Please excuse any typos.
In a recent post, in which I espoused a penchant for experiential and place-based education, an online conversation swerved to charter schools, standardized testing and Pearson, private education, and the SAT/ACT. Instead of trying to respond as a series of posts, I decided to attack them all in one long post. So, here it goes.
As far as charter schools go, I am not a fan. I know that as a person running for the School Board in Columbia County (where there is a new charter school opening) this might not be the most popular opinion. However, in Columbia County, it is a done deal. Therefore, I give my support to the school that is opening. My biggest issue is the way charter schools have been implemented. Sometimes they are run by charter school organizations. These are for-profit organizations that are trying to make money with public funds. If they fail, they were still paid. While that only applies to 13% of charter schools, the others are funded publicly. When a charter school opens, they are funded with resources from the district in which they reside. Extra money is not added. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (this name is a misnomer…charter schools are public), this is a selling point. It doesn’t cost the state any more. However, it does dilute the money in the district. Another selling point in the “innovations” that charter schools can offer. Again, according to the NAPCS, these include:
My point is that why not do this at public schools?
The second point was testing and Pearson Education. Right now, the curriculum in our schools is being controlled by the textbook corporations. They need to sell textbooks. They want to make profits. So, a system of testing was created (if you look at who wrote the common core it is mostly people at the College Board) that requires books to make students pass. They make schools tied to pre-purchased programs and canned curriculum. Sometimes the tests are updated. New materials. Sometimes the rules changes. New materials. Schools become secondary to textbook profits.
The third point, private education, is completely different. That is a personal choice. There are some private schools that are amazing. Others limit education for religious reasons. The biggest issue is equity. Private schools have to be paid for. That immediately leaves out a huge part of the population. I know there are scholarships, but even then, they are limited. Again, why not use those things in public schools.
Finally, the SAT/ACT. Another money making scheme. Test prep. Test costs. School courses. Prep books. All of these things to help people reach for the golden goose.
So, what does all of this mean? The quest for profit is killing education. I am not saying that people don’t have a right to make a profit. But, right now, the mighty dollar is controlling the content, the delivery, and structure of our education system. When I first started teaching, I was in the Republic of the Marshall Islands teaching English as a second language in a native school on the island of Majuro. We had a ditto machine. We had 23, fifteen-year-old textbooks. Half the year we didn’t have plumbing. A lot of the time we didn’t have electricity. You know I what I did? I taught. I learned to teach by teaching. Myself and a colleague (my dear friend, Vasemaca Savu) started a national speech competition. We started a handwritten school newspaper. And the students learned. We had little money. As teachers, we were creative. We were thoughtful.
I am a proponent of letting teachers teach. Let administrators be educational leaders, not bookkeepers. Let counselors counsel and not administer tests. Education should be about critical and creative thinking. But, it should also be about critical and creating teaching.
Addendum: I would like to stand corrected about some of the assumptions that I made based on charter schools being funded by districts. If the state sets the charter, the state pays. Thank you, Michael Berg.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.