An exchange with a reader this morning:

Diane, I thank you for calling attention to the challenges of public schools working well with public charter schools. (when i say public charters, i’m referring to those I’m familiar with where the local school district is the authorizor and the transparency and accountability measures are in place).

As a strong supporter of teachers, i’m surprised you don’t think it is a positive for some schools to be able to get out of all this ridiculous tying teachers to test scores…isn’t this a good thing ?? Or is this just really galling because because your goal is for ALL schools to be exempt and transparency?

I’m reading all of your blogs posts, and you are posting many, and I love your perspective. Your book The Great American School system actually educated me at how much I had been”fooled” into using many of the buzzwords (like choice). Now, as a parent serving on a governing board for a local not-for profit-public charter I feel i now have to use instead of “charter school” to accurately share what kind of public school my kid attends and to avoid rapid rush to judgement during conversation!

After reading your book, I was left seeking the solutions to preserving the pubic schools and promoting the quality charters who work well with the district. YOur blog posts point out many areas of concern, but I’m not seeing enough solutions. ARe there any? Is there one group you’d recommend supporting or a school district you’d suggest as a good model of public charters? Thanks.


My reply:

I don’t think that teachers should be evaluated by student test scores. Most of the variation in test scores is caused by factors beyond the teachers’ control. I certainly believe in the importance of meaningful evaluation of teachers. No incompetent person should be allowed to teach. But from everything I have learned about value-added assessment, I have concluded it is a sham and junk science.

The purpose of charter schools is not to allow teachers to escape from foolishness. No one should have foolishness imposed upon them. No one’s career should be determined by junk science.

The purpose of charter schools should be to help solve problems that public schools have not solved; to act as laboratories on behalf of the public schools; and to benefit the public schools by doing so. Unfortunately, in the current entrepreneurial gold rush, charters are now treated as competition for the public schools, as market strategies intended to make public schools get higher scores or die. That is wrong.

There is a place in American education for charter schools. Its place should not be to disable public education, but to make it better.