Let me start by saying that I have never actually worked in a charter school. I have spent my whole career in public schools in high poverty urban settings. I have always spoken out against the charter school concept. It appeared to me that they cherry pick kids. If they don’t get to pick the kids they take, because of a lottery system, they get to pick the kids they keep, through a variety of ways. They are a threat to public education. That’s what I thought.
But lately more and more the schools that I see as doing things right are charters, or at least these schools have a charter component. Locally there is the Venture Academy. It is in the same extended neighborhood as the school in which I work, so it is convenient to my students. It is close enough that untill this year they used our gym for their after school sports program. My school looses a number of kids each year to this school. We rarely get kids that come to us from the Venture Academy. I don’t wonder why.
Yesterday I attended an edtech conference at Natomas Charter School in Sacramento, California. While I have much less experience with this school, it was evident from walking the campus, sitting in the rooms, and talking to some of the teachers who work there that they are doing a lot of things right. They aren’t cherry picking kids, and from everything I can see, they aren’t kicking kids out. They seem to be doing really great things in the classrooms.
I frequently ask my PLN on Twitter to recommend schools I can visit. The recommendations that come back are always charter schools. I have yet to have a person recommend to me an awesome public high school that is not a charter. Why is it that no one can recommend to me a public high school that serves a high poverty population that isn’t a charter? These charters must be doing something right.
So I am officially saying it. I was wro… I was wrrooon… Dang it, I was wrong. There I said it. I was wrong about charters. They arent a threat to public education. They are one of the few promises of public education. They have to compete for students, so they have to do a good job, or they can’t stay open. Because they have to compete, they can’t just do the same old, same old. They have to purposely do things to compete, to keep up. They have to keep up with the times, the technology, and the community. And that is why I have changed my mind about charter schools. There. I said it.