Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An open letter about Charter Schools in the USA

Some people in the United Kingdom are looking closely at charter schools in the USA. I got wind of their interest in importing the charter structure to Britain and I composed the following open letter:

To anyone interested in opening a charter school:

if you go to 1 minute 20 (1:20), you will see the transcription.

The commissioner of education (in Rhode Island) Peter McWalter said to me, "I could have closed this school down the first year, but I had the patience to watch and I've never seen people who had the belief in the maturity of the kid" -- so half of our great work is because the [kids] grew up. In most schools, they don't get to [grow up] -- they get stopped before [they can prove themselves].


11 July 2011

I have worked at three charter schools (elementary, middle and high schools) and I'm a consultant to a start-up school.

I recommend that you speak with Tom vander Ark edReformer.com
Tom Vander Ark
direct: 206.909.8251
email: tom@VARpartners.net
twitter: @tvanderark

and Dr. Abraham S. Fischler TheStudentIsTheClass.com +1 954 262 5376 fischler@nova.edu

In their blogs they both write about the power of the correct approach in the use of the charter school format.

Too many charter schools simply copy a school structure and teaching methods that "worked" 40 years ago. The charter schools that produce long-lasting results (students who have mastered the seven essential skills that Tony Wagner writes about in the Global Achievement Gap) use relationships and projects in their instruction.

Perhaps the most instructive thirty seconds about "how to create effective charter schools" comes from an interview with Dennis Littky of Providence, Rhode Island. (see the link at the start of this letter)

Note the later part of the interview with Littky:

Critics laughed when they saw we had internships. Then they saw that we had the highest attendance rate in the state. We had the lowest drop-out rate in the state. But they really became believers when they see that every kid got accepted to college. Five years later they're still in college or graduated.

... We keep pushing ahead and trying to show that this is a way to help kids get educated.

We outscored the three largest high schools in mathematics and we don't teach a mathematics course. The kids learn to think like mathematicians, to solve problems and use their minds. The scores are not great, but they are moving up.
Colleges are impressed with how articulate and passionate our kids are.

The point is that the test scores were not the result that Littky looked for ... it was what happened to the students.

1) the highest attendance rate in the state.
2) the lowest drop-out rate in the state.
3) every kid got accepted to college.
4) we don't teach a mathematics course.
5) colleges are impressed with how articulate and passionate our kids are.

Peter McWalter's remark is key: The project-based, student-centered charter school with a focus on relationships needs time and delivers results in ways that a standardized test does not reveal.

I hope this information assists you in identifying the positive aspects of charter schools in the USA. There is much that discourages me in the charter school movement in the USA, but there is good work happening at hightechhigh.org and at Littky's BigPicture.org schools.


Steve McCrea
Curriculum consultant
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
+1 954 646 8246

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