– So, why not support charter schools?
Over at the Prichard Committee’s blog, Susan Weston just posted a pretty good summary of the public school situation in Jefferson County.
She points out that Jefferson County’s public schools exist in an environment where adults have higher levels of education than the state in general and also have more wealth – and spend more of it – on their school system.
She further notes that the children in Jefferson County have a slightly lower-than-state-average poverty rate.
Weston then points out something we have been talking about for some time such as here and here: despite those clear advantages, kids in the Jefferson County Public School District generally are being seriously outperformed by other kids around Kentucky and the nation where there are fewer advantages.
Weston did say the district’s high schools do somewhat better, but that misses an important point that I discuss in another blog. The real reason for this difference is because the district’s high schools drop out a lot more low performers. These low performing kids simply aren’t around by the time tests are given, which inflates test scores for Jefferson County high schools compared to the rest of Kentucky.
Anyway, Prichard’s latest comments lead me to a puzzle.
I ran into Cinde Heine from Prichard at yesterday’s meeting of the Kentucky Senate’s Education Committee. I asked her about charter schools, and she said Prichard hasn’t taken a position on them.
Twenty years of KERA have not solved serious problems in Jefferson County. After all that effort, there aren’t many really different education ideas left that we haven’t already tried. Charter schools are about the only major program we have not tried that has a growing record of encouraging results elsewhere.
Even our pending Race to the Top submission to the US Department of Education really won’t add much dynamically new. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday stressed that when he presented House Bill 176, the enabling legislation for our Race to the Top application, to the Kentucky House Education Committee last week.
Today, Prichard’s main thrust seems based on giving teachers more professional development. They’ve been talking about that for years. The key question is how do we finally get local school leaders and the teachers who most need more development to pay attention, dig in, and make it work? Without any motivation, such as charter schools provide elsewhere around the country, I just don’t see this working well. It hasn’t, so far.
Most certainly – not in Jefferson County.