My recent New York Times op-ed and a longer version of the piece that appeared in Education Next seem to have sparked a raucous debate over DeVos and her ideas. I'm glad for that much. We need a rich debate on these important issues, and that's why I'm taking the unusual step of a third round of comment.
Perhaps the most under-analyzed piece of the charter movement is the charter authorizer. Headlines about charters generally focus either on the schools themselves or on their charter management organizations, but this misses the fact that someone--the authorizer--is deciding which of these schools are even allowed to exist. It is the ultimate choice: which schools are allowed to open and which are forced to close? How and how well do government-approved authorizers make these decisions?
In light of recent events, I am taking a brief break from my usual focus on urban education research and policy to discuss events in Baton Rouge that are relevant to schooling but have broader significance.
After commenting on the Democratic platform on education, I'm turning to the Republican side. While the tensions are clearly more intense on the Democratic side (hardly surprising after 8 years with a Democratic president), the Republicans are threading their own needles.
It's convention time for both the Democratic and Republican parties, and I'll take turns discussing their education platforms, which are a useful windows into the current status of political debates and harbingers of compromises to come. I'll start with Democrats.
The idea that school reform, especially test-based accountability is driving teachers out of the profession has been widely reported in the media. When we actually look at the data, there is evidence of problems in the teacher pipeline to be sure, but not an overall teacher shortage.
Every once in a while the courts make a decision that is both surprisingly and profoundly important. The Vergara suit in California, challenging standard teacher personnel laws, was just such a case.
The coming partial return of charter schools from the state to the Orleans Parish School Board, which I described in a prior post, raises interesting questions about the role of local democratic control of schools. My argument here is that the governance of charter schools, and especially an almost-all-charter system like New Orleans, has to be less democratic than traditional school districts.
I've noticed that one topic in school reform debates gets much less attention than it deserves: student mobility. This is a key metric because it reflects both the hopes and the fears of proponents of choice and market-based reforms.
New Orleans was the first city in the country to move to an almost-all-charter school system, but that system has been governed mostly by the state. Now, the city seems poised for another first: to become the first almost-all-charter district governed by a traditional, locally elected school board.