Charter versus Public Charter Schools versus Public Schools CIS 601 October 9, 2012
2Charter versus Public Abstract Twenty years ago, the charter school idea was put forth by education reformersas a way to cure the failing public school system. The debate between charter schoolsand traditional public schools has escalated,while most states have adopted charterschool legislation allowing for the creation of these schools. Now after years of study,the evidence suggests that the promise of innovation, accountability, and increasedperformance of all schools, charter and traditional public, through competition has notbeen achieved.
3Charter versus Public Charter Schoolsversus Public Schools Introduction One of the most significant and controversial developments in education in theUnited States is the charter school movement (Weil,2000,p. 1). A group of progressivesand conservatives in Minnesota in 1991 came together to propose and pass the firststate charter school legislation (Lubienski & Weitzel, 2010, p. 1).By 1998, more than1,100 charter schools were created and 250,000 students were being educated (Weil,2000, p. 1).That number had grown to 3,000 charter schools in 37 states plus theDistrict of Columbia and Puerto Rico by 2004 withan approximate enrollment of 750,000students(NEA, 2012). Currently, there are 5,741 charter schools operating in 41 statesplus the District of Columbia. In the past decade, 2,000,000 students have beeneducated (NCSI, 2012). According to the U.S. Department of Education (2010), charter schools employan estimated 72,000 teachers. As the popularity of the charter school conceptcontinues to grow, so does the opportunity for teachers to choose in what type ofenvironment they would like to teach. Proponents claim charter schools will put an endto an era of public school mediocrity that is filled with top heavy educationalbureaucracy and administration. Also, they assert that charter schools will fostereducational innovation, parent and student involvement, and raise educationalstandards by providing competition amongst themselves and with public schools (Weil,2000, 1). Since the charter school versus public school battle is not going away in the nearfuture, new teachersneed to understandthe differences between these two types
4Charter versus Publicofpublic education. And if you are considering teaching in Nevada, you should beaware of the condition of charter schools in this state. Among the numerous issuessurrounding the debate of charter school versus public schools, the main claimsbycharter schoolsare that through innovation andaccountability charter school students willachieve better educational performance than traditional public school students. What is a charter school? Charter schools are a non-religious, elementary or secondary schools operatingunder a contract or “charter”. All the schools operational details like name, organization,management and curriculum are set by the charter. Since charters schools are publiclyfunded, they must have open enrollment, may not charge tuition, and must participate instate and federal testing and accountability programs (O’Brien & Dervarics,2010).However, they are free from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply toother public schools (NEA,2012). If the school does not meet the performance goalsset forth in its charter, the school’s charter may be revoked or not renewed.Each statedetermines its owncharter legislation and defines which public entity,known as theauthorizer, issues the charter. The state determines what rules must be adhered to,what rules may be waived, and what proceduresmust be followed to receive a charter(NVDoE, 2012). Although every state’s charter legislation is different, they all have the samebasic steps to creating a school.The first thing charter school developers must do is tothink about why they wish to start a school: the goals, the mission, the objectives andhow they will accomplish them.Next, they will need an organizing group with expertise incurriculum and instruction, community relations and marketing, finance, management,
5Charter versus Publicschool law, and a host of other functions. A plan will need to be drawn up with missionand vision statements, curricula overview, daily operation and governance descriptions,facility needs, and budgets.Approval for the school will then be granted or denied bythestate’s charter school authorizing agency (Weil, 2000, pp. 86-90). Charter schools are better than traditional public schools Charter schools have been endorsed by both sides of the political spectrum.President Barak Obama proclaimed May 6, 2012 – May 12, 2012 National CharterSchool Week stating, “… charter schools demonstrate what is possible when States,communities, teachers, parents, and students work together” (Obama, 2012). Moreprogressive politicians like President Obama, promote charter schools as a way tocreate innovative community based learning centers (Weil,2000, p. 2). His opponentMitt Romney is also a supporter of charter schools. As Governor of Massachusetts,when the 85% Democratic legislature passed a bill putting a moratorium on any newcharters, he vetoed the bill (Romney,2012). Conservatives, like Romney, admire thecharter idea as a way to avoid oppressive government regulation and operate with thenotion of competition and choice (Weil,2000, p. 2). Arguments in favor of charterschools all stem from the ever increasing frustration of parents, students, and teacherscombined with the public perception of a failing educational system. Proponents believecharter schools based on a combinationof innovation, instructional and managerial,accountability and market pressure will result in a higher quality of educationforstudents(Bulkley, 2012, p. 59). While charter schools are publicly funded and generally bound by state rules onacademic and testing standards, curricula and pedagogy may differ from traditional
6Charter versus Publicpublic schools. School founders, families of students attending the school, and privatefunding interests all have influence determining instructional approaches. This createsa diverse selection of charter schools whose emphasis may include, but not be limitedto, foreign language, technology, art or college preparation (Vergari, 2007, p. 19). A notable difference in the charter school versus public school debate is thatmany charter schools are associated with outside organizations which either manage orprovide support to the schools (Bulkley,2012, p. 60). New players in the publiceducation arena are attracted to meet the resource needs of these schools. This resultsin partnerships with community, for-profit, and faith-based organizations (Lubienski &Weitzel, 2010, p. 148). Charter school administration implements a site-based decision making modelrather than the bureaucratic school board and school district model. In most states, acharter school board may hire an outside company to operate a school,while somestates’ laws regulate membership on the charter school board (Vergari, 2007 p. 19). Charter schools claim to operate under higher levels of scrutiny; therefore,asserting enhanced accountability. Public accountingis derived from the charter itself.The school’s charter describes the academic results the school expects to achieveduring the term of its charter. When the contract term is up, the school’s authorizingagency reviews its progress according to the standards specified in the charter as wellas accompanying state standards. If a school fails to meet the terms of its contract thenthe authorizing agency is presumedto cancel or not renew the contract. Along withstudent performance, the authorizing agency also evaluates the schools performance
7Charter versus Publicbased on the management and fiscal policy terms stated in its charter (Weil, 2000, p.71). Charter school advocates argue real accountability is created by competitionbetween the schools. They say parents who know what’s best for their children willchoose schools that function properly. Also, the charter schools must continually attractand retain parents and students to preserve their funding and devotees believe thatparental choice will lead to low demand for weak schools (Bulkley, 2012, p. 61). Accountability applies to teachers and administrators as well. They stand tobenefit when a school is successful by keeping their jobs and working free fromexcessive regulation. Should the school perform poorly, they risk losing their jobs andpossibly their reputations (Hill & Lake, 2002, p. 7). Charter schools are no better than traditional public schools The innovation touted by charters schools appears to extend only as far as statelevel educational policy. Beyond that research has shown that charter schools are notmuch different than traditional public school in the classroom. The new and differentinstructional practices, which advocates conjectured would be developed, have failed tocome to fruition. Many charter schools have embraced basic curricular and pedagogicalpractices(Lubienski & Weitzel, 2010, p. 23). Traditional public school proponents criticize the charter school methods ofaccountability. They are concerned that charter school authorizers will be too lenient inallowing incompetent groups to obtain charters and continue to fund low performingschools (Hill & Lake, 2002, p. 10). These concerns appear to be substantiated as fewcharter schools have been closed because of poor academic performance. Most charter
8Charter versus Publicschool closures have occurred due to financial mismanagement or low enrollment(Heaggans,2006, p. 435). In her book, Where Charter School Policy Fails, Wells (2002) finds that charterschool proposals tend to be vague on accountability standards. It is also more difficultfor authorizing agenciesto cancel charters of politically popular schools. And, evidencenow shows that the vision of charter schools and their autonomy-for-accounting tradeoffnever occurred (p. 12). According to Sandra Vergari (2007), teacher certification rates, experience, andsalaries in charters schools lag those of teachers in traditional public schools (p. 25).Charter school teachers are less likely to hold a master’s degree and more likely toteach out of their subject area(Lubienski & Weitzel, 2010, p. 89, 127).Also, charterschools have a teacher and administrator attrition rate of 15% - 30% which leads toinstability in these types of schools (Lubienski & Weitzel, 2010, p. 89). The pro public school contingent will also argue that charter schools doirreparable financial harm to public schools. Public schools wind up with fewer dollarsto spend on education because money is diverted to charter schools. This reduction infunding will likely lead to worse academic performance and will strengthen the charterschool case (Heaggans,2006, p. 434). Another charge against charter school is their lack of stability. Of the 3000charter schools in operation in 2004, more-than one-third had been around for threeyears or less, while more than 400 charter schools had ceased operation between 1991and 2004(NEA, 2004).
9Charter versus Public Charter school versus public school performance As a group, charter schools have not performed better than public schools. In2004, the National Assessment Governing Board released an analysis of charter schoolperformance on The Nation’s Report Card for 2003. It concluded that charter schoolstudents on average, scored lower than students in traditional public schools(NEA,2004). According to the National Alliance for Public Charter School, 38.8% ofcharters did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind in 2007-2008. This is comparable to traditional public school results (Bulkley,2012, p. 62). A2009 study, by the Center of Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University,found that only 17% of charter schools provided superior educational opportunities fortheir students, nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are nodifferent from the local public school options and 37% delivered learning results that aresignificantly worse than their students would have realized had they remained intraditional public schools (CREDO, 2009). Charter Schools in Nevada In 1997, Nevada passed its first charter school legislation (NRS 386.490 –386.610 inclusive). The intention of the legislature is to provide: The board of trustees of school districts with a method to experiment with providing a variety of independent public schools to the pupils of this state; A framework for such experimentation; A mechanism by which the results achieved by charter schools may be measured and analyzed; and a procedure by which the positive results achieved by charter schools may be replicated and the negative results may be identified and eliminated. Local school districts and the
10Charter versus Public newly created State Public Charter School Authority act as state the authorizing agency for the approval or disapproval of new charters (NVDOE,2012). Nevada also requires that charter school populations must not differ by morethan 10% from the racial composition of the students who attend public school in thezone in which the charter is located (Lubienski & Weitzel, 2010, p. 47).According tostate policy, for-profit organizations are prohibited from applying to open a charterschool (Lubienski & Weitzel, 2010, p. 159). And, charter school involvement with faithbased organizations is prohibited (Lubienski & Weitzel, 2010, p. 164). There is no capon the number of charter schools permitted to operate under state law. Currently, Nevada has 32charter schools. And since 2000, 11 charters schoolshave closed (NVDOE, 2012).The Clark County School District sponsors seven charterschools. According to the 2011-2012 District Accountability Report, these schools haveshown mixed performance results (CCSD, 2012, pp. 121-121). Conclusion For twenty years, the battle over charter school versus traditional public schoolhas been waged. Traditional public school proponents’ contend that the public schoolsystem is doing its best within the constraints of it resources and with more resourcesachievement would improve. Education reformers emphasize that charter schools aremore effective and efficient than traditional public schools and because their chartersmust be renewed, they are more accountable (Vergari, 2007, p. 22). No two charter schools are alike and some even function quite well. But basedon the average performance of the entire group, charter schools don’t appear to bedelivering on their proponents’ promises. Evidence suggests that charter school
11Charter versus Publicstudents are not outperforming their traditional public school peers and in many casesare doing worse. Therefore, charter schools aren’t creating the competitive educationalsystem that was originally envisioned. Since charter schools outcomes don’t show any marked improvement fromtraditional public school and they are funded from the same source of money, I believe itis time for the charter school experiment to end. The money spent on charter schoolsshould be diverted back to traditional public schools. The notable charter schoolinnovationssuch as the public-private partnership should be promoted and appliedthroughout the entire public school system. Managerial improvements derived from thesite based decision modelshould be incorporated into the traditional system. Also, statepolicy educational frameworks should be rewritten to foster the reforms gained throughcharter school legislation. While charter school performance varies from school to school, asa perspectiveteacher I would be very skeptical of the claims made by charter school advocates andadministration. Evidence has shown that charter school salaries are less thantraditional public school. Because they are paid less, charter school teachers aregenerally less educated and experienced than those who teach in traditional publicschools and are more frequently required to teach out of their subject area.As a whole,charter school teachers do not enjoy the stability of traditional public school teachers.
12Charter versus Public References2011-2012 district accountability summary report. (2012). Las Vegas, NV: Clark County School District.Bulkley, K. A. (2012). Charter schools...taking a closer look. Education Digest, 77(5), September 4, 2012-58-62.Charter schools. (2012). Retrieved September 7, 2012, from http://www.nea.org/home/16322.htmDigest of Education Statistics. (2010). Retrieved October 1, 2012 from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/sigest/d10/tables/dt10_15.asp.Heaggans, R. C. (2006). Unpacking charter schools: A knapsack filled with a few broken promises. Education, 126(3), 431-436.Hill, P. T., Lake, R. J., & with Celio, M. B. (2002). Charter schools and accountability in public education. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution.The impact of charter schools. (2012). Retrieved September 7, 2012, from http//nationalcharterschools.org/the-impactLubienski, C. A., & Weitzel, P. C. (Eds.). (2010). The charter school experiment expectations, evidence, and implications. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Education Press.Multiple Choice: Charter Performance in 16 States Executive Summary. (2009). Retrieved from on September 10, 2012 Center of Research on Education Outcomes website: http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/multiple_choice_executive%20summary.pdf.
13Charter versus PublicObama, Barak. (2012). Presidential Proclamation – National Charter School Week 2012. Retrieved on September 7, 2012 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the- press-office/2012/05/07/presidential-proclamation-national-charter-school-week- 2012.OBrien, E. M., & Dervarics, C. (2012). Charter schools: Finding out the facts: At a glance. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from www.centerforpubliceducation.org.Romney for President. (2012). Retrieved on September 7, 2012 from http://mittromney.com/issues/education.Weil, D. (2000). Charter schools: A reference book. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc.Wells, A. S. (Ed.). (2002). Where charter school policy fails. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.