Just picked up this article from Time.com (thanks James).  In it, Andrew Rotherham considers the charter movement from a national perspective.  He clearly has a wide scope lens on this issue and I am a little shocked behind the paragraph pertaining to Ohio.  I think that first and foremost it should be noted that many of the RIDICULOUS ideas proposed by White Hat Management group have been dashed from the Ohio budget (in so far as I have read in the Dispatch).  Also, I am not surprised.  This is the educational equivalent of ‘if it bleeds, it leads’.  If there is bad news, it will overwhelm all of the good news and good people who are out there making a difference in the lives of students.  I am taking this article as a warning that we have a lot of work to do in our state (let alone our region, city, and building!) in order to be sure that all charter schools are serving the needs of the students and the community at large.

(I have pasted the article below but here’s a link if you like the reading with pop-up ads)

Backlash: Are These End Times for Charter Schools?

By Andrew J. Rotherham Thursday, June 09, 2011

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2076488,00.html#ixzz1OpF5BhtV

Is it the best of times or end times for public charter schools? Four thousand charter-school leaders, teachers, advocates and policymakers will gather in Atlanta this month at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference. The gathering of upstarts is larger than what many long-standing traditional-education groups can muster, but in states and cities across the country, charter schools are facing increased political pressure and scrutiny. In Georgia, the state’s supreme court just ruled that the arrangements for charter schools are unconstitutional. Welcome to town!(See what makes a charter school great.)

Charter schools, the first of which was created in 1992, are public schools that are open to all students but run independently of local school districts. There are now more than 5,000 of them educating more than a million students. Charter schools range in quality from among the best public schools in the country to among the worst. That variance is proving to be a political Achilles’ heel for charter schools, fueling a serious backlash.(See “KIPP Schools: A Reform Triumph, or Disappointment?”)

In New York City, the NAACP joined the teachers’ union in a lawsuit that would have the effect of curbing charter-school growth. That sparked a protest by families in Harlem, and the NAACP was roundly criticized for its stance, which apparently owes more to politics than kids.

In Rhode Island, Cranston Mayor Alan Fung wants to bring the highly successful charter organization Achievement First to his city but has run into a buzz saw of opposition from teachers’ unions and officials.

Meanwhile, in Ohio — a state that has had a troubled charter-school sector since legislation enabling it was passed in 1997 — Republicans are trying to weaken oversight and accountability, preferring to leave those issues to the marketplace. It’s a surprising strategy, because most analysts agree that shoddy oversight is in large part to blame for the mixed record of charter schools in that state. Many Ohio charter-school advocates are fighting the proposed changes, but they are facing an uphill battle.(See “Better Teachers: More Questions than Answers.”)

Some of this brouhaha is understandable. In many ways, charter schools are the most visible aspect of today’s education-reform movement — and have therefore become a convenient target. The call for accountability is still more bark than bite, but when a lot of students in a community choose charter schools, the threat to traditional public schools is real, in funding and often in jobs. That gets attention. It’s also hard to find any industry that embraces competition, so some of the debate is the natural byproduct of change in public education. But it has become hard to find a measured conversation about charters — and that’s what is worrisome, because the issues are complicated and nuanced.

I’ve had a front-row seat to the charter movement’s growth. I was a founding board member for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and a trustee of a charter school for seven years, and I led a research project into charter-school quality from 2000-05, when quality was still a nascent issue. In 2003 Sara Mead and I convened a national summit on charter-school quality in Charlottesville, Va. As a state board of education member in Virginia, I watched established interests strangle charter schools at every opportunity by seizing on the worst ones as representative of the whole. And my organization, Bellwether Education, counts some charter schools among its clients.

Now, watching the current controversies, two lessons stand out.

First, with 5,000 charter schools ranging from the traditional to ones that are online, the term itself is increasingly meaningless. After all, what does a network of schools like Achievement First really have in common with the mostly low-performing online schools run by White Hat Management in Ohio (the force behind the proposed deregulation there)?

Second, the public can’t be expected to parse the distinctions, so the quality issue has more potency than many charter advocates seem to realize. The education marketplace is not an economic one, with the best ideas winning out. Rather, it’s a political marketplace, with the loudest or most organized voices usually carrying the day and the most compelling examples winning the public debate. So one spectacular charter screwup counts for more than 100 quiet successes, and the good and great schools can’t overcome the headwind created by the laggards.

Most people in the charter movement thought that some of these issues would be more settled by 2011 — especially the importance of opening new schools and giving parents more choices as well as the need to better police quality. That things are instead so unsettled and fragile should occasion at least as much soul searching as celebration.

Andrew J. Rotherham, who writes the blog Eduwonk, is a co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education, a nonprofit working to improve educational outcomes for low-income students. School of Thought, his education column for TIME.com, appears every Thursday.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2076488,00.html#ixzz1OpEy526w

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