25.5.15

STOP ENABLING THE DYSFUNCTION.

Writing for The Progressive, Peter Greene complains that charter schools and children left behind go together.
The charter doesn't have better teachers. In many cases the charter doesn't have a single pedagogical technique or instructional program that is a bit different from its public school counterparts. What it has is a concentration of students who are supported, committed, and capable.

Those students are able to rise because the school, like the pilot of a hot air balloon, has shed the ballast, the extra weight that is holding them down. It's left behind, abandoned. There's no plan to go back for it, rescue it somehow. Just cut it loose. Let it go. Out of sight, out of mind. We dump those students in a public school, but we take the supplies, the resources, the money, and send it on with the students we've decided are Worth Saving.

This may be why the charter model so often involves starting over in another school—because the alternative would be to stay in the same school and tell Those Students, the ones without motivation or support or unhindered learning tools, to get out. As those students were sent away so that strivers could succeed, it would just be too obvious that we are achieving success for some students by discarding others.
Once upon a time, schools, even in rough neighborhoods, made an attempt to instill the life-management skills of the middle class, and the incorrigibles were properly so identified and packed off to the reformatory.  And yes -- I have more reading on this subject to report upon -- you'd still find more than a few middle-class people in the rough neighborhoods.  Are the people in the rough neighborhoods better off now that the prosperous people have started over in another school that comes bundled with a posh subdivision and that the neighborhood is mostly full of the Distressed Material that Mr Greene is referring to as "ballast?"

3 comments:

Jeff said...

Greene's piece left me wondering: How is his argument (such as it is) against charter schools not also an argument against, say, Stuyvesant High School or similarly selective public schools? He may very well be against those sorts of schools; it's just that I can't recall seeing many arguments like this one before the current wave of successful charters, even though plenty of schools were already guilty of the precise sins that charters supposedly commit...

Stephen Karlson said...

I bet the argument is out there somewhere. Sometime I should post on what happened to the old Trade and Technical High School for Boys in Milwaukee, which went from serious trade school to a joke inside of 40 years. You are familiar, no doubt, with the assertion in "progressive" policy circles that if you're rich and your kids go to the likes of a Sidwell Friends or they live in Winnetka that you're also undermining the common schools.

Jeff said...

Indeed I am—but curiously, here in a neighborhood that's only a mile or so from Sidwell, the arguments against private schools went from somewhat muffled to profoundly silent sometime around late 2008 or early 2009. Funny, that...