Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The disconnect between charters and school districts.

I am not quite sure how far $100,000 goes in an urban school district, but it’s good to see somebody—in this case, the Gates Foundation—doing something about the chasm between charter and traditional schools. The foundation has gotten nine districts to agree to collaborate with their charters, and vice versa, on data, best practices and so on. This makes all sorts of sense: students move back and forth, great ideas should not grow in isolation, and—oh yeah—they all have the same goal, or should: helping students succeed.

Readers might not know just how uncooperative these relationships tend to be, how difficult if not impossible it is to track students from place to place, how innovations in one arena rarely make it to the other ... so it is up to you to provide the context. And it is a subject worth writing about even if you don’t cover one of these nine cities.


  1. Will the study include a comparison of the parenting skills of the charter vs. public parents? Having a school full of parents who are motivated enough to sign up, stand in line -- whatever it takes to get their child into a better learning environment goes a long way to ensuring the success of the school. The charter is already ahead by miles! No matter how many best practice seminars a teacher attends, there's no substitution for good and responsible parenting.

  2. Linda,

    I think you are wrong about charters and public schools having the same goals.

    The goal of charter schools is to be successful with their students. They identity a population with which they can be successful and recuit them. The obviousness of the targeting -- and even the concious intentionality -- varies. And the nature of the targetted population varies too. (Think of the KIPP founding story. Those guys targetted families who would agree to the longer hours, years and increased committment. They thought they could be more successful with those families and that approach than the public schools -- perhaps even more successful for those particular families.)

    Public schools have a different goal. They have to serve ALL the kids. They are the usually the first resort -- and sometimes the last resort. They do not target or recruit. They receive all comers.

    Perhaps kids are better off at charter schools. The data does not show this, but I suppose it is possible. Even if that is true, however, the goals of the two kinds of schools a substantively different in fundamental ways. It really is only on the surface that they are look the same.