Charter schools have come under fire recently around student discipline. As someone who spent a decade working with children at the tragic end of the school-to-prison pipeline, I’m deeply concerned about the real-world ramifications of suspensions and expulsions on students. But overuse of harsh student discipline is not just a charter school issue, it’s a public school issue.
Can the portfolio strategy in New Orleans still fog a mirror, or is it dead as Jay Greene has just announced? It looks pretty lively, with all public school kids in charter schools and results improving steadily.
This piece was originally published as part of Fordham's 2016 Wonkathon in response to the question: What are the "sleeper provisions" of ESSA that might encourage the further expansion of parental choice, at least if advocates seize the opportunity?
Pop quiz: Where do most children in the United States live?
- A. Cities
If you picked B, you’d be right. Roughly 40 percent of children attending U.S. K-12 schools live in the suburbs, whereas only 30 percent live in cities. Yet, most attention in philanthropy, federal funding, and media focuses on cities, likely because of population density and because that’s where politics plays out. It’s just not where most of the students are.
Next question: Where are poverty levels worse?
District-charter collaboration can be a valuable tool for both sides, not to mention for students and families. Collaboration can result in important work on issues like whether charter schools can use district buildings, how to create effective programs for students with disabilities, how schools are held accountable, or what happens to an expelled student. But telling districts and charters to “get over their differences and work together” is not a minor ask.
Authorizers have an essential role to play in ensuring that charter schools follow all special education laws and produce great results for children with disabilities. For that reason, I found some of the National Association of Charter School Authorizer’s recent survey results on charter school special education oversight pretty depressing and even alarming. The most worrisome areas:
Teachers have been at the center of most states’ talent discussions to date. Although principals play a critical role in virtually all school-improvement reform efforts, most states lack a coherent school leadership strategy. This is a major oversight.
But a few forces are afoot that may help refocus state attention on principals: