Education Vital Signs: Charters & Vouchers
Education Vital Signs collection of reports on Administration.
Plan for the Best
Parents leaving for charter schools are not all anti-public education, anti-social, or driven by religion. They do want attendance stability, relevant education, less politics and board infighting, and more beneficial programs development instead of change for the sake of change. They want less uncertainty from poor planning.
Follow the Money
Two decades ago, not a single penny of taxpayer money was spent on charter schools. This year, public funding for charters will run into the billions of dollars. ASBJ looks at where the money comes from and its growing influence on education reform.
The Voucher Revival
Pro-voucher organizations make no secret of (or apology for) their push to break up what they call public school monopolies and give parents more choices about where to send their children to school. In several states, school board members are banding together to fight state budget cuts and privatization.
Who Chooses Charter Schools?
In years past, many affluent urban families fled to the suburbs. Now, those families still left behind seek their own means to escape troubled schools, and charters are a viable option. Nationwide, at least one in five students is enrolled in a charter school in 20 communities, mostly urban.
Traditional Schools Serve All Who Come
At Woodrow Wilson, one of two comprehensive high schools in New Jersey’s poorest city, almost one out of every three students is classified as having special needs. That’s just one indication of the tremendous challenges Wilson faces, and it’s emblematic of the problems confronting thousands of urban high schools that have long struggled to keep students from dropping out.
Magnets Lost in the Shuffle
Lessons we have learned from magnet schools have implications for all districts interested in designing student assignment policies that pursue diversity. Any system of choice in a stratified, unequal society like ours can exacerbate inequality and segregation, but the race-neutral structures magnets promote can be used to help maintain diversity.
Magnet School History
Magnet schools were seen as a means to draw white families back to racially homogenous inner-city schools. Failed, costly attempts at large-scale reform, combined with a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing race as a sole factor in admission decisions, have moved magnets to the sidelines of the school choice conversation.
The Next Generation of Learning
While initially a novelty, K-12 educational opportunities in the virtual world Second Life are gaining heft, crystallizing into formal courses, and in some cases, even offering high school students the opportunity to earn college credit. Educators are quickly discovering that virtual reality offers learning opportunities that simply do not exist in the everyday world.
The Role of Online Schools in Choice
The Internet’s impact still does not reach down into as many classrooms as it could. Virtual learning can be a rich, engaging, and highly personalized learning environment encompassing everything from frequent phone calls with the instructor to collaborative work projects with fellow students, to real-time learning through webinars and instant messaging.
Private School Pressures
This year’s economic downturn has hit Roman Catholic and private schools where many already were suffering – in the pocketbook. Catholic schools remain heavily tuition-dependent; the days when priests and nuns comprised their staffs are long gone. And, for the first time, some Catholic schools in hard-hit urban areas are turning into charter schools to survive.
Charting a Course for Charter Schools
There’s a tension in our education system between two things we desire: school choice and leaving no child behind. A civic approach to charters would help ensure that the first of these goals contributes to the second.
The Evolution of School Choice
All along, supporters have argued that school choice – competition – would pressure low-performing public schools to respond with better programs and improved services. Not everything went according to plan. A series of reports has concluded that issues of convenience, transportation, and available classroom space in better-performing schools are formidable obstacles to real choice.
Five Big Questions
Recent events, combined with the shrill rhetoric on both sides of the choice debate, could tempt school board members and administrators to dismiss charters, along with their motives, their potential, and their growing importance in public education. That would be a big mistake, because the more credible voices in the charter community raise legitimate critiques and challenges that school leaders ignore at their peril. Here are five big questions (and many smaller ones) your board should ask before authorizing a charter school.
Heart of the City
Though the atmosphere at the Russell Byers Charter School is lively, it is far from chaotic. From the extra-wide classroom windows that let in abundant sunlight to the gleaming blue and white floors, the school is an oasis of peace in the middle of Center City Philadelphia. You would never guess it was born from a senseless act of violence.
Vouchers, Choice, and Controversy
Are school vouchers a good idea? Opinions remain divided as a judge strikes down Colorado's statewide program.
Vouchers, Charters, and School Choice: Just Another Case of History Repeating?
After a while, long-standing controversies assume a predictable pattern. Take, for example, school choice. Groups supporting choice push to bring other educational options to the public schools. Groups protecting the tenets of public education decry those options. Proponents and researchers for both sides wrangle. Local and state candidates base their platforms on the “pro” or “no” side of the movement, and legislation is noisily debated. Litigation follows, and the political hue and cry continues.
Charters, 10 Years In
Despite hundreds of studies, policy papers, and articles on charter schools, it's déjà vu all over again. The problems that plagued charters in the early '90s—funding, administration, facilities, staffing, governance—still plague them today. The worries charter school opponents had a decade ago haven't disappeared either. Depending on your perspective, your assumptions, even the legislation in the state you're looking at, things are either half-empty or half-full when it comes to the reform's success.
The Voucher Decision
By the slimmest of margins, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a historic decision upholding the constitutionality of school vouchers. The high court's 5-4 ruling in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris marks a fundamental change in the debate. Rather than a legal dispute to be resolved by the courts, the voucher debate is now, for the most part, a political controversy to be resolved by legislatures.
The Cyber Charter Challenge
Cyber charters, like their brick-and-mortar brethren, are a curious amalgam of home schools, for-profit companies, and public school districts that cater to parents seeking a choice. Where they differ from traditional charters is in their reach—across district boundaries, from one end of a state to another—and their approach. “It’s kind of the ultimate unschool—we don’t know what they’re doing,” said Stuart Knade, general counsel for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA). “They’re experimenting with kids’ lives on the public dollar.”