Sunday, July 24, 2005

District Sponsored Charter Schools

A reader called my attention to this editorial in yesterday's Plain Dealer:

The Plain Dealer
Ginn as principal? Sounds good
Saturday, July 23, 2005

No one can doubt Ted Ginn's ability to inspire excellence in young people.
Glenville High School's football and track coach has achieved remarkable results with his athletes, including a series of state championships. It's too soon to say whether Ginn's impressive skills can yield similar excellence in the classroom, but this much is certain: It's good that he's going to try.

Ginn is in preliminary conversations with Cleveland officials about opening a charter school in the city next year. So far, Ohio's charter schools have fallen well short of expectations, posting abysmal results even as their number has increased almost exponentially. At the same time, for-profit entities have dominated Ohio's charter market, commanding roughly half of the allocated dollars.

One entity, Akron industrialist David Brennan's White Hat Management, collected more than $100 million, or about a quarter of the state's charter-school spending. Brennan now is under investigation by the state legislative inspector general regarding his contacts with lawmakers - specifically whether he must comply with disclosure rules that apply to lobbyists.

For-profit companies have as much right to participate in the charter-school movement as anyone, but their dominance in Ohio raises serious concerns. Charters exist to provide alternatives to students and to encourage innovation. But concentrating so much money in the hands of a few can't help but stifle variety. The need for more independent efforts such as Ginn's becomes even more obvious.

Lawmakers this year capped the number of new charter schools over the next two years at 60. Unfortunately, the law included no provision for staggering the approval process to ensure that schools opening in 2006 - rather than this fall - have a few guaranteed slots.
We urge officials to address this issue, and encourage Ginn to pursue his idea. Cleveland desperately needs examples of academic quality.


CMSD will also be sponsoring another charter school, Entrepreneurship Academy, an extended day, eleven month 7-12th grade program, founded by local entrepreneur and E-City director, John Zitzner.

I will reserve my opinion of district sponsored charter schools until I can actually observe one up and running in Cleveland.
The proposed Entrpreneurs Academy as explained to me by John Zitzner would provide a very structured alternative learning environment for kids who might normally be lacking supervision at home due to family circumstances.
The potential for teacher burn-out however, is high, given the hours (8 AM - 8 PM) and school schedule (Mon. - Sat. 11 months/year). These folks would essentially be married to the school, and have no time for a personal life. I can see all kinds of problems with that, the obvious one being; what kind of person would want a job with those hours unless the pay was REALLY good? I would definitely want to run psychological profiles on these job applicants.
I spoke with John and his E-City staff about the new school, and was bothered somewhat by the administrative model as it was explained to me.
Very command/control.
We can only wait and see.

A union sponsored charter would hopefully be structured in a way that would provide teachers with optimum flexibility. I'm looking forward to watching the UFT sponsored elementary school in New York, and hope that the model designed by the folks on the frontlines of education is a great success.

4 comments:

Dale P. said...

The issues you've brought forth here help me see the Catch-22 for teachers in many charter schools. Increased freedom and accountability almost always equals more work. Freed from the bureaucratic control found in many large comprehensive high schools, many charter school teachers and their leaders find themselves with a greater responsibility for the overall functioning of the school. When they are the ones calling the shots and carrying them through, the amount of planning and reflection, and the time needed to do that, can be incredible. In most public schools, on the other hand, most teachers simply carry out the duties outlined by the higher ups. Most of these duties have been in existence for decades.

I recently visited a charter school in Chicago called the Young Women's Leadership Charter School. The staff there is doing amazing things for girls generally from low-income families (Oprah Winfrey just gave about a half a mil to the school) but the hours they put in were staggering. To truly create an effective charter school, as I see it, strong teachers and leaders (who know what they're doing) are crucial.
It will be interesting, as you point out, to see how these newly developed schools (including Mr. Ginn's) turn out.

derek said...

"For-profit companies have as much right to participate in the charter-school movement as anyone, but their dominance in Ohio raises serious concerns."

This is a fallacy. For-profit education should not have as much of a right to participate in the charter-school movement. The only motivation should be education, not profit motive.

Brennan and other leeches are siphoning money from the poor and giving a useless, substandard education. This is public money with very little public accountability. It's basically corporate welfare.

At least, when there's issues at CMSD, you can look at a Barbara Byrd-Bennett or a Jane Campbell or a school board. They are public, they are accountable (or can be held more so).

I don't think Brennan gives 2 shits about the kids at the Joke Academies and LifeSkids. If he did, he would educate them, not babysit them.

marybeth said...

I would love to see the Plain Dealer pusue the White Hat story mentioned in the editorial with some invetigative reporting.

"One entity, Akron industrialist David Brennan's White Hat Management, collected more than $100 million, or about a quarter of the state's charter-school spending. Brennan now is under investigation by the state legislative inspector general regarding his contacts with lawmakers - specifically whether he must comply with disclosure rules that apply to lobbyists."

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