Among the commentary that got my attention was from the United Federation of Teachers' blog, edwize (here), especially from our old charter pal, Jonathan Gyurko. Once camped at 52 Chambers Street directing charter policy for the Schools Chancellor, Jonathan has for several years been safely ensconced in the bowels of UFT headquarters on lower Broadway.
From there he comments on the charter study in his piece, "Hoxby's Other Stubborn Facts." Allowing for the fact that yes, charters have done better, he duly credits students and teachers for this success (no mention of leadership and governance). Then he gets to his real point by criticizing charters as not meeting "other worthy goals" such as "greater educational equity" and "diversity."
While Jonathan is the UFT's in-house charter expert, has the UFT ever concerned itself over the alleged lack of diversity and educational equity among New York City's district schools, say, between Bed-Stuy and Bronx neighborhoods and Chelsea?
Gyurko questions whether policymakers will view higher student achievement as sufficient to warrant encouraging more charters by lifting the cap, after weighing such other goals--subjective, in many ways--as equity and diversity. Is this the UFT's new excuse for opposing the next cap-lift?
Last I checked, there's nothing in Article 56 of the Education Law, i.e., the Charter Schools Act, listing "diversity" and "educational equity" as objectives of charter schools. The six goals that are listed (per sec. 2850) deal with improving student learning and achievement; providing parental choice within the public school system; changing from rules-based to performance based accountability systems; providing teachers and administrators new opportunities; and so on.
Nothing there about the other "worthy goals," nor should there be, frankly. Just how many parents choosing charter schools for their children do so to achieve these "worthy goals?" About zero, is my hypothesis. They have much greater concerns. By contrast, union, government and university bureaucrats wring their hands about such esoteric "goals," even describing charter school settings by using highly-charged words like "segregation."
The fact is that charter schools are schools of choice, and thousands more students are seeking entry than there are spaces available, particularly in New York City. The focus of Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein and others is to meet this demand both by approving new charters and improving existing district schools. That also should be the goal of Jonathan and the UFT - without the handwringing about "diversity" and "equity" in a city as diverse as any in America and which has enormous resources redistributed for education from its massive tax base.
The "issues of equity and parity" do not "need more prominence in the charter debate," as Gyurko claims. What for? Are we to strive to these goals by kicking out the supposed excess of African-American students from charters and bus more whites from somewhere? Unless you mean funding parity for charters (which the UFT has opposed), reaching these goals would accomplish little to nothing meaningful, assuming there was a way to get there in the first place.
Achieving Real Equity & Diversity
Finally, as to that "narrow pursuit of higher test scores," as Jonathan diminishes for the sake of his other goals, charter school operators should dismiss this nonsense and continue to focus relentlessly on scores above all else and in place of all else. Everything a school does should be about achieving higher test scores for students, be it a safe and disciplined school, PD for teachers, responsible governance, competitive pay, longer calendar, etc.
If charter schools continue to accomplish higher student test results, particularly as they serve a higher percentage of African-American children, the results will be greater economic equity and diversity in society. Simply put, more African-American and low-income students will attain college from having achieved higher test scores, and those same students will be prepared to succeed in the future.
That will make for a more equitable, diverse and just society.
for The Chalkboard
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