Monday, March 09, 2009

Urban Crisis II

This post will continue the exploration of the debate between public schools and charter/voucher schools. The Daily Grind supports charter schools while simultaneously recongizing that public schools can and should be successful at educating urban students.
One of my favorite commentors, a retired urban public school teacher, Joe, feared dominating the comments section of my blog and so instead e-mailed me with his thoughts about charter vs. public schools. As a side note, I hope that Joe finds quick publication of a book he has been working on which journals his final 90 days as a teacher. I hate when people can do things better than I can, but I also appreciate a good idea. What folows are thoughts by Joe and my responses (Joe's thoughts are in bold):

The charter schools and private schools do not hold some educating secret that has eluded our public educators.

I do not believe that charter schools have a corner on ideas. However, I do believe that charter schools have much more flexibility in implementing those ideas. For instance, tenure (sorry, a very cliche point) dictates which teachers remain and which teachers get R.I.F.'d at public schools. At a charter school, skill decides which teachers stay and which teachers get "reduced." My district will experience R.I.F.'ing this spring. My wife, a ridiculously competent teacher (my wife will tell you that I never allow bias to enter my choices when considering my wife--sorry), is relatively new to the district. There are teachers in her building (an urban school) who have no understanding of standards or holding their students to that standard. They will stay, my wife will go.
At a charter school, my wife would not get let go. She's that good.

The primary differences are a) that the public schools are committed to working with every child who walks through the doors (private/charters do not have to continue an unproductive relationship),

Unfortunately this is true also. I have no answer to this problem other than to say, maybe we need to stop believing that education is a right forced upon all people. I don't know.
Yet, maybe a charter school, given the freedom to create and cast vision, implement programs, and operate in a much smaller environment, could overcome the contentiousness that too many students express towards their local schools. Again, I don't know.
This afternoon, an obnoxious little @#$! told me to get out of her face. One student was being restrained by security because she wanted to kick someone's ass and a crowd had gathered. I tried to help disperse the crowd and move students towards their classrooms. This student would have nothing of it. Her friend was being disrespected by security and she wasn't going to hear my calm pleas to move towards class.
At a charter school this wouldn't fly. At P.O.S.H.S, we have bigger problems.

c) that public schools hobbled by accounting rules focused on preventing cheating (and therefore increasing waste) are not allowed to take risks with the money they are given.

Here, I disagree with Joe. In Worcester, Mass. University Park Campus School has manged to overcome the restraints of the typical local urban public school. Great leadership and great influencers can overcome the long-held dogma of the local school district. I believe that great vision and great ideas can overcome the stubborness of the system.

...the loudest voices claiming that the public schools are failing don't really want the children of their maid to have as good an education as their own children. Believe me, the more we undermine our urban public schools, the more the powerful will use public money to find ways to withdraw their children into hyper-successful educational enclaves in order to make sure they are always several steps ahead of the children you and I teach.

This truth pisses me the F--- off. Sorry. I really get irritated by people like President Obama and others who claim to care about public education but wouldn't dare send their child to my public high school if they happened to live within its boundaries. Democrats and Republicans are both full of shit when it comes to education.
The Democrats, though, are the worst. Democrats spout all types of praise for public education, supporting the local unions and all. But they won't send their children to those same union run schools. At least Republicans don't pretend to support public education.

Okay, this ends today's Urban Crisis evaluation. What are your thoughts?


At 8:43 PM , Blogger SciGuy said...

A little off-topic, but as a Texas teacher I have a hard time relating to education reform stories that speak of the evil, all-powerful teachers unions. Here unions provide liability insurance and a monthly magazine, that's about it... no collective bargaining, no ability to strike, etc. We sign a yearly contract with no guarantee of a job next year. Poor teachers can be non-renewed with a relatively minimal amount of effort and paperwork.

So why do we still have poor teachers in Texas? Why does Texas rank below almost half of the other states in some subject areas? Maybe I’m being too simplistic, but to me the answer is obvious. If you fire a poor or mediocre teacher, who are you going to replace them with? I’ve never worked (or even been personally aware of) a district with a surplus of excellent teachers just waiting to apply for positions. On the contrary, my school (one of the top middle schools in our district) often struggles to fill positions with qualified, competent teachers. Even we have to scrape the barrel sometimes. Because no matter what, 900 kiddos are showing up the first day of school to fill our main building and our 19 portables… We had better have someone at the front of the room when they arrive.

How do you think our poorer, struggling schools do attracting quality, competent teachers? They can’t and don’t.

Is this not a problem in other parts of the country as well?


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