Monday, November 23, 2009

A Reflection on Charter Schools

Charter schools is an idea that I wholeheartedly support on a philosophical level.  However, on a practical level, the charter school concept has a few glaring flaws.

First, charter schools are a wonderful idea.  They are public schools funded with tax dollars and they give parents an additional choice of schooling for their children.  In addition, charter schools can be organized as specialized institutions to meet the needs of students that might not be otherwise met in a "traditional" school.

However, charter schools are given special exceptions to the normal rules that regulate other public schools.  I'm mainly commenting on charter schools in this posting because of one specific charter school, Basis Charter School in Scottsdale, Arizona, has been mentioned in the news lately as being "the best" or one of the "top ten" high schools in America.

However, after a little investigation, particularly this video clip from CNN,  I discovered that Basis Charter School has a few distinct advantages other public schools don't have.

First, this school has been allowed to set really high graduation requirements for it students, including passing at least six (6) Advanced Placement courses.  As a result, the type of student applying for admission to this school is right away probably a student that is self motivated and above average academically.

Furthermore, Basis Charter School does not provide extracurricular activities such as sports, or transportation for its students.

Also, add to its advantages, the demand for special education services is probably pretty low since its high academic requirements would most likely discourage most parents who have children with special needs from even applying there.

The CNN video and other articles praise this school for being able to operate for $1000 to $2000 less per student per year than traditional public schools.  But heck, does not having to provide transportation, extracurricular activities, and special education support services account for most of those savings?

I'm not writing this to necessarily complain about Basis Charter School, in fact I applaud what they are doing.  However, I do think based on the advantages this school is allowed to have over "traditional" public schools that the media and politicians need to temper their praise for this school as being the "best" school in America.

Perhaps the lesson learned from the success of Basis Charter School is that politicians should consider giving "traditional" public schools a bit more flexibility instead of imposing so many "cookie-cutter" requirements.


Anonymous said...

Good job, Dale. Your comments have been interesting and enlightening. I liked the article about teens rejecting manufacturing. Makes me wonder about our leaders that are tying to change this trend vs those who support & encourage it.