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Charter schools are not the quick fix

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The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an article on January 1, 2014 informing us of Bill Green’s decision to take over the leadership of the School reform Commission (SRC) and resign from his post with City Council. In the same article he is quoted as stating the following: “Eliminating all of the bad seats in the School District is a concept I think is important to pursue. There are tens of thousands of kids in under-performing schools.” He has not been shy about his full support for charter schools and is even less shy informing the public of the little knowledge he actually has regarding educational reform. This is an ongoing problem with the School District of Philadelphia and other major urban centers. Many decisions are made based solely on performance on a standardized test as opposed to the creation of a wholly educated society that can engage in critical thought and decision making strategies.

The truth is there are schools that are under-performing and not serving all of our students well. But, there are just as many charter schools providing the same subpar education. And if you look closely at the high performing charter schools, and peel the sheet back beyond test results, you will find stressed, overextended staff, a narrow availability of subjects, and rote teaching that does not encourage individuality, conversation, or debate. More importantly, if charter schools make such a difference then why are they only located in places with a high rate of poverty, an increased number of minorities, and many boarded up depressed properties? Why are these amazing centers of learning not springing up in the suburbs or replacing high performing schools like Masterman or Central? Why are they only the trend in areas of desperation? Why do they protect their secrets in order for parents to be sold a bad bill of goods?

As a parent, who sent their child to a charter school, I can tell you that they are not the quick fix. In fact, they are not the fix at all. Do they provide safety? At times. Are they able to bend the rules when it comes to who attends? Yes. Does this make them the right choice? No. And it definitely does not make them the only choice. And the bigger picture is that our children are being used as chattel for corporations. The business of education is big business. It earns lots of money for test companies, book publishers, CAO’s, and any other company that is looking to earn more and more dollars on the backs of children and the ignorance/fear of parents.

Just because a neighborhood school has been a historical failure for years, does not mean that the quick fix is a charter conversion. There are reams and reams of research available about each of these institutions that can be used to make better decisions for the children that are victims of these under-performing dropout factories. The schools that are under charter control demonstrate great growth in test scores and that makes parents happy and comfortable. Unfortunately, many of these same schools are limited to core subjects, some athletics, and little no exposure to arts and/or the humanities.

My problem with individuals like Bill Green is that he looks at a problem and provides only one solution. And the solution is usually based on little to no research and test score results. When you actually read, Delpit, Kozol, Ravitch, Freire, and not research from a film director, you can actually begin to make some informed decisions and have a conversation with educational advocates and parents who are committed to making the School District of Philadelphia better for all children and not simply the chosen few.

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