Charter schools allow for the full range of human potential. Some are much worse than a state-run school and some are far better. The nice thing about charter schools is that, in theory, they take more responsibility for their academic outcomes. They are transparent; it’s easy to see how they’re doing. However, they also desire survival. These characteristics conflict and play out in interesting ways.
Here’s a true story: In Louisiana, all public schools are given a School Performance Score (SPS), and the median score is 100. SPS is calculated by attendance and state test scores (LEAP in Louisiana). When I arrived as a newbie teacher, my school had a 78, a vast improvement from the year before. We celebrated. We printed out a huge poster and adorned the school’s entrance with it. We told everyone how great we were. The next year we started to tank – our SPS dropped back to its original level. We didn’t publicize this. We said that we expected a drop in score because we were teaching kids at their skill level. This meant we weren’t teaching them the stuff LEAP tests were assessing. We expected to do better the next year. But, our scores dropped again. Now, our charter to operate a school was at stake. But, like any organization, we wanted to survive. We dropped our “teach at their skill level” slogan and taught just what the state wanted us to teach them. Those scores were going to rise, or else.
The charter movement made the schools compete, now we need an accountability movement to make the teachers and leaders compete.
Photo Credit: Infrogmation