just down the street.

Kids at charter schools give stuff up, too. Neither of these schools fields sports teams. Our school doesn’t have a band or orchestra or drama department. We do have stuff some other schools don’t offer like mock trial, moot court and internships at local law firms.

Ah, yes.

Best $400 I ever spent, not having to worry about that stuff. :slight_smile:

I don’t believe so. Charter schools are publicly funded schools which are not allowed to charge tuition that’s different from a private school with tuition-paying students who admit public school students whose tuition gets covered by the public school system. I don’t know that the latter scenario even really exists, but some sort of voucher system would be close.

Where I’ve seen them, charter schools are basically public schools that aren’t part of the “regular” school system and whose operations are governed by a charter. But they aren’t private schools. It’s basically a public school that gets to “do its own thing” instead of being totally subordinate to the local school board.

The basic problem we’ve had here with charter schools is that a) that charter is supposed to be granted to an educational institution (usually a college) which promises to provide oversight but b) instead turns the whole operation over to a for-profit organization who runs it into the ground.

I can’t say for certain that there are no good charter schools here, but I can say that the worst performing schools in the urban areas are all charter schools, which have also been plagued by financial scandals and general mismangement. The problems have been so bad that the state has stepped in and actually revoked the charters of some of the colleges for failure to provide oversight, while several more colleges have thrown up their hands, canceled the operating contracts and gotten out of the chartering business.

Maybe if some local college actually operated the school itself they’d come up with a superior school, but that hasn’t been the way it’s worked out in practice.

The best performing public schools in the area are the magnet schools operated by the city school board - complete with the bureaucracy, unions and all the other problems that are cited as the reasons to have charter schools and vouchers.

It gets me very annoyed when people proclaim that charter schools or private schools are sooooo much petter than public schools. I taught for 5 years, sent my 2 kids to public schools, and served 9 years on our board of education.

Couple of things:

  1. Being on the school board is no stepping stone to anything. You put in long, long hours for no pay. I wouldn’t have been interested if there were, but there is absolutely no opportunity to make a dime dishonestly, either.

  2. Any school that is not required to take everyone is by definition going to have fewer problems. Child is uncontrollable? Child won’t do his work? Child has a learning difficulty or other handicap? Off he/she goes to the public school.

  3. The parents of private school and charter school children are again, by definition, interested in the child’s education, behavior and success. If the child comes from a family in difficulty, where no on cares, where abuse of one sort or another is going on, the child is attending public school.

I myself am outraged by “vouchers” and other expenditures for private schools that come out of public taxes. Here in NJ, public taxes already are used to provide books, transportation and remedial education to students in private schools. Yes, remedial education. If Saint Whatever or Snooty Academy can’t teach Johnny or Sally to read, the supposedly inferior public school teachers go and do the job. It’s ridiculous.

If a child in public school is a discipline problem, there are strict limits on how much the public schools can do. If he simply cannot be tolerated in the general classroom. he must be provided an education anyway, either via special education, home tutoring, or by paying a specialized educational facility to take him/her. A child cannot be expelled from a public school except for very specific charges such as assault on a teacher.

Children with emotional, phsyical or mental difficulties must be educated at public expense. Every alternative is very, very expensive, and must be provided free of charge. Private and charter schools do not have these responsibilities.

It’s basically “cherry picking.” The really tough cases are educated at public expense.

Or by charter schools for whom these students are the target population (see my above post).

Though, of course, charter schools operate at public expense, but I know what you meant. :slight_smile: