I recently saw a headline where charter school advocates were again complaining about accountability measures. It was the usual complaints – it’s not fair, it’s tough, our kids are different (to be fair, after re-reading this opening statement, their complaints are not much different from those of the typical, regular school educator).
Here is my opinion on charter school accountability, based on my experience working with, observing, visiting and assessing over 100 of them.
First. This pattern was discovered when I led a team that conducted a state-wide review of charter schools about 6 years ago. There is an inverse relationship between profit motive and service to students. This makes sense. We didn’t get in this business to get rich. Public education isn’t funded at a get rich level. So to make a significant profit, you have to cut somewhere. The worst abusers are the for-profit charters that are masquerading as non-profits. There is a special ring of hell for those operators. On the other hand, true non-profit charters do some amazing things for students. One of my favorites is Yes! Preparatory Academy, in Houston. They served as one of my state-wide model schools when I was the State Director for Innovative School Redesign.
Second. Charters exist to either be more efficient, more effective, or more innovative than regular schools. If you can’t do one of those three things, you shouldn’t be allowed to exist. That is the business you volunteered for. Produce or get out. And if you fail, you can still hold your head high, because you demonstrated that a specific model or plan doesn’t work. That is valuable information. If you succeed, then you have discovered a better way to teach kids. And that is information that the entire profession needs to pay attention to and learn from.
Think. Work. Achieve.