Superintendents Heart Charter Schools!

My colleague Parker Baxter and I were recently in Dallas helping about a dozen cities develop district-charter collaboration compacts. The compacts (and the grants from the Gates Foundation that go with them) are meant to help overcome long-standing animosity between the two sectors and to prod mutual problem-solving on behalf of students in district and charter schools.

Now, there’s reason for skepticism when you hear about initiatives that hope to inspire “collaboration” and “sharing of best practices,” but there’s very little Kumbaya in the compact initiative. These compact signatories are doing pioneering work, and we’re honored to help. Some are working together to recruit and train high-quality teachers. Others are working out agreements to give quality charter schools access to district buildings. In some cases, charters are agreeing to accept more students with disabilities. In turn, districts are agreeing to provide more equitable funding.

Some of the compacts are so substantive and bold, in fact, that they create very real risks for both sides.

More on that tomorrow…

-Robin Lake

One Reply to “Superintendents Heart Charter Schools!”

  1. I followed your first link and found the following:

    Districts get commitments from charters that all kids will be served. They’re assured that charters won’t be engaging in the systematic inclusion or exclusion of kids, that special needs kids and English language learners will be equally served and embraced by everyone, and that both district and charter schools get opportunities to learn from another.

    Charters will soon learn what Paul Tough said, that when you have a class of thirty, and eight to ten kids have been so traumatized that their cognitive processes have been changed, you are in a different world. A decade ago, I’d never had classes like that in my inner city classes. But the proliferation of choice has made those classes common. (I doubt you’ve been to a non-alternative school charter that has large numbers of those types of classes. I’ve never heard of a non-alternative charter that keeps those troubled kids.)

    If neighborhood schools were allowed to discipline violent kids and kids who are out of control because they can’t control their behavior, then we could manage and lead kids who can control their behavior but get caught up in peer pressure. I suspect we wouldn’t have to refer more than 5 to 10% of our kids to alternative slots, which is pretty comparable to the percentage that the best charters don’t keep.

    So, neighborhood school teachers want more alternative schools so that an effort can be made to enforce attendance and behavioral standards, giving us a chance to teach for mastery. We don’t care if they are charters are not.

    The other part of the bargain could be learning a lesson explained by Andrew Rotherham. Successful charters are “intentional” in everything they do. Once neighborhood schools have a fighting chance to create orderly environments that allow for engaging instruction, we then need to git er done. We need to learn to inculcate a culture of intentionality, so kids can learn for mastery.

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