not allow us to foster the true and unique potential of our youth. Charterschools tend to be heavily focused on preparing students for standardizedtests. Test prep reigns king, and little time is spent fostering creativity orcritical thinking skills.
We need reform that takes us away from test prepand pushes us toward truly improved teaching and learning.
Myth: Charter schools hire better teachers and administrators.Truth
: Charter schools have surprising staff turnover rates. Examining 2003-04 federal data, researchers from Vanderbilt University found teachers left ata rate of 25% vs. 14% in public schools based on 2003-04 federal data. AJuly 2009
New York Times
story quoted a charter school employee, “We werereally proud of the scores, and still are…but the workload…
it wasn’t sustainable.
You can’t put out the kind of energy we were putting out for ourkids year after year.” Higher turnover rates create destabilized and chaoticschool environments. Many charter school employees are overworked,underpaid, and denied the right to be part of a union.
Many charter school administrators and principals are new andinexperienced.
Success Academies, a network of 7 charter schools in Harlemand the Bronx is run by former city-council member Eva Moskowitz, awoman with no background in teaching who pays herself $300,000 a year.Overpaid CEO’s have contributed to the recent downfall of our economy—do we really expect a different result if we take this approach with education?
Myth: Charter schools act as lab sites for innovative educational ideasand practices.Truth:
Charter schools were intended to be innovative, but the schoolssprouting up in New York City are anything but. A few charter corporations(Green Dot, Uncommon Schools, KIPP) run many schools and push studentsthrough a scripted and test-driven curriculum. In a February 2011
piece, “Dubious Standards for Charter Schools,” reporter LizaFeatherstone details the Department of Education’s own Office of CharterSchools recent report on the state of the city’s charters: “The report showsthat
most of the schools are neglecting basic elements of decent education,
yet in no case were they punished for this, or pressured to change theirways.” Any sort of emphasis on critical thinking was missing from theinstruction in many of the schools. Students were given little time fordiscussion and spent most of their time answering factual questions posed bytheir teachers. Very little of the learning appeared to be student-driven. “AtDemocracy Prep, a Harlem charter school where students have been acingstandardized tests, ‘few lessons required higher-order thinking skills or deepanalysis of concepts.’”
Critical thinking is an essential skill, and it must befostered and taught.
Students need to be given opportunities to debate, todiscuss and to question. Teaching students to memorize is not difficult work.Teaching students to think for themselves? That is the work of a trueeducator, and few charter schools are doing this important work.
Charter schools are invading and privatizing public space.
Wellover fifty percent of New York City’s charter schools are co-located insideother functioning public school buildings, often to the detriment of the publicschool already there.
Charter schools are given free space in public schoolbuildings
the Department of Education claims are “underutilized,” howeverfew have extra space to share. In most instances, the
public schools areforced out of their classrooms or to consolidate classrooms to make roomfor the charter schools moving in.
In many cases the charter schoolscontinue to take more and more space each year from the public schools—ineffect, taking over the building. At PS 241 in Harlem, public school studentsare now forced to learn in basement classrooms bordering the boiler room, allso that Harlem Success Academy Charter School can have more spaceupstairs. At PS 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, special education students arereceiving their services in hallways and stairwells, all so that PAVEAcademy Charter School can have more classrooms. In each public schoolwhere a charter school has opened there are equally devastating stories.Instead of working with and supporting district public schools,
theDepartment of Education is allowing (and encouraging) our publicschool spaces to be replaced and privatized.
MYTH: Competition between schools will improve the educationalsystem.Truth:
Any system based on competition will have winners and losers.
Inthe case of our educational system, t
he winners and losers are our children.
We need to create a system in which everyone, especially our most needy,can excel. In a competitive system, one school’s success is only possiblewhen another fails.
Education is not a game—it is a right.
Our vision for public school reform does not include privatization. Wesupport quality public neighborhood schools with smaller class sizes, equitable funding, union protections, local school councils, andneighborhood enrollment that protects and includes all children. Wesupport a moratorium on charters, turnarounds, consolidations, phase-outs, school closings and any other form of school privatization.Public schools and educators should be empowered to work withcommunities to develop curriculum that is grounded in the lives of theyoung people they teach. Each school’s curriculum should reflect theculture, needs and lived experience of its students, critically supportstudent identities, embrace and recognize the value of students’ homelanguages, and invite students to engage in solving societal problems.The Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) believes in a bottom-up, participatory and highly democratic process to engage schools andcommunities in school improvement. JOIN US!
The Truth aboutCharter Schools inNew York City