Sunday, August 28, 2016

John Thompson: The Simmering Battle Over Charter Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog

John Thompson: The Simmering Battle Over Charter Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog:

John Thompson: The Simmering Battle Over Charter Schools

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John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, reflects on the split between the NAACP/Black Lives Matter on one hand, and defenders of the charter movement.
Long before teachers were dragged into the corporate reform wars, we understood the need to speak diplomatically and see multiple sides of the charter school issue. Our union leaders made it clear that the AFT’s Al Shanker had supported the first generation of charter schools. We were reminded that charter opponents and supporters were all needed in the “Big Tent” coalition to promote civil rights, economic and social opportunity, and justice. Besides, who could criticize a poor, black parent who enrolled a child in a charter which provided an escape from a disorderly, dangerous, and failing neighborhood school?
Then charters were increasingly transformed from a way to promote innovation into tools for defeating unions. The “creaming” of students by charters left even greater concentrations of troubled kids behind in under-resourced traditional public schools. And the damage grew far worse when charter management organizations used bubble-in metrics as the ammunition in the campaign for the mass closures of schools. Even though there were not nearly enough high-quality charter and/or traditional public schools available to take their places, market-driven reformers rushed to close as many schools as possible. Presumably all the shortterm pain imposed on educators and students would lead to a time, somewhere over the rainbow, of “disruptive” transformation.
In decades of discussions with parents, I’ve developed a sense of how they will unfold – at least when conducted in a polite manner. It often takes a while before all stakeholders get into the give-and-take of trusting conversations, but until recently I’d mostly witnessed difficult but constructive communication among patrons. All sides recognized the vexing dilemmas and lamented society’s failure to offer holistic and respectful learning conditions for all. (Lately, as charters have doubled down on expansion, I’ve seen how these talks degenerate and how close we’ve come to fist fights among patrons.)

Many charter parents have other children whom charters would not accept or retain, so they see firsthand how the proliferation of choice has damaged our most vulnerable kids. Patrons witness the harm that out-of-control choice can do to one or more of their children, but they have John Thompson: The Simmering Battle Over Charter Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog: