NECSN in NY Post: New slap at charters: Sorry, they do share ‘secrets’
Posted by 0 Reactionson 09 / 09 / 2014
NECSN Interim President Kyle Rosenkrans writes about New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's recent remarks on charter schools and the fact that charters do share best practices in this New York Post op-ed.
Bad enough that Mayor de Blasio used the first day of school to revive his attacks on charter schools.
Worse that part of his assault was to suggest that many charters refuse to share their secrets with regular schools — a claim that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The mayor is evidently looking to resist the new state law that requires him to find space for students in the city’s new or growing charters.
To start the school year, he visited Amber Charter School, and said it “exemplifies our values, that [it] is inclusive.” As though other charters aren’t.
He also said other charters should be like Amber in “working with the whole school system to share these tremendous advances that they’re experiencing here.”
I applaud Amber, which was one of New York’s first charters and has just received approval from SUNY to open a new campus.
But I can’t applaud the mayor’s lie that charter schools are greedily hiding the secrets to their success, refusing to share them with city district schools. (Though at least he’s finally admitted that charters are working.)
The complaint seems to be: If only the district could know what’s happening inside charters, then they could do the same.
Charter critics across the country echo this refrain, which is about as accurate as the notion that the Apollo 11 moon landing was staged in a Hollywood studio.
We already know what’s working in charter schools and why the wait list to get into a New York City charter is larger than most other city school districts. The mayor, the schools chancellor and everyone else in education knows, too.
Many charters have longer school days and years that give children weeks more classroom time than their peers in regular public schools.
Charters also are known for high expectations for students, deep parent involvement, data-driven instruction, abandoning lock-step pay and giving teachers the freedom to innovate.
These are now mainstream ideas for improving public education. And they were all piloted and scaled up in the charter world — with everyone watching.
If you’re actually paying attention, it’s been hard to miss the proliferation of sharing of these “best practices.”
Numerous books have been written about the most successful schools: from Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy and her “Mission Possible” to Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion” manifesto on effective instruction.
Nationally respected journalists have published books, too. Jay Matthews’ “Work Hard, Be Nice” covers the development of the KIPP school model.
Paul Tough’s acclaimed “Whatever It Takes” chronicles the growth of the Harlem Children’s Zone. Another recent book looks at the successes and potential of unionizing charter schools.
The New York Times recently profiled the Bronx Charter School for Excellence’s work in disseminating its best practices to a local district school. There’s even a state-federal grant for this very purpose.
Heck, a group of charter school networks even got together to start Relay GSE, a graduate school that helps train teachers in the methods that charters have successfully piloted.
Anyone who cares to look can see the countless examples of collaboration and sharing from the charter community. But when the facts are inconvenient, some just make-believe they don’t exist.
The sad truth is that many of these ideas are opposed by the teachers unions; that’s why they haven’t seen widespread adoption.
Despite evidence that longer school days and years are good for learning, the new collective bargaining agreement between City Hall and the UFT didn’t extend the school day or year. In fact, the contract reduced instructional time to allow for parent-teacher conferences.
And while the new contract did give a very few schools greater autonomy to innovate, it wasn’t at the scale that kids need when a “forgotten fourth” of New York students are languishing in failing schools.
It’s time for the mayor to put the battles of last year behind him and focus on ensuring that every child can go to a great school — regardless of who runs it.
Kyle Rosenkrans is interim president of the Northeast Charter Schools Network, which advocates for charter schools in New York and Connecticut.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post.
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