Saturday, August 22, 2009

Charter Schools: A Call For Papers

I'll forego the typical "I write stuff here and maybe you make a comment" process and instead invert it. I'm looking for ideas, concepts, little notes written on restaurant napkins with arrows and stuff, etc. on the subject of a new charter school here in Albuquerque.

Any readers out there ever thought of what their own Private Idaho Charter School (PICS) would look like? What PICS would your son/daughter attend? What would make your PICS different than the 5.4 million charter schools already in Albuquerque?

You can comment below, or send me an email if you're shy. Maybe nobody will send me either, but I just want to tap a vein here to see if any blood might be flowing through it. Nurse, syringe please.


Abuelita2 said...

Oh, my gosh, yes! I'd love to brainstorm a dream charter school!! Actually, I'd rather public schools could be all that I dream, but..... (I am sorry to admit that this year I am teaching in a charter school because I just couldn't take APS principals. Well, some. I fervently believe in public education, particularly public schools. But I think now the whole system is SO derailed and contaminated that it will be a long time in fixing, if ever. I hope I'm wrong.) I'm very excited to think another teacher in APS is thinking as you are. I have lots of ideas, as I'm sure many APS teachers do. I will get busy writing what I think; I'll try to spqueeze time to do that.

Mario Burgos said...


Both of our kids are now attending Family School (4th and 6th grade), and I've got to tell you I've been unbelievably impressed - not a simple feat. I've been in and around dozens of schools - public, private and parochial - over the years, and the education experience and opportunities that Family School is providing our children seems to me to be up there with the very best.

They take advantage of technology and parental involvement while taking an approach that allows the student to work on individual strengths and weaknesses as opposed to trying to get a square peg into a round hole. This does not mean that they put less emphasis on student performance as measured by standardized testing, quite the contrary actually. They also get rid of a lot of the "wasted" time spent in school. School is once again a place for learning, as opposed to a place to park your kids for six or more hours a day.

With all that said, I don't think it is the right school for everyone, and I think that actually gets at the core of what you are asking. You can't create a dream charter school that would fit every child's needs. However, the school does seem to have some key ingredients that I believe you will find in every successful school:

1) a strong administrative leader with a vision and passion for education. At Family School, she's also a classroom teacher.

2) Mandated parental involvement. At Family School this is to an extreme since parents are essentially responsible for more than 40% of the students' educational time. But the manner in which it is done, the teacher is essentially mentoring the parent through the education process.

3) Children who stay with the same teacher for a few years (K-4 classes and 4-8 classes).

4) Smaller learning communities.

5) Curriculum that is standards driven yet tailored to the student as opposed to the other way around.

The beauty behind the idea of charter schools is creating programs that will appeal to the needs of certain children and their families.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that an ideal charter school is one that has these key ingredients and successfully fills a need that isn't already being met.

Anonymous said...

Schools are a bit like restaurants. The big chains will feed the masses; the little bistro with the limited menu will feed some.

Charter schools certainly fill a role, but they will never serve "billions and billions." Many high schools, in effect, become specialized just like charters because they can offer such a wide range. The charter, on the other hand, can only offer a narrow range because of their size.

My biggest concern about charters is that they can be too narrow in focus. Most kids have no idea what they want to do with their lives whether they are 12 or 18.

Many universities recognize this and proscribe a very general, well-rounded education for the first year or two.

I support charters, but also recognize that they will never replace the big-box high schools.