Friday, July 22, 2011

My Problem With Charter Schools-Too Many Are"Bad Neighborhood Citizens"

I am not in principle against charter schools. Experimenting with new models of school organization can be a good thing, and giving parents more options within the public school system can promote an atmosphere conducive to better teaching and learning

But in a society dominated by trickle down economics,where there is little commitment to improve public education as a whole, charter schools have not fulfilled their original promise. With rare exceptions, they have functioned as though their success requires the failure of neighboring institutions, refusing to work cooperatively with traditional public schools when they share a building, pushing out or excluding special needs, elll children, and those marked as "behavior problems" and embracing what amounts to a two tier styemm in inner city schools- one favored and amply funded- the other looked on with suspcion and contempt

Charter schools can lead to improvements in the quality of education, but only if they embrae all children and try to work with and support public schools they share space and neighborhoods with,not quarantine them as if they were carriers of a contagious disease

Right now, based on what I have seen in the Bronx, and other parts of New YorkCity, charter schools have not improved the quality of education in inner city neighorhoods. The best have supplied a small number of families with better educational options. But on the whole, charter schools have been "bad neighborhood citizens," viewing everyone outside their ranks as a threat to their educational mission,and doing everything possible to "stack the deck" against traditional public schools by indirectly or overtly excluding students who might not test well or be compliant learners

This "us againnst the neighborhood" is the last thing New York, and the nation's immigrant and working class communities need asthey find themselves starved of resources by budget cuts at the city, state and federal level

Until charter schools start fighting for ALL the children and families in the neighborhoods they are located in, rather than the 10 percent enrolled in their institutions, they will be unable to make a positive contribution to the struggle for racial and economic equality in the United States

Mark Naison
July 22,2011

NOTE: While there are some neighborhoods in which 10 percent of the students are enrolled in charter schools, in the nation as a whole, as Diane Ravitch points out, only 3.5 percent of students are in charter schools

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