Charter Schools and Achievment
Thanks Brett, I had not though of some of those points you made.
There are clearly positive and negative things about standard public schooling and charter schooling. Is there a way we can bring the two closer together in a way that increases the pros and decreases the cons?
One thing I realized while reading Brett's post was that, at least the way Avalon does things, has some similarities to my experience in Montessori school. I attended the Montessori program at Armatage elementary school, a public school in minneapolis. We learned the same things as the standard classes but things were more hands on. That was something that I really enjoyed about Montessori.
To help get the group going I am posting the two comments from the introduction page including my response at the bottom. Sorry for the length!
"Hi Brett! I attend a public school in a suburb of Chicago and am unfamiliar with the concept of charter schooling. I have done some research but I am interested on your personal account. Would you care to elaborate on experience as a charter school student?"
And Nora's comment-
"I have mixed feelings about charter schools. On the one hand I like that most take a different approach to learning, like service or project based learning. I think that is something that the public schools could work on. On the other hand, charter schools get funding from tax dollars that would otherwise go to the public schools. This makes it challenging for the public schools to diversify their curriculum when they can hardly afford enough up-to-date textbooks. Charter schools also have more flexibility than public schools in areas such as administration. I feel like this is not fair to the public schools considering both systems are funded by tax dollars."
I go to Avalon, and my school’s focus is on an independent project based curriculum where instead of classes (which we call seminars) I work on projects throughout the day in my advisory (like homeroom). In the state of Minnesota (I assume it would be similar for Illinois) we have specific graduation standards which every student in public school must complete in order to graduate.
Instead of attending an American history class where a student would most likely be expected to meet all the graduation standards for that specific field, I am responsible for making sure I meet each standard which would be embedded in traditional school curriculum. This allows me to dive into subjects and topics which I might miss in a traditional school, and tailor my learning towards my own interests. For instance, instead of writing a paper on the depression or roaring twenties, I could write and put on a theater production about the O’Conner Layover Agreement in St. Paul during that time which has to do with gangsters like Al Capone and such taking refuge in St. Paul. I remember one student made a hover craft for physics standards….it was really awesome.
We are also a teacher cooperative, which means we do NOT have a principal. All of our advisors (teacher equivalents) work together on equal footing sharing the administrative tasks. Though I am not an expert on this specific area of Avalon, I am pretty familiar if this is of interest to anyone.
That is a really short snip it about my school, but if you are interested in learning more (this is my selfish plug right here) feel frees to check out Avalon’s website or I can answer any other questions too. (The edvision’s link above also has video of students at Avalon talking about it.)
Technically charter schools ARE public schools; they are just not traditional schools. They are legally obligated to comply with all state and federal guidelines about enrollment, just not necessarily district policy because most (if not all) charter schools represent their own district.
I know your pain Nora; I can definitely empathize about the funding problems, I think even some private schools are struggling these days. The funding for Avalon anyway comes from each student. Think of it like the Sims, where each student has a dollar sign above their head, and by attending Avalon they bring X amount to the school instead of to their district school. So yes, in a way charter schools do take money from traditional public schools, but it isn’t any worse than choosing a school outside one’s district for example.
Since I am from Minneapolis, I bring more money than a student from certain districts because Minneapolis spends more than almost any other district per student (they just have to diversify the funds differently). By leaving Minneapolis Public Schools, it puts that district in a sort of competition with charter schools for its students, and if a significant amount of students leave, it could result in school closings because of low enrollment. Low enrollment means less money, because there are fewer students bringing in the cash. As I assume you are catching onto, this produces a bit of controversy, hence the “charter school debate”.
On the other hand, if a lot of students are leaving a school (due to whatever reason that may be) and they are ACHIEVING more, are more successful, whatever we might determine that to be, what does that mean for traditional schools? Should students have more choices such as this, and the district idea scrapped completely? What if charter schools are doing worse, what types of policies should be put in place to safeguard students? Other thoughts?