Rosenthal: Charter schools aren’t the answer

Published 2:42 pm Friday, November 25, 2016

Charter schools are back in the media mainly because of a political change in Frankfort. The governor wants to replace failing schools with private or, to use another name, “charter” schools.

Being an advocate for students, I want “charter schools” to be the answer for all students but as an educator, I can see that this is not going to be the remedy. Why do I think this?

For one, we have had private schools for decades and those who want to attend have that “choice” if they want as scholarships are available. These schools have hired some public school retirees who still have certifications and other certified personnel who want to teach there because they have children there or are a part of the religious order in some instances.

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The point here is the teachers must be certified so they must come out of the public workforce. Why do we think that these same public teachers are going to teach differently and increase achievement in another school?

Secondly, the core curriculum that is in the public schools and is another political issue up for elimination would not be used in these schools. In education circles, most think that what you teach is not as important as how you teach.  In this case, however, if you leave the curriculum up to the teacher then learning can be inequitable by grades and preparation for post-secondary can be disjointed.

The core adopted by this state is aligned to standards and clearly tells the teacher what should be taught but does not tell the teacher how to teach it. It clearly makes for uniformity in teaching and sets high standards for learning.

Now, lets talk about what causes the “failing schools”to have such low achievement when they are using certified teachers to teach the “common core.” I am now going away from the teachers and addressing the student needs. Most of these schools are “high poverty” schools. That means that the students attending these schools have probably had little to no preschool experience and because of poverty have very little life experience.

Additionally, some of these students also come from diverse populations where “English is a second language” and are unable to read and write in English.

So, how do the schools meet the needs of  varying backgrounds and cultures and still achieve at the same level as a school that has students who have had experiences and do not have the everyday needs?  It will not happen.

These schools start off with achievement inequities when students are not ready to start school. Then, their basic needs are not always met so the school becomes the provider as well as the teacher. Other schools leave out that part and can devote their time to just teaching and learning.

The remedy may not be to add private schools but just restructure the ones that are already there. You could set the poverty level for each school to a certain number and readjust the student populations to meet that guideline. This would diversify each school with an attempt to equalize the poverty. The teachers would be reassigned to other schools with the years and experience as an indicator with the outcome being an equal amount of experience and inexperienced teachers in each school.

Finally, public educators have always been accused of using poverty as an excuse for low achievement. The truth is in the statistics within each county and within this state. Public schools welcome any student regardless of income, intelligence or nationality.  We try to teach to those who misbehave, have poor attendance or don’t want to learn. We nurture and support all who enter our doors. We are the surrogate parents for all children.

Pat Rosenthal is a retired school administrator from Clark County.