Rule number one: Tell the truth
Here’s a conundrum for those of us who believe in empowering parents: Gobs of them continue to enroll John Jr. and little Stacey in failing neighborhood schools instead of seeking out the charter down the way or the magnet across town. Or they cling to their academically dismal charter schools, fighting “the Man” to keep them open even when all indicators point to the need for them to be shutdown or replaced. And reporting school-performance data has done little to loosen their embrace of these schools: Parents either aren’t aware of the data (which is often buried deep on the state education-department websites)—or they just don’t care much about them. To help pry these parents away from no-good schools, James Merriman (CEO of the NYC Charter School Center) offers a novel proposal: Require such schools’ enrollment materials to carry the equivalent of a cigarette-box warning label: “This school may be hazardous to your child’s educational health.” That’s a good start, but charter authorizers (and districts for that matter) should draw more directly from thetruth.com and other anti-smoking campaigns: Bombard parents with information. Send home flyers, put up banners in the schools, buy ad space on local buses. Show parents not only the performance of their children’s schools but that of those in close proximity. It’s time to move the news on bad schools from “available” and “accessible” to “acquired.”
“When Bad Charters Stay Open, Parents Deserve a Warning,” by James Merriman, Eduwonk Blog, October 7, 2011.
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