Matthew Stewart, a stay-at-home dad in a wealthy New Jersey suburb, is leading a battle against the "boutique" charter schools that are being planned for his community.
?I'm in favor of a quality education for everyone,? Stewart told Winnie Hu of the New York Times. ?In suburban areas like Millburn, there's no evidence whatsoever that the local school district is not doing its job. So what's the rationale for a charter school??
Great question! With an easy answer: different parents define "quality education" differently. One person's "good school" is another person's "bad fit." Stewart may love his public schools, which might do an excellent job providing a straight-down-the-middle education to its (mostly affluent) charges. But the parents developing a nearby charter school want something more. (Namely, a Mandarin-immersion experience for their kids.) For which Mr. Stewart labels them "selfish."
?Public education is basically a social contract ? we all pool our money, so I don't think I should be able to custom-design it to my needs,? he said, noting that he pays $15,000 a year in property taxes. ?With these charter schools, people are trying to say, ?I want a custom-tailored education for my children, and I want you, as my neighbor, to pay for it.' ?
So let me get this straight. As a parent, I'm "selfish" if I want to send my sons to a public school that meets their needs, and meshes with my values and my aspirations for them? The
Though American education has taken few actual steps to pattern itself on other countries, in recent years we've displayed a near-obsessive interest in how we're doing in relation to them (e.g. on TIMSS and PISA results), and in what they're doing and how they do it. We at Fordham have found ourselves doing this a couple of times and we've periodically reviewed major analyses of ?education success stories around the world? by the likes of McKinsey. We've also read our share?OK, more than our share?of paeans to Finland, Singapore, you name it. (At the U.S. Education Department, I helped lead a study of Japanese education as long ago as 1988.) I've also?long admired Marc Tucker's tireless efforts to get American educators and reformers to understand and appreciate how other nations address challenges that often resemble our own.
Which isn't to say I always agree with him. And that's true of his latest paper, too?drawn from a book coming out in September.?He seeks to determine "what education policy might look like in the United States if it was [sic] based on the experiences of our most successful competitors." In that role, he casts Canada (Ontario), Finland, and three East Asian lands (Japan, Singapore, and the Shanghai region of China.) And in fifty pages he offers a wealth of insights that are
Living near D.C.?a city with a 40 percent charter market share?charter schools are a constant topic of discussion, with reform-minded Marylanders envious of D.C.'s friendliness toward charters. Despite the adoption of Maryland's Charter Law in 2003, the state has seen gross disparities in the creation of charter schools across the state. While some areas, particularly Baltimore City, have proven to be very friendly to charter schools, most others have not. Of the forty-four charters across the state, thirty-four are located in Baltimore City; 74 percent of the counties in Maryland do not have a single charter school within their borders.
This disparity stems from the vagueness and openness of MD's charter law?designated as one of the weakest charter laws in the nation, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The loose guidelines provided by it, coupled with the authority given to local education authorities (LEA), has resulted in wide variation in the law's implementation across the state.
Charter schools are an important aspect of our education system as they provide families, particularly low-income families, with options for their children's public education
In order to make more uniform opportunities for charter schools across the state, we offer four policy recommendations, that we believe will help level the playing field for charter schools in Maryland:
I received a lot of responses to the ?Pedagogy of Practice? post I wrote the other day. Many were positive. Among the more critical was Diane Ravitch, whose responses on Twitter and Flypaper indicated that I was misrepresenting and distorting her views.
In this post, I'm going to try to explain why I believe the characterization of her position is accurate and why it matters to this larger debate.
My post on Wednesday was focused not on particular curricular preferences, as Diane's response seems to suggest, but rather on the idea that we are overcomplicating the debate about closing the achievement gap. Ultimately the achievement gap is rooted in a ?practice gap,? where disadvantaged students have been exposed to far less content (reading, vocabulary, etc.) than their peers. Urban education organizations (KIPP, AF, Uncommon, TFA, etc.) make tough decisions everyday that are focused on trying to maximize every moment in the school day in an attempt to close that gap.
This process of maximizing every moment (what I called ?a pedagogy of practice?) creates a distinct sense of urgency that permeates the school culture. And that culture is not often shared by schools without this driving mission to close the achievement gap. (It doesn't need to be.) This theory of action and the school models it encourages is not without its critics, which is why it is worthy of debate.
I assume that the quote that Diane thought distorted her views was
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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