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?
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.