THIS WEDNESDAY, the School Reform Commission is expected to vote on new and revised policies that will strengthen the districts's oversight of the charter schools.
These policy changes set off a storm last month when introduced by the SRC. (In part because they hadn't been distributed earlier.) Charter school operators cried foul, saying the district wanted to micromanage them and that they should be considered independent from the district, given their charter status. They have asked for a 90-day delay so they can craft an alternative.
We suggest instead a 90-minute delay to give both sides a chance to read an enlightening new report that has a good message for all. Last week, Research for Action unveiled a study that provides an instructive look at the district since the state takeover. That's when the school reform agenda shifted the schools to a business- style of management (hence, the head of the schools is called a CEO). Along with this shift came a focus on top-down decision making, and, in the case of the SRC, too much business behind closed doors. The result: A system that shuts out civic and parental involvement, and cries out for transparency and inclusiveness.
This is an instructive message, not only for the district as a whole, but the charter schools in particular.
We were frankly troubled by the outrage and resistance the charter schools showed last month to the district's desire to impose more accountability and oversight. Not that we're champions of paperwork and regulations. But given how the charters have grown - 30,000 students now attend one of 61 charter schools in the city - the district is right to expect the charters to be accountable for their philosophies, performance and policies. How else do we know that schools, charter or otherwise, are giving our kids the best education possible?
We have to wonder: would the charters resist these demands if parents were making them? The RFA report expresses hope - which we share - for a time when parents demand this kind of accountability from all schools, and that all those concerned with education become equal partners.
It continues to trouble us that some charter schools want to follow the district's legacy of secret, non-inclusive management. We'd rather look to them as innovators, not only when it comes to education, but when it comes to showing the district what open, transparent, and inclusive management looks like. *