Actually, aren’t these two ingredients relatively necessary for anything to work properly? There is a great article in the Wall Street Journal (link below) by Deborah Kenny, Founder and CEO of Harlem Village Academies, a charter school network. If you’re not familiar with the charter school academy, google it. It is a fantastic initiative and should be at least in the mind of parents if not each and every citizen interested in the state of education today.
The one issue I take with the article is the sense that those teachers in public schools, union teachers, are not being held accountable. Granted, their accountability might not be at the level of a private or charter school teacher, but from what I have seen schemes are in place to improve accountability and adjust incentives appropriately. The red tape involved to get this done however is an uphill battle compared to their charter school counterparts.
Deborah makes some interesting points about people in general – we crave accountability because we know it will make us better at what we do. It is this ingredient, according to Deborah, that enables her to attract amazing charter school teachers, plucking them from the public and private ranks. There is also a relative amount of autonomy at charter schools that teachers seem to relish, as opposed to being mired in bureaucratic blah, blah that diverts their attention and saps morale.
Where the article falls short (although in defense of Deborah this wasn’t the goal) is clear policy measures to re-focus the public school debate with “charter school ideas.” The elephant in the room are the unions which have always been adamantly against re-engineering much on their end. But I don’t place all the blame on unions. Rather, we have yet to have an honest discussion on what isn’t working – lack of parental involvement. Deborah eschews the typical criticisms of charter schools as being cherry-pickers of good students and only serving kids with super-involved, active parents. Granted, some studies have proved otherwise but let’s face it, if the parent is active in the kid’s life, the kid will more than likely succeed in school.
So I think charter schools have proven we can do better for much less money, but what do we do about the kids with uninvolved parents? You populate a classroom of 20 with 5 kids with uninvolved parents and any teacher (public, private or charter) will tell you the classroom is doomed.