Rabu, 27 Juni 2012

Charter Schools: No One Size Fits All

Since the first time the idea proposed by Ray Budde in 1970, charter schools become hot topic to be discussed. These schools attract parents’ interests. It is fairly easy to understand that parents, who want better life for their kids, feel very ambivalent towards the school choice. Thus, this idea triggers pros and cons spread among the society. By describing positive and negative points on benefits and drawbacks, I will bring this discussion into concise conclusion.

Charter schools have been one of school choices to respond the poor quality of public schools. A good stereotype has been formed in the society in which these schools provide the quality education. John Adams argues that charter schools increase opportunities for learning and access to quality of education for all students (Buckley and Schneider, 2009, p.268). These schools offer a fascinating idea of funding and curriculum system.

Just like public schools, charter schools are publicly funded. Even, since No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, Federal Government provided $300 million to support both local and state charter schools (Spring, 2008, p.197). Not to mention, the current US president, Obama allocated $4.35 billion to the Race to the Top to entice states into adopting and expanding charter schools (Mora & Christianakis, 20011, p.94). If we calculate, Obama gives allocation tenfold increase. Obviously, I can see Obama gives his support on the existence of these charter schools. It is good to know that there is a trust from the federal, is not it?
In contrast to the public schools with lots of restriction, these schools benefit the curriculum greatly. They are freed and not subjected to rules to organize the school system. They have more freedom to manage the curriculum. Thus, charter schools are free to experiment with different methods of instruction and school organization (Spring, 2008, p.196). Take a look at a short video of Tennessee Public Charter School that I have downloaded. This school uses its autonomy to discipline the students by using 2 minutes transition to read books or their notes when standing in a line and queuing. They train their students to make good habit in reading.
Another benefit is non-discrimination. Charter schools cannot be affiliated with a religious institution and they do not discriminate on the basis of age, race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, or disability (Spring, 2008, p.197). Black, White, Hispanic, Asia, Christians, Jews, Moslems are able to enter the schools. The aforesaid video shows an Afro-American girl wearing head scarf together with others is paying attention to the lesson. I assume that this school teaches the kids not to treat their friends differently.
In my opinion, it is good idea since it makes some parents be able to take a livable breath. They are able to make a choice to send their children in charter schools. Instead of sending children to private schools which need more expenses or public schools which yield dissatisfaction, they, who are satisfied with the system offered, send their kids to charter schools. It is proven by State of Charter Movement report that there were about 1 million students enrolled in approximately 3,400 charter schools (Spring, 2008, p.196). It is a fantastic number for new schooling system. The aforementioned video shows two Afro-American and White parents of Tennessee Public Charter School say the same idea ‘The door was opened, and I have an option for this opportunity’. I assume, some parents like the school very much, isn’t it?
However, no one size fits all. The claim of charter schools to provide good education cannot be accepted for some. They maybe argue that the school quality does not always meet the reality for some. I have seen main weakness of the implementation charter schools. It is apparently seen from academic performance. Many reports show an accurate data about academic performance of charter school students compare to public schools. New York Times has the same finding to the National Center for Education Statistics that the charter schools’ achievement in reading and math of students was lower than public schools (Spring, 2008, p.200). Zimmer and Buddin conducted a study to two charter schools, namely Los Angeles Unified School District and San Diego Unified School Districts and found that these two charter schools are doing little to improve the test score of students (2005, p.26). These studies maybe drives some parents to rethink twice before sending to charter schools.
It is very hard to give a judgment on charter schools whether good or not. Just like two sides of a coin, charter schools present advantages and disadvantages. We cannot generalize that if charter school A performs badly in assessment then the charter school B will be bad too, inversely. So, which school do you prefer? You choose!
Buckley J & Schneider M. (2009). Charter Schools: Hope or Hype? Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Mora, R & Christianakis M. (2011). Charter Schools, Market Capitalism, and Obama's Neo-liberal Agenda. Journal of Inquiry & Action in Education 4(1). Retrieved from journal.buffalostate.edu
Spring, J. (2008). American Education. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Zimmer, R & Buddin R. (2005). Charter School Performance in Urban District – Are They Closing the Achievement Gap? Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

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