Mike the Mad Biologist

For the last two decades, give or take, charter schools have been a cause celebre for conservatives. Yet they seem to have abandoned them as a political issue. Here’s one reason why (italics mine):

Bill Burrow, the associate director of the Office on Competitiveness under the first President Bush, has noted that school choice is “popular in the national headquarters of the Republican Party but is unpopular among the Republican rank-and-file voters who have moved away from the inner city in part so that their children will not have to attend schools that are racially or socioeconomically integrated.”

I would enjoy the schadenfreude, except that decent people wasted a lot of time holding the line against this crap, instead of engaging in meaningful educational improvements.

Oh, nearly forgot: the racism and elitism suck too.

Par for the course for the failed conservative revolution.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark P
    June 18, 2008

    Wow. So they admit that republicans are racists? Wow.

  2. #2 Coturnix
    June 18, 2008

    The charter schools have also changed in the meantime. My son goes to a charter school because it is GOOD. Yes, it was originally founded by the local Christian conservatives who wanted to have their kids sheltered and indoctrinated. But once their kids graduated, those parents also left the Board and were replaced by other local parents and those, this being Chapel Hill, are highly educated, highly liberal and highly secular folks. They have hired fantastic administrators and teachers and there is now a long waiting list for this school – all those kids of UNC professors are trying to get in.

  3. #3 Edward
    June 18, 2008

    The larger idea of school choice via magnet schools, charter schools, or just between district transfers, is generally a good idea. But it needs to be structured so everyone can afford it. For starters, different kids thrive in different learning environments, so ideally, every kid should have access to the environment that is best for them. Second, I think schools do a better job if they have to compete for students – monopolies lead to stagnation.

    I think that some within the Republican saw charter schools to continue segregation and weaken public schools. However, as Coturnix suggests, things haven’t quite turned out that way.

  4. #4 Chris
    June 18, 2008

    Good students do well no matter where they are. Bad students do bad no matter where they are. The concept of a choice of schools shows that a student/family that is educationally motivated (with the means to go somewhere else) will go there to get teh good SKLLZ!1!

    Now the “good” school has another good student and the “bad” school’s stats just went down on the state testing. Have you tried teaching a classroom full of kids that don’t give a shit? Let me tell you that most of the time it doesn’t work out like the movies. It’s not that we don’t work to motivate the students, but there isn’t a lot of “Oh, Captain, my Captain” and standing on desks, if you know what I mean.

    It really isn’t about choice so much as getting the teachers in worse performing schools the same resources as the schools that do perform well AND finding the hook that makes some students realize that their future does lie through getting a good education.

    Case in point. I had a kid this year who’s parents chose to send him to the school where I teach. He came in the middle of the year after he had some problems at his old school. With two months to go, he was kicked our of my school for dealing drugs. Yep. Changing schools clearly had an effect on this student. I also had another student that was supposed to be in my AP Calculus class this year (he was supposed to be in a lot of AP classes this year), but he chose to go to another school. Apparently, I don’t teach the same curriculum that earns my students 5s on the AP test that is taught at the other school that earns students 5s on the AP test.

    Until Republicans and Democrats actually do something that gets teachers training in the methods that they feel work (buzzword is “best practices”) and education becomes relevant to the failing students and their parents, nothing will change and those in power are just playing political games.

  5. #5 themadlolscientist
    June 19, 2008

    Good students do well no matter where they are. Bad students do bad no matter where they are.

    Nope, sorry. If it were only a matter of aptitude, that would be closer to the truth, but it’s not nearly that simple. Human nature is notoriously messy. Things like home and family situations, peer influences, and a student’s relationship with an individual teacher can, and frequently do, skew things beyond all recognition.

    For instance, the student-teacher relationship or the availability of a good course of study can be more important than than whether the school as a whole is “good” or “bad.” That can work in either direction, as it did in my own family:

    I’ve always been somewhat hypersensitive to the “people environment” I’m in. I was an A student until halfway through third grade, when I got yanked out of a “bad” school where I had a great teacher and dumped into a “good” school with an angry teacher who hated her job and was just waiting to retire. I crashed and burned for the rest of the year and didn’t really recover until fifth grade, when I had one of the greatest teachers ever.

    OTOH, one of my brothers was pulling C’s and D’s in our “good” high school and was considered something of a “behavior problem” (whatever that means) until he got into a half-day vo/tech program, which he loved. He made A’s and B’s his whole senior year.

    I could give lots more examples from people I’ve known, but it’s 2:30 am and I’m cross-eyed from staring at this computer……….

  6. #6 Chris
    June 19, 2008

    I’ve always been somewhat hypersensitive to the “people environment” I’m in. I was an A student until halfway through third grade, when I got yanked out of a “bad” school where I had a great teacher and dumped into a “good” school with an angry teacher who hated her job and was just waiting to retire. I crashed and burned for the rest of the year and didn’t really recover until fifth grade, when I had one of the greatest teachers ever.

    OTOH, one of my brothers was pulling C’s and D’s in our “good” high school and was considered something of a “behavior problem” (whatever that means) until he got into a half-day vo/tech program, which he loved. He made A’s and B’s his whole senior year.

    This is what I was trying to get at. This choice to switch didn’t actually help anybody. Many districts where I teach have tech centers and it makes learning relevant for a certain group of students like your brother (my brother would have loved having a tech center). What is the hook for the rest of the people that struggle in the traditional school setting?
    Good teachers, together with engaged students, make a good school. Get the training to the teachers that they need to be successful. I agree with you completely. Don’t look to model good schools, look to model good teachers.

  7. #7 Edward
    June 20, 2008

    Chris – you sound like a frustrated teacher. Certainly, lack of resources is a major problem with our educational system, and teacher salaries in the US are disgracefully low. I agree that good teachers with engaged students are what make a good school.

    However, what it takes to engage students differs between students. A one-size-fits-all solution will fail some students. Trying to accommodate the needs of many different types of learners in one class room will wind up giving none of the students what they need most of the time. This is actually more of an issue with elementary schools than high schools since students usually have some choice about what classes to take in HS. Even at the HS level, though, what is a good environment for one student may not be good for another.

    That being said, the learning environment at most high schools in the US is fairly poor. While some environments are better for some students than others, there are also environments that are bad for nearly everyone. For example, the mega-high schools where there are over 1000 students per class make kids feel like they are thought of as statistics rather than people.