Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Experienced Educator on Predatory Charters

Note to my readers: The following is a letter to the editor that was printed in shortened form here in The Lafayette Advertiser. This letter by an experienced school principal warns us about the destructive influence of  a special group of charter schools that I refer to as predatory charters. All parents and educators should read and listen to the advice in this letter.

Letter to the editor:
If charter schools can’t deliver high scores, then what? The Daily Advertiser asked this question in its editorial on July 10. As a public educator with 31 years of experience, I have some thoughts.

As stated in the editorial, the students of the two for-profit charter companies that edged their way into Lafayette Parish fared about as well as their counterparts in traditional public schools. The response from the companies was that their students had taken more difficult assessments in 2013-2014. As pointed out in the editorial, So did public school students. So where does this leave us?

There is no magic bullet in education that will automatically produce higher test scores. Research has shown over and over that open admission charters perform no better than traditional public schools. The charter schools that produce higher scores generally have selective admission policies that allow for mostly higher performing students to attend. This gives the false impression that charter schools provide better education than traditional public schools. This is what the out of state for- profit charter companies and members of the privatization movement would have you believe. This is just one more farce of the education reform/privatization movement that has swept across the US and Louisiana.

What will begin to happen, and already has, is that as greater numbers of higher performing students are “accepted” into charter schools, the charter scores will naturally increase. So would any schools. Charters will continue to drain money out of the public school system, as they already have, which will cause teachers, programs, and facility upgrades to be cut. As time goes by, the Lafayette Parish School System will come to look very similar to what has evolved in Recovery School District-New Orleans and RSD-Baton Rouge, the lowest performing public schools in the state. There will come a future day when citizens of Lafayette Parish will look back and ask themselves, “What happened to our public schools?” They need look no further than the day BESE overrode the local school board and allowed for-profit charters to come into the District.

If it weren’t so disheartening, I would laugh when I hear “education reform leaders” like John White, Chas Roemer, and Holly Boffy accuse Gov. Bobby Jindal of “playing politics” with education and the Common Core State Standards. Have they forgotten how and why they got where they are?The hypocrisy of it all is shameful. The whole education reform movement from the beginning was nothing more than politics and money. Ask the hundreds of teachers who were forced to wait outside of the state Capitol when the education reform movement was ramrodded through the Legislature without any input from real educators. I agree reform is needed and support some of the initiatives, but that is a discussion for another day.

For those who truly want to improve education, it is really quite simple. First, focus on early childhood education, particularly, for children of generational poverty. Next, increase the length of the school year and school day. Provide early emphasis on language, reading, and math skills with reduced class sizes and smaller schools. Of course, having effective teachers and administrators goes without saying. Finally and most importantly, address the issue of generational poverty, because it is the main reason for lack of educational achievement in this state and country. It is no coincidence that Louisiana’s poverty rate falls right in line with its academic achievement when compared to other states. Louisiana ranks second highest in poverty in the nation following Mississippi.

So back to the question, if charters can’t deliver high scores, then what? I expect a public school system that is on par with the schools of the Recovery School Districts in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the lowest performing schools in the state. All the while our local tax dollars will be increasingly flowing out of state to for-profit charters. The students who really need the most help will be the biggest losers in all of this. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I fear I am not! By the way, private and parochial schools will also be impacted.

Michael Kreamer
Life-long resident of Lafayette Parish
Principal, St. Martinville High

1 comment:

Ali AliM said...

We overestimate charter schools. If you compare personal performance of students of charter vs public schools you will realize that there is a gap and public schools do much better. However, it seems like they have been created for making some pretty good cash. It is too bad that there are so many blind parents. They think they are getting quality education, but in the end of the day it is their kids who buy a dissertation online after all.