Friday, December 05, 2008

And they called the wind . . . "Kershaw"

Friday morning's Strib contained a piece of remarkable gasbaggery from Sean Kershaw, a puerile defense of charter schools. Kershaw is the Executive Director of the Citizens' League, the latter being the father of this growing malignancy, as he says:

Twenty years after the Citizens League proposed charter schools, the last thing we need is an argument about "charters vs. district schools," as the report from the Institute on Race and Poverty and the reporting from the Star Tribune suggest. We could eliminate charter schools tomorrow and still have an enormous educational crisis on our hands. Using this report to limit chartering at the Legislature in 2009 would be a big mistake.

You see, Kershaw has the real dog in the fight, so to speak.

But Kershaw's own words demonstrate the failure. Twenty years - that's almost a generation - of letting a thousand charter schools bloom and they really have bupkis to show for it.

Are there really a thousand charter schools in Minnesota, Spotty?

No grasshopper, but Spot likes the turn of the phrase. Their number is in the hundreds.

Kershaw has swung into action, of course, because of the recent report that he refers to from the University of Minnesota Institute on Race and Poverty. Spot refers to that report, and the Strib's article about it, Money rat hold status confirmed:

When charter schools started in Minnesota in the early 1990s, they were touted as a higher-quality alternative for parents, particularly poor and minority families, looking to escape underperforming district schools.

But a study released today by the University of Minnesota's Institute on Race and Poverty finds that most charter schools have fallen short of that promise and perform worse than comparable district schools on state tests. In the process, it said, charters also intensify racial and economic segregation and compound the problem by encouraging districts to compete by creating ethnic niche programs.

"So many people are seeing charter schools as a solution to poor, segregated neighborhoods," said Myron Orfield, the institute's executive director. "The sad part is, they're getting these kids to switch schools and then they're doing worse" than district schools.

And this is on top of a report earlier this year from the Legislative Auditor to the same effect.

You might be inclined to say, boys and girls, and Kershaw would be expected to be a shameless homer for charter school because he is just protecting the baby, and you would probably be right. But one of Kershaw's arguments is especially disingenuous:

Charters are a way of creating public schools. Nothing more. They are vehicles, with a variety of "models." And the data on results show that the distinction between successful and unsuccessful public schools is not between charters and districts.

Sorry, Sean, that's exactly what the Institute on Race and Poverty study showed.

One of the implications of Kershaw's comments is that charter schools are where innovation can be practiced. Indeed, that may be one of the new talking points defending charters, as was displayed in a letter from a charter school teacher that was featured the letter of the day in the Strib earlier this week:

Many of the most innovative schools we have are charter schools. [Spot quarrels with the factual accuracy of that statement, but never mind for now] I hope we begin to appreciate them and not just pressure them to become exactly like mainstream schools. They may be our last, best chance to recover some of the creativity and ingenuity that we have lost over these past few years of Back to Basics mentality.

So it's back to letting a thousand charter schools bloom, eh Spotty?

Exactly, grasshopper. Now you see the point.

But the really, really annoying part about this is that the same people who get all tingly about charter schools are the ones who drained the life out of real public schools with initiatives like No Child Left Behind; it's the Back to Basics mentality mentioned by the teacher. So it's what? Innovation for me, but not for thee?

Spot intends to expand on this in coming posts.

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