In response to an earlier post about the lack of accountability for charters, a teacher wrote to describe her experience in a charter school in Pennsylvania. Most important in her story is the last line:
From 2009-2011 I worked for a Philadelphia charter school that exemplifies the problems Bill White is talking about, a problem leaders like Ackerman were enforcing before Corbett assumed his role. When I entered the Philadelphia school system in 2009, the district’s messaging under Arlene Ackerman seemed to be: if public schools are the problem, charter schools are the answer.
Although my school’s Chief Operating Officer’s business cards proclaimed “Best middle school (grades 6-8) in Philadelphia helping students to become scholars and preparing them for life-long learning!” in reality we were on the brink of disaster: for a month a veteran teacher with a principal certification served as our principal (to legally cover us since ours had quit) although she remained in the classroom fulltime; school was cancelled because we did not pay our power bill on time; we delayed our scheduled PSSA testing date one year because a cafeteria riot before 8 am involved the police and several students suffering minor injuries.
Our Renewal Site Visit (RSV) Evaluation confirmed the shortcomings that teachers had complained about for weeks. Their report stated: “The RSV team did not find significant strengths… that rise to the level of a finding” for four of the six categories under “student achievement.” The four failures were in curriculum, instruction and student engagement, classroom management, and services for ELL students and students with special needs; our passing marks were in the categories of ongoing assessments and common planning and professional development.
We were subsequently granted a full five-year renewal.
In answering the question “Is the educational program a success?” the answer to my school was no for four of six categories. However, when the question was “Is the school a financially and operationally viable organization?” we passed all four categories. How can we continue to support schools that are not successful educational programs despite being viable financial and operational organizations? That’s a business, not a school. We have once again forgotten what we are here to do.