Charter Systems

I am intrigued by this latest movement on the part of school systems across the state of Georgia to move to “charter status.” Our own beloved Coweta County is exploring such a move.

Essentially, an entire system switches its schools over to charter school status, which means that it is freed from many state rules and regulations. Who wouldn’t want to do that? No more pesky rules about testing, hooray!

The question arises, why would the state want to do that? It turns out there is a trade-off for gaining charter system status: you have to produce better results than you would have under the state’s restrictions, “results” being defined as “student achivement,” where “student achievement” is defined as “better test scores,” where “better” is defined as “higher.”

Still, imagine the freedom! You get to teach your kids however you like, as long as you’re sure that your mavericky instructional ways are going to produce Lake Wobegon test scores.

Just this morning I heard a school system superintendent (not ours) on the radio, enthusing how charter system status would give them “more flexibility on things like class size and teacher pay.”

Well, alrighty then, let’s do that thing where you lower class sizes and hire more teachers at higher pay so that you can… what?

Really?

Oh. Never mind then.

I suppose that it is entirely possible that you could load up a class with 35 students (although today’s classrooms have been built for much smaller numbers) and cut the teacher’s pay, and at the end of the five-year charter period have freaking incredible test scores. It’s possible George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales will be charged with war crimes, too. I am after all an optimist.

However, I am still curious: if “easing” the regulations on class size and teacher pay (among others) so that local systems have more “flexibility” actually would produce significant student achievement, then why do we have those gosh-darn regulations in the first place? Wouldn’t it make sense to liberate the entire state from the onus of these burdensome regulations so that Georgia could immediately “lead the nation in improving student achievement”?

I remain, as always, curious.

6 thoughts on “Charter Systems

  1. I am going to suggest a thought experiment here in case any of our decision-makers wander through. Assuming, cynically, that the whole thing is a shell game, then is it not in Cowera County’s best interest to lay low while surrounding counties take the plunge? Then when their teachers are faced with overcrowded classes for less pay, we can have our pick of the cream of the crop. And then our student achievement really would improve.

  2. I’d also like to say that I have given only the most superficial study of the issue. I could be completely wrong. However, I am not wrong about what “local flexibility” really means.

  3. Another question: who benefits? I can’t help but wonder if some of the larger corporations that run charter schools have been lobbying the legislature to open up vast new profit opportunities to them.

  4. Vast profit opportunities. I like that. I’ve always thought of the concept of profit-making on a school as analogous to those sci-fi epics like V, where the hidden agenda of our alien overlords (who I for one welcome) is to suck the planet dry of its water/oxygen/manflesh. Because if there were a profit to be made, wouldn’t we be doing that? I mean, really.

  5. Staying very much on topic, were you aware that the remake of V has been greenlighted, and that Morena Baccarin will be playing the lead alien? Mmmmmm.

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