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No Charter Left Behind


In this Education Week Commentary, Martin R. West and Bruno V. Manno claim it is inadequate school governance, and not deficient educational resources, that accounts for a lack of progress on national test scores. The use of charter schools, they argue, is one potential antidote to a stagnant public school system and low test scores.

The competitive and innovative nature of charter schools, West and Manno argue, could inject the support and attention necessary for sustaining successful accountability results required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

What do you think? Will the NCLB accountability measures lead to the growth and success of charter schools? Or are charter schools on a collision course with the federal education law?


I believe the growth of the charter school movement is directly correlated to the failure of the this country to provide adequate public education fairly for everyone. NCLB is political fronting, attempting to solve the problems caused by poverty, racism, and classism. It does nothing more than smoke screen the real issues at the heart of the education crisis and this country.
When smart and dedicated people care enough to change the educational landscape and provide the kind of education that is needed for our time, amazing results arise. Testing students for "standard" achievement who have been disenfranchised from the system since the day they were born results in obvious conclusions. Then teachers are to blame for not teaching adequately?
Charters may be a lot more work for teachers, but the environments are often much more supportive and understanding of the process of achieving success.
Numbers can tell us only so much. There must be a qualitative narrative that explains those numbers. That narrative is the silent narrative of racism, classism, and prejudice which is still at the foundation of the educational system.

Charter schools have to meet the same AYP requirements as traditional public schools. Unless the established goals of AYP change (100% proficient by 2013-14) charter schools will fare no better. Unless the requirements of this law change, almost all schools (charter and traditional public) will be judged as in need of improvement (failing according to the media). Wasn't this the intention?

Charter schools work only because students have to apply to be accepted. I am sure the students who get accepted may be not be the honor students at their local public school, but they have potential to do better in an environment with less children and away from the real problem kids. They may have had behavioral problems in the past, but have turned it around in a charter school. When children apply, administrators can tell which students have a chance to turn it around. They take everything into account before accepting anyone. They look at academics, home environment, attitudes, parent support, and several other things. It is not hard to discover who will be successful in a charter school. The rest of the children are left behind in public school to cause chaos. The public schools will only get worse because the students in them are ones who have severe behavior problems due to emotional dysfunction or lack of disciple, parents who do not care, and teachers are not allowed to do anything but give praise where correction is needed. Teachers are forced to GIVE students passing grades because administrators will not stand up to the parents. I have known administrators that have deliberately changed a student's grades to please parents. In public school, parents and students want something for nothing. The teachers are the lame ducks. Teachers word hard. Teachers parents, administrators, the media, and our legislative respresentives make it even harder to teach. I just once would like to see one of these groups take a day or two to run the classroom. Most would not last two hours. If they did last a whole day, there would refuse to take any homework home with them.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard a teacher say that Charter schools get the best students…

I don’t know what charter schools teachers are talking about when they say this, but I do know KIPP charter schools, for example, choose students through a lottery, not an application system. They must sign a contract, but they do not get chosen based on their ability or motivation. They do not get kicked out if they misbehave.

KIPP is showing the rest of the country what is possible. Students that come in years behind in 5th grade, leave with full scholarships to elite high schools. They are actually narrowing the achievement gap for their students.

This makes me angry, not because they are stealing our best students, but because my students are not a part of this. They deserve it!! We have excellent teachers in our school, good things do happen for kids, but it is not because of the system, it is in spite of the system. If we had an entire school culture supporting achievement---WOW! Imagine. KIPP charter schools are showing us it can be done. Dreamers? They are not the only ones…

Poor Stacy -- she is so misinformed. Where is she getting her information? Media? Books?

KIPP schools do have an application system as well. Students are kicked out for misbehavior.

Also, not all KIPP students in the 5-8 program leave KIPP with full scholarships to go on to elite high schools. Where did you get your data? I would guess approximately 50% of the students are accepted to elite high schools. However, no data exists on how well they did (or are currently doing) in these elite schools. That's the data one should look for not the fact that they got in to an elite school. Have you noticed that KIPP does not share this concrete data publicly? In fact, if you pay attention KIPP is very good at showing the public how well- disciplined KIPP kids are not how well they are doing academically on more rigorous standards, subjects and tests. No data exists. Why? Because, KIPP kids are not made to think critically and analytically. KIPP kids do know how to follow draconian rules that transform them into a "Stepford" student fit for the KIPP Stepford mansion.

So, please start asking the tough questions --- such as --- what is their curriculum focus/alignment, whether they believe/follow in sort of vertical articulation or alignment of course standards, pedagogical techniques beyond the chants and rote memorization, etc. Honestly, I give KIPP credit for teaching students to be disciplined young adults...that's it. They are really good at this but sadly it comes at a cost. Who wants to teach "programmed" Stepford children. I love a bit of classroom discord and cognitive dissonance in my room not a plantation-style education, which KIPP schools prescribes for minority children.

Thus, please get the facts and ask the tough questions. Also, if you think KIPP is the answer, apply to lead or teach at one of its schools. Go to kipp.org. Beware -- you must willing to be Stepfordized.

The data on charters does not support the notion that they are more successful. The big picture places them on a plane with the public schools that serve the same population. This doesn't discount the standouts--and KIPP does seem to be one, but the public schools have standouts as well.

It does tend to dispel the notion that a part of the solution is removing the rules that govern the public schools. Despite the lack of hard data to support a better academic outcome across the board, the charters do seem to be able to provide something to some parents that they prefer--whether it is smaller classes, more familiar pedagogy, safety, better climate, etc. What this has done is to give a wake-up call to some lethargic districts with a history of doing not-so-well and believing that what they were providing was the best for "their" children, from whom not too much could be expected.

As public systems have recognized that the public $ are following the students who leave--and how little it takes to lure them away--and especially that teaching jobs are lost in the equation, there has been a renewed attention to finding out what parents are unhappy about. Even those parents whose kids have always been encouraged to look outside the public schools.

When the NCLB legislation was passed, it was a "set-up" to ensure the public schools were doomed to fail. Public Education takes in "everyone" and provides a "minimum floor of opportunity" for all Americans. The idea that suddenly there are standards and every child needs to meet those standards equally is ludicrous! Ever work with a Special Needs Student? How about someone who speaks little or no english? How are these students going to meet those rigid requirements?
The very idea is aimed at bashing the Public Education System so that people will run to other solutions that are less regulated and influenced by big business and parents. We work with kids who never spend time with their parents, who do not speak English at home, who have learning disabilities, who are doing drugs, who are living with relatives besides their own parents, etc. We "work" with these students because we are "public education" and if students are to really learn anything then there are certain needs that must be met that in many cases simply cannot be met.
When you say to a public school that you must teach this standard or you cannot teach that "value" then the stage is set for failure. Send the kids to a Charter school where they are allowed the ability to "provide a source of innovation and of direct competition that would help all public schools improve." So, in other words, if you would allow public schools the leisure of less strangulation in the ability to effectively assist students then there would be no need for a Charter School System.
I remember when I was going to elementary school in the 70's. If I talked back to a teacher, not only did I get in trouble at school, I was in big trouble at home. My mom supported the school and I knew it. Today, if a student misbehaves, they need not worry because "mommy or daddy" will be paying the teacher, principal, and school board a visit. The litigation nightmare for trying to effectively run the schools is becoming more difficult because the parents have the rights to tell the schools how to treat their student including the "right" to move them to a Charter School where they can "do it right." If a parent wants a "choice" then they should help the schools by supporting them or leave the system and go private. A Charter School should not be an option. We should not be paying for Charter Schools with our Tax dollars because students are refusing to make efforts and parents are supporting their apathy.
So, you're saying Charter Schools should have a right to compete against Public Schools. The very notion is again meant to rid America of a public education by claiming that businesses will take care of education. Sure, when they are dealing with a small percentage of students, what was the figure...1,000,000 or 2%? Is big business really going to be there when we turn over Millions of students to them? How about 50% of them?
I'd like to hear what you have to say about this. Thanks.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let's be clear: the authors of the No Child Left Behind Act are the same geniuses who rushed this nation to war and have absolutely bankrupted the national treasury through mismanagement.

Anyone who is uncertain of the effects of Charter Schools need only consider that President Bush and his advisors (chief trumpeters of Charter Schools and the No Child Left Behind Act) are doing for our public school system what they have done to the nation of Iraq and the national treasury.

The public school system as we know it is being dismantled at the expense of every American citizen and for the benefit of profiteers period.

The fact that the No Child Left Behind Act removes "regulations" which are burdensome to schools should comfort no one. The very regulations the Act seeks to obviate for Charter schools are those that provide for full accountability in them.

As the authors of the article, "The Elephant in the Reform Room" noted, the No Child Left Behind Law conveniently "resets the clock" for charter schools and allows for five years of "experimenation" before full accountability kicks in. The amount of destruction that can be done in that time, like the accumulation of national debt over the past five years, is incalcuable.

Unfortunately for those of us who work in the Public Schools and have children in it, those in power seem more concerned with ensuring the destruction of public education, rather than the construction of it.


Jay Rehak

The school that our children attend, Linda Christas, accepts no government support, and hires experienced former public school teachers.

That being said, fixing America's public schools would not be a problem.

Keep the funding level at the status quo, and provide lifetime accessibility to all U.S. public schools all residents.

However, do not FORCE anyone to attend the public schools.

Force only brings to classrooms students who don't want to be there, and because they don't want to be there, they make it impossible for teachers to do their jobs adequately.

No disadvantaged child, no minority, no individual with a handicap would ever be denied access under a free will plan, so long as they choose to be in school and agree to work hard to excel.

Lacking the willingness to work and contribute in a positive way in school, the student would be granted a lifetime right to return to school at public expense.

If we keep public funding for education at the same level, but make attendance voluntary, those who want to learn will be there; teachers will have much more leverage because the children are there of their own free will having agreed to work hard, and class sizes and quality of instruction will improve immeasurably.

The experiences our children are having at Linda Christas come not so much from the fact that Linda Christas students are brighter or the teachers more brilliant. Linda Christas quality comes from the fact that they have competent teachers and willing students who know that continued attendance is a free will contracted decision among students, school and parents.

America's public schools already have the highest expulsion rate of any school system in the world. What we don't have is student choice to be in the classrooms to begin with.

We prefer in the name of equal opportunity to put everyone through the agonizing process of expelling students who don't want to be in school, and thus sacrifice our place in the world as far as middle school and secondary school student accomplishment.

The American forced public school system was modeled after the 19th century's Prussian military.

Surely this forced education model has survived well beyond its usefulness.


I am amazed by the ignorance of some who probably never set foot in a KIPP school before, who judge the KIPP program based on this ignorance. I am a KIPP teacher and we do not select our students, we accept them on a first come first serve basis or a lottery. I invite you to visit my class at any time to see students critically and analytically dissecting math. My sixth graders are working on seventh and eight grade math. In my math literacy program they are expected to use their analytical and critical thinking skills to be creative in writing stories, dialogues, plays showing full mastery of different math concepts. I invite you to come and watch my students execute any problem on the board, explain the process and support their answers with evidence. I suggest that those who want to pass judgment visit our schools, and besides look at our scores - we must be doing something right. KIPPSters rock and all the hardworking, caring, dedicated KIPP teachers around the country are rock stars!

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