Twenty years ago Governor Pataki bundled a salary increase with a charter school law in a lame duck session of the state legislature. Has the law achieved its purposes? (See NYS Charter School Law here).
The law established two authorizers, the State Education Department and SUNY. The State Education Department created Charter School Frameworks. (See Charter School Frameworks here)
The charter school law requires charters schools to:
* Improve student learning and achievement;
*Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk of academic failure;
*Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;
* Provide schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results.
Again, have charter schools achieved the goals established in the law?
The law sets a cap on the number of charter schools in the state which includes a cap for New York City; the cap has been reached in New York City.
There are two categories of charter schools: network school, organizations that manage groups of charter schools, functioning, in effect, as school districts. For example, Success Academy, Achievement First,, Uncommon Schools,, Harlem Children’s Zone; the network charter schools are richly funded through philanthropy.
Community charter schools, sometimes referred to as “Mom and Pop” schools; schools operated by local not-for-profits, schools that clearly have struggled. frequently not meeting the goals in their charter.
A few years ago I was at a forum; a public school parent and a charter school parent were involved in a discussion. The public school parent was arguing,
”Charter schools, throw out kids who are discipline problems, don’t take kids with disabilities and English language learner and substitute test prep for meaningful instruction.”
The charter school parent responded, “That’s exactly why I send my children to charter schools.”
We need one school system, not competing systems,
Again, have charter schools achieved the goals set out in the law?
*Do charter schools, “Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk of academic failure?”
Have charter schools *Encourage(d) the use of different and innovative teaching methods?
Have charter schools “Provide(d) schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results?
The answer, clearly, is “no.”
If we define “students who are at risk of academic failure” as students with disabilities and English language learners the answer of a resounding “no.” Charter schools enroll smaller numbers of at-risk students and try to accept students with easier to remediate handicaps,
There is no evidence of “innovative teaching methods.”
And, I fail to understand what change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results means: all schools must meet “measurable student achievement results.”
What should happen to charter schools?
Inside the Department of Education there are 150 schools “managed” by charter management-like organization (CMO), a remnant of the last years of the Bloomberg administration, called the Affinity District. Six not-for-profits provide the same level of services as the charter school management organizations supra, or more. New Visions for Public Schools, the Urban Assembly, CUNY Affinity Schools, Outward Bound, Internationals Network and NY Performance Consortium.
Norm Fruchter at the MY Metro Center wrote in detail about the origins and function o.f the Affinity District (Read here
The UFT contract allows for school-based options, changes in Department regulations and teacher union contractual requirements and a union initiative, PROSE (Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence), supports these schools.
PROSE is about school-level innovations. It offers schools the ability to alter some of the most basic parameters by which they function including the way teachers are hired, evaluated and supported; the way students and teachers are programmed; the handling of grievances; and certain city and state regulations. Schools in the program explore and implement a variety of innovations at their schools.
I propose that Charter School Networks be combined with the Affinity District within the Department of Education umbrella.
The Community Charter schools can either join an Affinity Network or come under the jurisdiction of their local school district.
Charter schools in New York City would become part of the Department of Education, albeit with a special status and the ability to function under the relaxed rules currently existing in the Affinity District and the PROSE initiative.
I realize a heavy lift, a new mayor cannot simply nibble around the edges, the 1800 schools in New York City have been adrift for too long.
We need smaller, “thinner,” more manageable districts, with an emphasis on school and district-based decision-making.
Merging Charter networks and the Affinity networks would be a model for other schools,
How can we accomplish this giant step?
The new mayor, the winner of the June 22nd primary cannot wait until the November general election, s/he can form a commission as soon as the are they are declared the winner: teacher (UFT) and supervisory unions (CSA), parent advocates and the “better minds,” (I hate the term “thought leaders”), not a long list, an actual working group, let’s come up with a plan, a plan that will require changing the law. The Democrats control both houses of the state legislature.
The Research Alliance for New York School has just released a Blueprint for Advancing Equity in New York City Schools that can guide the work of the commission.
Our current mayor failed us, he used education as a political tool, and failed miserably, lets use the month before the new mayor takes office to create a new Department of Education in New York City