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Charter Schools – Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained?
Charter schools are publicly funded institutions which operate independently thus giving the freedom to experiment with educating students in any way which they feel will bring the greatest success. 72 cities in the US enroll about 10% of their children in 5000 charter schools nationwide. 55% of these students are black and Hispanic from a lower socioeconomic status.
The charter school concept, starting in 1992, was meant to find better ways for educating children. Creativity would lead to discovery which would be transferred over to the public school system. Charter schools tend to pay their teachers about 15% above union scale though there is no tenure. These teachers work a long 60 hour week, sometimes causing early burn out. However, teacher proponents say that they enjoy the freedom allotted to develop their classroom as they see fit.
Unfortunately, charter schools have not fared better than public schools based on standardized tests. In fact, the charter movement continues to grapple between ingenuity and exploration while being forced to measure success in conventional ways. A Stanford University study found that less than one-fifth of charter schools nationally offered a better education than comparable local schools, almost half offered an equivalent education and more than a third were “significantly worse.” Additionally, some states have started to equate funding and teacher compensation with standardized test scores. This flies in the face of the original reason for having charter schools at all.
In keeping with the spirit of charter schools, there is a general feeling that these schools should be judged by a different standard. Some have suggested that schools set their own goals based on the needs of their student body. For instance, schools with a high population of ADHD can aim to reduce the use of medication or, perhaps, evaluations can be based on non-academic measures like community involvement and student engagement.
Is any of this practical and realistic? What are your experiences with charter schools? Should they be held to the same standard as public schools? Please share your views.