Many of the seeds planted in the "let a thousand flowers bloom" era of the early charter schools movement grew into skunk cabbage. What happened?
Photo by Nicholas_T
I want to say more about a topic that interests us both: How to create an accountability system that empowers excellent educators to create top-notch schools while ensuring a basic level of quality for everyone.
It's a real dilemma, because what might work in a hothouse setting (especially lots of professional autonomy) has tended to disappoint when taken to scale.
That's not easy for me to admit. My first education enthusiasm was the notion of autonomy and uber-local control, as epitomized in Chicago's "local school councils" of the early 1990s. I wrote my college thesis on the topic (with the help of the University of Michigan's great David Cohen), and came away convinced that educator autonomy, plus parental choice, would lead us to the Promised Land. (Professor Cohen knew better!)
A few years later, I landed at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, where we embraced the "let a thousand flowers bloom" mantra of the early charter schools movement. I helped plant a few of said
Our first guest on By the Company It Keeps is Tim Daly, President of TNTP. I’m a huge fan of Tim and his organization. In addition to being a highly talented and endlessly affable guy, he’s helped lead TNTP into rarified air. It is as influential on policy and practice as any education-reform organization around.
Earlier in his career he was a TFA corps member (having taught in Baltimore) and helped establish and expand the New York City Teaching Fellows program. With TNTP CEO Ariela Rozman (another total star), he received the 2012 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.
If future interviews turn out half as well as Tim’s, I’ll be thrilled. We learn a great deal, and the subject’s smarts, curiosity, and humility shine through. He even enlightens us about Garry Wills and Stan Musial.
As a matter of fact, the totality is so good that I’m willing to look past his grievous error about Sandy Koufax (he only had 165 career wins!).
Ladies and gentlemen, Tim Daly.
1. How would you summarize
How satisfied should education reformers and charter enthusiasts be when studies show charter students outperforming those in the local district schools? Sure, it’s a lot better than underperforming, and yes, it’s a fine thing for the girls and boys who benefit from this value-add (as well as from the safety, variety, intimacy, family engagement, and other pluses that typically accompany charter school attendance). But observe what a low achievement bar this kind of comparison generally sets. The “virtual-twin” district school that is generally the basis for comparison is usually a miserable excuse for an educational institution, and the kids who shifted into the charter school had ample reason to want out. Their parents had ample reason to want better opportunities for their children. But is “better than” good enough at a time when college and career readiness is the goal of the larger K–12 enterprise and when preparation for international competitiveness is the country’s education target? Would you be satisfied with your golf score if it were a few points lower than someone who shoots 100? Would you be satisfied with your weight loss if you were now at 300 pounds compared with the other guy’s 320? Would you be pleased with your child’s medical outlook if his doctor bungled fewer cases than the next one but was still on the verge of malpractice? I think not. Let's understand that charter schools, too, need to produce strong educational
Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna come back and take you home
I could not stop that you now know
Come out upon my seas
Cursed missed opportunities
Am I a part of the cure?
Or am I part of the disease?
-Coldplay, "Clocks," A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002
I am haunted by the title of your last post: “The Testing Obsession Widens the Gap.”
Could this possibly be true? Is test-based school reform reducing opportunity for America's neediest children? Is everything for which we school reformers fight actually making things worse? Am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?
"It's OK to ask: 'What if I'm wrong?'" you wrote last week. So let me ask it. It wouldn't be the first time. A year ago, for example, I explored the "test-score hypothesis"—a line of reasoning, undergirding
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.
May 23, 2013
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