July 10, 2012
The accusation that autonomy and accountability cannot successfully coexist within the charter school system was made this week by an Advocate reader, who propagated the erroneous notions that there are no consequences for failing charter schools and that classroom teachers of the highest quality are not valued.
This is simply untrue.
The writer of the letter has clearly not properly researched either the laws and rules governing charter schools, or the anecdotal examples of how the flexibility provided through the charter school system has allowed for a more effective means of rewarding high-impact teachers, and swiftly handling situations in which schools are not operating to the best of their abilities.
Charter schools are governed by a nonprofit board that must comply with open meeting laws, providing a forum for parents and community members to discuss the schools’ operations. As such, charter schools provide opportunities for direct community involvement and parental input, enabling the schools to make quick, effective changes to meet students’ specific needs, which helps improve student achievement.
Additionally, when schools are no longer meeting the high standards by which they are governed, direct steps can by promptly enacted to adjust the overarching trajectory of the school — including revocation or closure of the charter. This is in contrast to the slow, plodding and red-tape-covered hoops through which administrators must jump to close a failing school in the bureaucratic traditional system.
What’s more, teachers who come from a variety of schooling backgrounds — alternative certification programs, traditional education colleges and beyond — all have proven the ability to lead classrooms and have a dramatically positive impact on student achievement. The flexibility afforded to charter schools ensures that having the highest quality educators possible for all students remains the top priority, regardless of the means by which they received their teacher training.
No doubt, charter schools are innovative, and for many the change and progress embodied through this movement appears to be a type of high-risk experimentation. The numbers don’t lie, though, and the successes—both academically and administratively — seen through the rise in the number of charter schools proves that this profound, new way of structuring education is having a dramatic, positive impact on students who need it most.
Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools