In the midst of the school closures debate, there is also a significant amount of chatter around charter schools, because, despite the argument that schools are closing because there is no money, new charter schools will be built to replace many of the closed schools. This situation begs the question: Why not just keep the old schools open?
If you take away the private interests, there's a reason people like charters, and that's because when they started, they were making pretty good progress with the students. People started to take notice and wanted to expand these types of schools. What people forgot to realize is that education isn't a business. In business when you see something great that is local, you want to bring it to others, and that means beginning to mass-produce it.
Mass-production starts out okay, but then eventually the end-product, workers, and consumers begin to suffer because everything becomes about profit. In the end, the bell curve effect happens, and the product starts being average at best. That's why charter schools aren't achieving as well now as they did when they started. There's so many in place now that they are starting to face the same problems regular public schools have. Yet, are they regular schools?
Ben Joravsky, of the Chicago Reader, said that charters schools should be compared to magnets. I disagree with this idea, but not entirely. Magnets are taking the cream of the crop of all of Chicago, and many magnet high school students come from private elementary schools. Neighborhood charters aren't getting the cream of the crop of the neighborhood they are in because those few kids are probably getting into and attending the magnets. However, charters are getting the next level of kids in the neighborhood: The ones who aren't getting into the magnets, but who have parents who wish their children could go to a 'better' school.
Those are the parents who are going to bother to find out that there's a new school in the neighborhood, what that school is offering, and what's the process to being accepted. At least, that's what was happening when charters first started. Back when they weren't being mass produced. Now that they are everywhere, that means they are accepting a larger portion of the neighborhood population, and the effects that charters were championed with having are quickly fading away.
That's why teachers fight against charters and for control of their classrooms. The end product of a charter isn't that different from a regular public school, but, at least there, students and teachers, not profit, are the main focus of the administration. High-stakes testing is also mass-produced, and no matter what, some kids are going to fail, because the results have to fit the bell curve and no one respects a test that everyone passes. Less testing and control of their classrooms means going back to that local is better idea where the product, a child's education, can be hand-crafted and of high quality the way it should be, instead of mass produced and of deteriorating quality.
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