The Great Charter School Debate

With their persistent pollination across the U.S, President Obama's continuous endorsement, and the state of post-hurricane New Orleans, charter schools are the fastest growing phenomenon in our country's education system. They are changing student, teacher, parent, and administrator understanding and expectations of schools. Because of this massive onset of large and small charter organizations, from KIPP to Prospect Hill, we who are teachers, students, parents and potential parents of students, or folks who are planning on living in the U.S. in the near future, need to understand the different ways charter schools are affecting students, and how they are changing and challenging what our schools need to be.

Some urban districts are feeling vulnerable and taken advantage of, for they cannot but must nevertheless compete with the growing number of charter schools because of the reality of their still limited scope. Other urban districts are welcoming incoming charters, believing that if outside labor is willing to do the work for them, then they can have as many schools as they want.

We will examine case studies of schools, cities, districts, and large and small charter organizations. We will weigh the pros and cons of what charter schools, public/community schools, private/alternative schools can and cannot offer, and the complexities therein. Most likely, we will not come up with an answer about whether or not charter schools are good or bad, but we will analyze the vast complexities, and determine what we as individuals and as a class believe to be the most important and essential kinds of services schools can bring to students. Important to our discussion will be the limits and freedoms present according to how different charter organizations define themselves, but out ultimate focus and measure is centered around determining how, with the changing realities and trends, our youth can be educated to be successful and up-standing.

So, I invite you to join me in the pursuit of a clearer understanding of the muddle that is the burgeoning charter school movement as it struggles to define itself. I am welcoming those with experience in education and in different types of schools, and also those who nevertheless care about the development of our youth, and the evolution of one of the oldest professions and human impulses. We will most likely welcome guest speakers, visit school sites when we cannot visit during the day. This will be a weekly discussion group, guided and influenced by readings on research, testimonials, etc. We will definitely use specific examples of schools and organizations to inform our discussion. I want to as much as possible stick with facts and data, and avoid conjecture. What is most excitingly possible is the opportunity to develop a freshly digested set of criteria, relative to whatever, and the opportunity to spread out before us the forces and players that make this such a complex issue.

Meeting Times: Either Monday or Tuesday evenings
Start Date: Ideally the week of Sept. 19th
Where: I have a really nice dining room table. The Central Branch of the Boston library has nice tables, too.
Cost: Very likely, a $100 deposit for a 10 course class, with $10 returned to each student at each meeting attended.

Teacher: Mark Duhaime
To enroll in this course.

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