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How do you feel about charter schools?

post #1 of 124
Thread Starter 

Do you have charter schools in your area? Do you like them? What are the public schools in your area like? Do you feel like the charter schools in your area hurt the public schools in your area or complement them?

 

I generally feel fairly positive about charters because the ones I know of in our area — schools where some kids I know go — seem pretty good to me. Recently, though, I've learned about a new charter school that is trying to get started in our district and it would be run by an out of state for-profit company. I'm pretty liberal-leaning politically but now I'm reading a lot of comments from folks identifying as liberals who are opposed to charter schools in general and especially this one that would have the for-profit company behind it. The feeling is that it would siphon off tax dollars that could be better used in our district. There aren't many charter schools in our district (a couple of alternative high schools) and the charters I spoke of above that I'm familiar with are in neighboring districts. Our district is actually a very high performing district—a case could be made that it's the best system in the state—but there is an achievement gap between white students (who perform well above state averages) and minority students, particularly African American and Latino, who perform above state average, but not as high above average as whites.

 

I feel like charter schools can be a big benefit to individual students who need a little more specialized attention than they can get at public schools. My dd1 is a bit of a square peg and we have applied to a charter school in one of the neighboring districts for next year. It is not run by an out of state for profit company. It offers small classrooms and an arts and environmental emphasis. It's on a river and they have canoeing/kayaking as part of their PE program. They offer art and music, but no organized sports (not a problem for my kid). They offer foreign languages including Japanese and I really think it will be a great fit for my quirky kid. We were at a small crunchy private school prior to this year at public school just because dd1 really needed a small flexible environment. She does not do well in a highly structured environment (has a tendency to anxiety and a flexible approach works better for her). This year we've been at our local public school and while it's been okay she's struggling in areas that she hasn't before and is having some difficulty adapting to the rigidity that seems to be necessary for a public school to run efficiently. I hope she gets in the charter for middle school next year. 

 

However, the case the folks opposed to charters seem to be taking is that by siphoning off the tax dollars and often the best/brightest students, or the students being underserved (in this case primarily the AA students) the charters serve to undermine the public school system. I'm not liking the idea of a for-profit company benefiting from my tax dollars—I can get behind opposing that—but I'm not clear about the reasons for opposing charter schools in general. I can see first hand how a charter school would benefit my quirky kid. I've not considered the tax and funding issues in depth before and I'm wondering if there are things I'm missing, or if there are things the opponents are missing.

 

I got an email today requesting I sign a petition to oppose this new charter and I'm just not sure about all that. Would love to hear MDC's thoughts on charters in general.

 

post #2 of 124

I am a fan of charter schools, not personal experience yet because my oldest isn't in middle school yet. I don't think I would place a for-profit charter school in the same category though.... We live rurally in a small town, if you are a square peg then it can be very difficult, there are minimal options. There are 2 private schools that go through 8th grade, we are currently enrolled in one, 1 brand new charter middle school, and 1 charter high schools. Only one do I count as a "real" charter. They are independent, the other one the high school started in response to a charter school coming in and getting students. We only have 1 regular public high school anyway and the charter schools are small. The charter middle school only opened this school year and went to lottery before they ever had a building. There are only 56 seats per grade, the high school is similar. My oldest child is in 3rd grade, we have 4 kids and can't pay for private forever and even if we could, there is no place to go after 8th grade besides public. DD1 is severely dyslexic, and the regular public schools have a horrid track record with dyslexic students, they have been sued numerous time because of the accommodations that they do not provide. If you are a regular kid then they would be fine. We are frantically working on volunteer hours right now and hope to have them completed by this summer in order to get one of the few slots for her age group. All other volunteer slots for 4th grade and up are long gone so we are on a time crunch now. I don't want to take my chance with the lottery. By the time, the slots go to lottery, there are less then 40 left and who knows how many students trying to get one of them. Not good odds IMO. 

 

At least in my area, because there are minimal schooling options, the kids that are in the charter schools are there because they needed something more. The parents were not happy with the public schools. The charter schools are heavy on technology and are projected based learning, which does work well with different types of students. Gifted or students like my DD1. The charter high school which is in it's 3rd year, it already ranked in the top 8% of schools in our state, and for being in the middle of nowhere, that is excellent! 

post #3 of 124

My two children attend a STEM charter. It's not part of any local school district and is run by a non-profit established to support the schools (about 40). The school targets under-served populations but anyone can attend within a certain radius. Last year over 900 students applied for the lottery for just our school.

 

We live a large high-performing district, in a new neighborhood with new schools--they type of neighborhood where people people say "oh, you live there" (most of the first houses built were out of our price range; we live in a section with more "reasonable" prices). Ds' old elementary school was huge (600 students) and really overwhelming for him but we probably wouldn't have considered leaving just for that; it was how the school treated him (long story) that caused us to look elsewhere.

 

Our charter is a Title I school (ds' former school wasn't). The K-12 population is about the same as ds' former elementary school; class size is the same. The special education program is working well for us--their eyes nearly popped out of their heads when I told them what ds' K experience was like. The atmosphere is friendlier (parents and staff) and we feel more comfortable here; ds (ADHD, Aspergers) has had two really wonderful teachers and the elementary principle is great as well. Ds definitely tends more toward "geek" and fits in better at the charter.

 

I'm thankful that this option was there when we needed it.

 

RAND Study: Charter Schools Don't Hurt Traditional Schools ...

 

post #4 of 124

Our county has tons of charter schools. Some are fantastic. Others are not so fantastic. Throughout the county, there are some fantastic public schools and some not fantastic public schools. It's district to district, campus to campus really.

 

We have one charter branch that began with business leaders and funded in large by Bill Gates in the beginning. These leaders felt that while their applicants came in with college degrees, they did not have the skills nor creativity to really function in todays industry. It's a Charter school and thus open to all children in the county for free. It's now 1 elementary, 3 middle schools and 5 high schools in 3 different locations. They are fantastic schools with thousands of families playing the lottery for admittance each year. It's a project based school that manages children of all ability levels very well without GATE, AP, HONORS and all that. Their graduates go to top universities including those coming from districts where the average level of kids even attending a 4 year university after graduation is low. It was an idea born from business people, not educators and it was a really good idea.

 

I think you'd need to do more research. A for-profit company doesn't mean they will actually be making money off the school. They could be filling a gap they see in a charitable fashion. It could be they have opened other schools in other states... check them out. They could be really fantastic or at least cater to a population ignored by the public school system. Yes, it "sounds" bad that a for-profit wants to open a school but that doesn't mean it IS bad. 

post #5 of 124

I'm mixed. There are very good charters with an innovative approach that are doing great work. There are lousy, badly run and financed charters which are a disgrace. We are in a big urban district with terrible public schools and I am so SO grateful to be sending my kids kids to an excellent charter school next year.

 

I am totally opposed to for-profit schools. Charter schools have even less money than public schools because they generally have to pay rent of some sort. Our charter school has a deficit of $3000 per child per year to make up to give them the level of funding they need. For profit schools are theives.

post #6 of 124

Hmm... I have never heard of a for-profit charter school. I'm trying to even figure out how a "for-profit" would work, since, as a PP mentioned, most charters run with deficits that are made up through fundraising and other charitable contributions. I know that most charters receive public funds, and I also can't figure out how public funds could be given to a for-profit organization. So I would definitely worry about that aspect.

 

As far as my personal experience with charters - I taught at one for two years. It was part of a large and growing charter network. I saw both good and bad things there. There were some students it was great for, others it was not. At the particular school system I taught in, their ability to accommodate SPED students was close to nil. I would never, ever, EVER send a SPED student to the schools I worked for. On the other hand, students gifted in math and science did great there, and didn't get beat up for being nerds. I think it was also a decent place for average students, but not a good place for below-average students who needed remediation. Again, though, that was my particular school system. I know there are other charters focused especially on helping low-performing students, or SPED students, and I know some of them are great. Our school had a specific math/science focus (though I have some complaints about the time allotted to science relative to other things, as a science teacher!), but other charters focus on other areas. I do think that GOOD charters fill an important gap that districts can't or won't fill, and I honestly don't think they're hurting the funding of regular public schools. Regular public schools still have far more funding than charter schools, anyway. I do understand the need/desire to fix public school districts, but I don't really agree that the answer is shutting down any sort of competition. And we've been trying to fix public school systems for years - pouring money in has not been the answer. If you haven't seen it, I'd definitely consider watching Waiting for Superman for some insights into the public/charter dilemma. I just watched it a few months ago, and it was pretty eye-opening for me.

post #7 of 124

 

 

Quote:
Hmm... I have never heard of a for-profit charter school. I'm trying to even figure out how a "for-profit" would work, since, as a PP mentioned, most charters run with deficits that are made up through fundraising and other charitable contributions. I know that most charters receive public funds, and I also can't figure out how public funds could be given to a for-profit organization. So I would definitely worry about that aspect.

welcome to PA!

 

we don't (so they say-per law) allow it - we do allow them to RUN THEM! - http://virtualschooling.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/problem-with-cyber-charter-schools-pa-nj-edition/

 

Philadelphia has had lots of problems with them

 

most of our charter schools also are not living up to the hipe and the score show it

 

 

post #8 of 124

Well, that's two new things for me today - I've never heard of cyber charter schools, either. Though I'm deeply suspicious of cyber schools of any stripe - it's impossible to prove who is actually doing the work, and my experience with online learning is that it's also difficult to present quality instruction in an online setting.

post #9 of 124

 cyber schools are all the rage here!

 

don't want to go - go cyber! no- problem! it's really getting big

 

 

--not to mention one of the GOP and his "little" cyber school troubles!!

post #10 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyscience View Post

Well, that's two new things for me today - I've never heard of cyber charter schools, either. Though I'm deeply suspicious of cyber schools of any stripe - it's impossible to prove who is actually doing the work, and my experience with online learning is that it's also difficult to present quality instruction in an online setting.



Actually, virtual schools are pretty popular and successful here. You are correct in that they aren't all created equal. Not all are equivalent to the challenge a quality teacher could provide. However, there are good programs and high performing students that thrive in them. Our high school districts have a virtual system that can be taken full time at home or part-time on campus in addition to traditional schooling. There are a few charter virtual schools. They are pretty strictly managed and require students to come in for exams and to go over progress regularly, tabulate their time spent logged in, have real teachers available during school hours, have written work graded by real teachers ect. My youngest does his math online AT school with a teacher supervisor. It allows him to move at an accelerated pace which he needs. He takes the same exams the other students in the traditional setting and still does as well on them as their top students. 

 

I think it is wise to fully check out a program before enrolling your child but I just wanted to share that there are virtual schools that can offer a strong education.

 

post #11 of 124
Thread Starter 

The proposed school would be run by this outfit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Heritage_Academies who run 70 other schools across the country. I don't know much about them at all which is why I'm asking about it.

 

I really didn't know there was as much opposition to charter schools as I'm hearing. I know that some people think they are the answer to all our public education problems which I think is probably short-sighted, but I just didn't realize that some people are opposed to the idea of charter schools in general. Many of the comments I've read are from people I generally consider to be thorough and thoughtful. I'm having a little trouble wrapping my head around the general opposition and wondering what I'm missing. I'm wondering if it's just the for-profit company behind the school, or if people who are opposed to charter schools think they are hurting the public schools, or if it's that people opposed might be offended that other people in the community feel like OUR school system isn't good enough and we need a charter school to solve our achievement gap (again, well above state average scores for white students and merely above state average for AA/Latino), or a combination of the above and other factors, too. 

 

I guess I'm wondering if there's any evidence for charters actually hurting public systems. It doesn't seem like it would be an issue in our community because our schools are so strong (people move here for the schools), but maybe there is evidence for harm in other less robust systems? Our school system is small, with only 3 main high schools (and then the two alternative high schools, one charter vocational, and the other is the system's high school for troubled kids and not actually a charter as I thought). We don't have any magnets like some larger systems do, but our schools offer tons of advanced and AP courses across the board in high school, and dual language and immersion programs (Spanish and Mandarin) in elementary school. 

post #12 of 124

 

 

Quote:
I really didn't know there was as much opposition to charter schools as I'm hearing. I know that some people think they are the answer to all our public education problems which I think is probably short-sighted, but I just didn't realize that some people are opposed to the idea of charter schools in general. Many of the comments I've read are from people I generally consider to be thorough and thoughtful. I'm having a little trouble wrapping my head around the general opposition and wondering what I'm missing. I'm wondering if it's just the for-profit company behind the school, or if people who are opposed to charter schools think they are hurting the public schools, or if it's that people opposed might be offended that other people in the community feel like OUR school system isn't good enough and we need a charter school to solve our achievement gap (again, well above state average scores for white students and merely above state average for AA/Latino), or a combination of the above and other factors, too. 

 

 

personally I feel you should research what is happening in other area and WHY others feel the way they do

 

from what has happened in my state - NO WAY, NO HOW!

 

I don't think it "helps" the public schools- I have seen nothing to suggest that it does- does it hurt it---sure does here! Main reason- so many think it is the answer they can't grasp that it might not be.

 

It's definitely a combination of many different things that cause me to feel this way - from the management to the lack there of, from the numerous hands in the pie ($) to the down right lack of real educational principle being applied. This doesn't work therefor doing this "must" attitude - not to mention, the real political motivation (at least in my state) to prove, no matter what- that it just great (at all costs!). Not like my state has great PS - we have major testing issues (that are being investigated) to the mentality of just keep throwing money at administrators (not teachers) and somehow that will do some "magic". It should be noted my state has so little mandates as it is- that really is an issue unto it self. 

 

post #13 of 124

I'm also a bit ambiguous about them in general. I definitely see some good ones near us. The single charter high school in our district is excellent. We looked at a couple of the elementary schools with programs we liked. The problem for us is that our district implemented feeder patterns, which will send kids from a specific elementary to a specific middle school and then high school. The charter school parents are upset because they have to go through the selection process and want special assignments. (Because they don't have middle and high schools, they don't have a feeder and would be treated the same as traditional students who want a new school, people new to the district, homeschoolers entering the public school system.) It seems to me that they opted out of the traditional public school system but now want the privilege of being part of it. I think that kind of attitude adds to the idea that charter parents are arrogant or selfish. Of course, we're going to a magnet school next year, and we've heard the same comments about upper middle-class white people supporting magnet schools - which are in predominantly low-income, black neighborhoods - because they get to feel "special" by sending their kids. Maybe it's a no-win situation...

post #14 of 124

 

 

Quote:
It seems to me that they opted out of the traditional public school system but now want the privilege of being part of it.

this can also be a problem when it comes to special needs students - another reason I do not favor it here - we simply are not equipped to offer to all what they could and should get at the PS level 

post #15 of 124

Beanma, based on what you've written here, I'm almost certain I'm in your school district. I have mixed feelings about charter schools in general, probably too mixed to articulate very well here, but overall I'm opposed to them, at least in a district like ours that's doing well.  There is an achievement gap, but I think it needs to be addressed through the existing public schools.  A charter school isn't going to change things, especially a for profit one.  I think the NAACP is even opposed to it.  

 

I know there are some areas of the country with some miserably failing schools where charters have helped a lot of kids that are fortunate enough to get into them.  But then I think about the kids who didn't get in. What happens to them? It just seems like the focus should be on fixing the schools for everyone not creating some great opportunity for a handful of kids. They just seem divisive.

 

If you have the time and a Netflix account, The Lottery is a good documentary about the issue.  It's pretty pro charter, but really interesting and pretty heartbreaking. 

 

 

post #16 of 124

 

 

Quote:
 But then I think about the kids who didn't get in. What happens to them? It just seems like the focus should be on fixing the schools for everyone not creating some great opportunity for a handful of kids. They just seem divisive.

 

 

that sums up how I feel - I don't need to use the PS or a charter, private etc but I do need to live in a society with others that have used the system and mostly that is PS and if they real PUSH (be it $$ etc) is not for the masses in the long run we all fail

post #17 of 124

I certainly wonder about all the kids that don't get it. Look at my family, in a frenzy to lock in a 6th grade slot when my oldest child is in 3rd grade because I feel like we have no other options. Never thought I'd be this way, and then I had a child that would fail miserably in our local PS. This charter school at least opens up an option. We are doing our volunteer hours, only 20 down of a total of 75. Only family or friends can do the hours, if you pay someone to do them, you get kicked out. That limits it to families that have the time to give. Granted I live in a rural western, mountain town, white is the majority by far. Our demographics are entirely different then that of a city. 

post #18 of 124

I'm not a fan of charters, but it may just be how they operate here.

 

We have lots of for-profit charters with lovely high test scores.

 

And they run kids out who cannot keep up the pace.

 

The deal here is that people put there kids in them because they have high scores, but to maintain the high scores they work the kid to death and gently push kids/families away who need extra time or energy or are never going to test well. Nothing overt enough for a law suit -- just enough misery that the child/family finds another option.

 

Then the for-profit charters brag about how much better they are doing with less money.

 

The whole thing makes me want to vomit.

 

(I'm sure there are lovely charters in other cities)

post #19 of 124
Thread Starter 

AbbyGrant, I know folks who are very happy with the charter elementary in the neighboring town to the east and also the K-12 charter in the county to the south. The charter elementary seems like a great place and has an education philosophy that is project-based and child-centered. The K-12 school operates on a core knowledge curriculum and is more of a traditional academic environment. We looked at it, but I don't think it would be great for my kid who needs a lot of flexibility, etc., but I did like the small overall size of the school and the fact that it's k-12. Of course, the public school systems in those counties don't have the great rep that ours does. 

 

For my kid, I don't know that there's anything the traditional public schools could do to meet her needs. There's not a "fix" that needs to happen—it's just a question of "fit". I don't really have a problem with our schools and will keep dd2 (2nd grade this year) there at least thru 5th grade, but public school for dd1 would have been a disaster when she was younger and I have some serious misgivings about middle school and dd1 (although we're districted for a great one). If she gets in the arts/environmental charter north of town we'll do that, but if not we'll try out middle school. I'm glad she's had this year at a traditional public school, especially if we do have to go to traditional public middle school, but I think there are kids (like her) who just don't do well in that larger environment and it's not necessarily the fault of the school. It's not about teacher-student ratio, but just the larger environment as a whole.

 

To me it's similar to some students opting to go to a big state school of 30,000 for college and some opting for a small college with only 1,000 students. I went to the big state school for college, but my DH chose the small school and his college had less kids than his high school. Similarly, some people do great in a job at a big organization (like a state university, or Microsoft, or the Army) and some people do better running their own Mom & Pop operation. It doesn't seem unreasonable to expect that some students would do well in a big system (where there are lots of sports opportunities, and orchestra, and many different foreign language offerings, lots of AP classes, etc) and some students would do well in a small environment that might not have all the perks of the big schools, but has more neighborliness and "where everybody knows your name". 

 

I don't think it has to be divisive. I actually know folks who tried out the cool seeming charter elementary in the town to the east and decided it wasn't a good fit for them and opted to go to their local public school instead and they've been very happy there. They have a high-achieving child, too, so it's definitely not a matter of the charter school siphoning out the best and brightest in that case. 

 

I think if you have an awesome public school system (like we do for the most part) then the people who choose the charter (or really, private school or homeschooling, too) are going to be people for whom the awesome public school just isn't a great fit. I wish my kid could do well in our local public schools. I think there are some great programs there, but I just think it wouldn't be a good fit. I love the programs I hear about that they do like building biodiesel reactor a few years ago. 

 

I really feel like we need to make the public schools the best they can be and also have other options. One size just doesn't fit all.

 

What I'm wondering, though, is if there's something going on with financing and taxation that I don't understand that causes charters to hurt public schools. I just feel like I don't know enough about the inner workings to understand. From a parental perspective I definitely have my own opinions on what is good for my individual kids, but I'm not sure I have a good grasp on the larger picture.

post #20 of 124

 

 

Quote:
What I'm wondering, though, is if there's something going on with financing and taxation that I don't understand that causes charters to hurt public schools.

 

start by asking this directly to your local state rep and see what you get and check the sources for this info - your state should give you a break down on where the funding is coming from and your local tax agency should also give you information - most seems to be only if you ask

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