South Carolina remains a disturbing subset of the larger education reform movement effectively dismantling but not improving pubic schools, institutions that have historically and are currently failing vulnerable student populations who need public opportunities more than anyone.
Charleston is now the battle ground over expanding charter schools and embracing the already failed turnaround or takeover models that many early adopters in other states are ending.
The public version of the debate has included the following:
- Beware of ‘turnaround’ school districts (see compilation of research at the end)
- Beware of privatizing public education, Millicent Brown and Jon Hale
- Momentum grows for Charleston education, Anita Zucker and Ted Legasey
- Brentwood and Burns make public schools work for kids
- Don’t trust ‘free market’ reforms for public schools, The Rev. Joseph A. Darby
Beyond the specifics of the issues of this debate about takeover policies and charter school expansion (and the implications of privatizing public schools therein), this debate highlights a very important issue for SC and the nation: Don’t trust invested advocates of education reform.
The current charter school debate, we must acknowledge, is just the latest version of the much older school choice debate. Notable about the school choice debate is that choice advocates have constantly shifted their promises, ignored when they fail to come through, and then moved on to the next carnival scam.
The debate over charter schools and takeovers in Charleston, then, is another time we must heed Why Advocacy and Market Forces Fail Education Reform.
Advocates for Meeting Street Schools are driving with vested interest expanding their model, and making dramatic claims without providing the data and evidence for disinterested parties to analyze.
Part of school choice advocacy, including the current charter push, includes making grand claims before the data are available for unmasking those claims.
SC has a large pro-charter movement that routinely falls ways short of any sort of competition model: 4 or 5 charters out of over 50 producing data better than comparable public schools, and most charters are no better and many are worse (see analysis of two years here).
These “miracle” school narratives fail on logic (outliers are irrelevant for determining typical), but as Harris has show, disinterested analysis of “miracle” schools has shown that “only 1.1 percent of high-poverty schools were identified as ‘high flyers.'”
School choice is a shell game, one resting its promises on indirect action that is necessarily no positive action at all.
The only direct action is investing fully in public education that starts with the interests of our most vulnerable students and not the promises of adults invested in their own interests.