Charter schools/Free schools

Discussion in 'General Education' started by blazer, Jun 18, 2010.

  1. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Jun 18, 2010

    Our new Government is bringing in Free schools in the UK based of the Charter school model from the US.

    To us teachers it seems to be a way that parents with sharp elbows can set up their own schools and keep out kids from poorer families leaving the state run schools to mop up what is left.

    To make sure they succeed the Free schools will not be tied to the British National curriculum and they can set their own pay and conditions for teachers (currently all English and Welsh teachers are on the same national pay scale).

    Are Charter schools succesful in the US?

    What are the advantages what are the disadvantages? All we hear from our Government is how wonderful they are.
     
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  3. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Jun 18, 2010

    Having never worked in a charter school, I can't give you any personal experience. However, just like any private school (etc) there can be good ones and bad ones. Most charter schools that I have heard about pay less than public schools do and some do not require their teachers to have certifications. A few do have that requirement though.
     
  4. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    Jun 18, 2010

    I guess it all depends upon what items they adopt from the charter school model.

    As a whole, charter schools in the United States produce mixed results. I couldn't give you a fixed percentage, but some good, some not-so-good.

    They are allowed to have up to 1/3 of their staff without teaching certificates. They have no union. They don't pay nearly as well as the regular public schools. They don't contribute to any teacher pension fund.

    They are allowed to pick and choose their students. They are allowed to toss students out who are regular problems or disruptions. Some parents say it's close to what they consider a private school-type education. Some say it's amazing their child has a teacher who doesn't have full knowledge of their own subject area. (Likely the ones without certificates/college degrees)

    Charter schools here draw off of any financing that the local public school district receives. For example, if District "X" gets $10 million from the state, a percentage of that $10 million has to go to each charter school within District "X's" boundaries.

    As they say, "the devil's in the details." It all depends how your representatives decide to craft the legislation.
     
  5. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Jun 18, 2010

    Newsweek does a great job of pointing out the highs and lows of charter schools. Being a charter school teacher, I can say that the schools that last the longest are the ones that offer something new that the traditional system does not. Those that are strictly for profit usually fail, and, honestly, rightfully so.
     
  6. Blkjacq

    Blkjacq Companion

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    Jun 18, 2010

    I agree with the mixed results. I know of some great ones and some really bad ones. I have gotten several students from one neraby charter and the kids have been behind. One girl was in third grade and could not tell me what sound the letter M makes. Her record showed wonderful grades Weird.
     
  7. Mrs Ski

    Mrs Ski Companion

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    Jun 18, 2010

    I also work at a charter school. In Utah charter schools must uphold the certification just as any public school. Teachers are either licensed or in the alternative licence programs just like any public school.

    We are non union, but i feel like that is a good thing. I get paid more than I would in a public school, with similar benefits but no pension. (but in public schools here that is getting more and more restricted anyways)

    We are not allowed to pick and choose students, students are pulled out of a lottery, however if they cannot behave and break the commitments they sign on to we are allowed to send them back to public school.

    Our school does produce test scores higher than local schools, but i know that is variable among schools, most of the charters near me are producing better than average scores.

    edited to add
    we follow all the same core curriculum just as a public school would, we just have more options as to how to teach it.
     
  8. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    Jun 18, 2010

    I also agree on the mixed results. There was an article in our local paper not too long ago that did not paint favorable statistics on their successes and the like. This came as quite a shock to many as I think a lot of people think they're so great. But, as one poster put it, the ones that have been around the longest have something different to offer and they are usually non-profs.
     
  9. Pencil Monkey

    Pencil Monkey Devotee

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    Jun 18, 2010

    I have taught in a charter school and will be moving to another charter school in August. Overall my experience was a good one. I liked the smaller class sizes and the private school environment. Students wore uniforms and had to adhere to a strict dress code. there were a lot of internal organizational issues where things were changed at the last minute or meetings called at the last minute. The pay was lower than the local county scale and the benefits were very pricey. Yes, some students got shown the door for behavior issues. Some were shown the door because our school didn't have any special services like ESL or Special Education. There was also not a library at the school.
     
  10. Chalk

    Chalk Companion

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    Jun 19, 2010

    Biggest thing I see that brings out the disgust about our local "charter" school is the issue of selective student population. I have seen (and the research supports ) an indication of 3 significant parts of this.

    1. Charter has a tendency to take in a majority of white, middle class students with "good" ( as in little reports of behavior problems) without much scrutiny, whereas minority students are rejected on the basis of Social-economic background and/or ( in some cases) a single blemish on the students permanent record. Unacceptably let legal under the charter system.

    2. Charter tend to reject special needs children, save for a token wheelchair kid for political show. Again research supports the finding.

    3. Charter creates one of two systems that make them look good. 1 is academic ejection in which an student who begins to show academic issues are elected from the school, thus protecting the schools "numbers" in terms of student performance. 2. They drop the grading standards and apply the "whole child" measurement. This means that if a child performs well in PE and Art and History but poorly in Math and OK in English, they are given a grade based on the entire program and that goes to average each class. so that F in math will get raised to a C by the A in PE and the A in Art. Hurts the child, makes the school look like they are doing a wonderful job.

    ----
    The charter schools around here pay more than public and have no qualms about recruiting and offering huge bonuses to get the good teachers away from the Public school. Once the teacher gets in to the charter school and sees the way they do things, if they don't like the charters methods they are told to "just quit" but pay back the bonus in full in thirty days......then try to get a job back in the public system.

    Bad JU-JU
     
  11. Liljag

    Liljag Companion

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    Jun 19, 2010

    Out of curiosity, isn't the UK model going to be based on the Swedish model rather than the US model (just what I have heard/read).Charter schools here are tied to the National Curriculum, we cannot pick and choose pupils, and it allows a broader choice to the individual. I think one of the biggest advantages of Charter schools is that it allows for families to choose schools which give more weight towards a certain subject (such as the English and/or Bilingual charter schools that we have here).
     
  12. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Jun 19, 2010

    We are told that the Swedish and US models are the same.

    Apparently the new schools will have more money per child than state schools (because they will get the % that the City keeps back to run central services). They are not supposed to select their intake but everyone knows there are more than a few ways to 'choose' who gets a place. The new schools will not have to follow the Natuional curriculum and niether will they have to follow the national pay agreements. No details have been given about the qualifications required by teachers (but then in state schools there are many unqualified staff taking classes, they are given titles such as 'Cover supervisor; or 'High level Teaching assistant').

    If the way to improve a school is to give it more money and stop it teaching the national curriculum then why not just do that to the schools that already exist?
     
  13. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    Jun 19, 2010

    In the USA they can send the kids back to the public schools if the child does not fulfill the expectations at the schools. They bleed money from the public school system to create an uneven playing ground. The requirements that public schools must meet is not required of the charter schools. So if it is set on the USA's format you are right. Your question is the one many public school teachers here have been asking. A lot of people think it is a plan to gut public education to basically screw the middle and lower classes and thus support the upper class. Thus causing class discrimination to get worse.
     
  14. demijasmom

    demijasmom Companion

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    Jun 21, 2010

    The charter schools where I live pay is lower than that of publc school teachers, the teachers must be certified, they do participate in retirement services, there is no union and they get paid during the summer. There may be some organizational issues and such. They do not all get to pick and choose their students. They do have a special ed. teacher. The students have to wear a uniform. The majority of students who attend the charter schools here are African-American.
     
  15. Liljag

    Liljag Companion

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    Jun 21, 2010

    Then you are told wrong from what I am reading about the US charter schools. Here the schools get the same amount of money as the public schools/same regulations, there is no choosing of students, no tuition fees, no rejection of students based on individual needs (often hiring of special education teachers/teachers aids is done in these situations), teachers are encouraged to join unions and the pay is about the same between charter/public schools, and, as stated before, children get to have more choices on where they want to go thereby giving the same advantages to both the rich and the poor. The same amount of money follows the student here regardless of where you come from or where you are going and every school follows the same regulations towards getting it. Many do have unqualified teachers but what is considered "unqualified" in Sweden are those teachers who may not be certified in Sweden but are qualified in another country (such as a Spanish teacher who got her certification in Spain). In 2011, all teachers will be expected to have Swedish certification, regardless if they are in a Charter school or public.

    It makes no sense really why they (UK) do not want these schools to follow the national curriculum. Here you must but since our curriculum is goal oriented rather than targeted (such as the US system), it is up to individual school/teacher interpretation and thus makes the school more flexible.
     
  16. TeacherApr

    TeacherApr Groupie

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    Jun 21, 2010

    I do not care for charter schools because they "get" to have their own rules as far as obtaining money from the state. Public and charter schools have different regs as to what they need to follow in order to receive this money. That leaves a bitter taste in my mouth because they get more money than public schools...yet, I teach in a 100% poverty school.
     
  17. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Jun 21, 2010

    Thanks for that. So who decides how a 'free' school gets set up in Sweden? In the UK the Government has siad that groups of parents can set up their own school. Individual teachers can set up their own school and private companies, religeous groups etc can also set up their own schools.

    So what happens when someone in Sweden sets up a new school. presumably the existing schools lose students to the new school. So the existing schools lose funding as well which will lead to them struggling. Who is paying for all the empty desks this system will produce?

    If the Swedish free schools have to follow all the same regulations that the state schools have to follow where is the advantage in them?

    Can the Swedish free aschools exclude students more easily then state schools?
     
  18. Liljag

    Liljag Companion

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    Jun 22, 2010


    Anyone can set up a free school here as long as they meet the criteria established by their district and it is ratified by the district. Yes, since the money follows the student, the charter school could recieve more money than a local public school because they may have say 200 students as opposed to the 100 in the public school (in a sense one may say this could be an advantage if the public school is strapped for space). Yes the charter schools follow the same regulations/curriculum as the free schools (as do the private schools..students can also attend these through a voucher system) but they may interpret the state curriculum differently. Hence, a child interested in Chemistry may go to a Charter school featuring a Chemistry program rather than go to a public school which may not feature this. In this sence, regardless of your income or where you come from, you can choose any education and do not have to worry about costs. This also allows for a blending of groups within the school rather than just it being for the locals.

    No, no school is allowed to exclude students.
     
  19. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Jun 23, 2010

    Just found this article on the BBC website. Not sure if you can access the site from abroad so have cut and pasted.

    The Swedish model of free schools, lauded by the Conservatives, has not significantly improved pupils' academic achievement, a study suggests.

    The research, published in Research in Public Policy, found the biggest beneficiaries tended to be pupils from educated, professional homes.

    The Swedish model has influenced the government's free schools policy.

    Education Secretary Michael Gove believes free schools will lead to higher standards in England's schools.

    In Sweden, non-profit and for-profit organisations are able to set up and run schools which are publicly funded, but independent from government control.

    In England, all schools have been invited to become academies, which would allow them to opt out of local authority control

    Groups of parents and teachers, charities and businesses are also being encouraged to set up free schools.

    'Close to zero'

    The paper, published in Research in Public Policy, examined a range of research into Sweden's experience of free schools.

    The study found the scheme was limited in predicting how similar reforms would work in England.

    Report author Rebecca Allen from the Institute of Education found those who benefited most from these schools were those from more privileged homes.

    "The impact on low-educated families and immigrants is close to zero," the report said.

    It went on: "The researchers also find that the advantages that children educated in areas with free schools have by age 16 do not translate into greater educational success in later life.

    "The evidence on the impact of the reforms suggests that, so far, Swedish pupils do not appear to be harmed by the competition from private schools, but the new schools have not yet transformed educational attainment in Sweden."

    Higher standards

    In an answer to a parliamentary question on the policy, Mr Gove said on Tuesday that all the evidence showed that more free schools meant higher standards.

    "They help close the gap between the poorest and the wealthiest children," he added.

    Rachel Wolf, director of the New Schools Network, which helps groups to set up schools, said the study did not cover "important studies" of charter schools in the United States.

    "That research, including lottery studies at Harvard, Stanford and MIT, has shown that allowing properly regulated new schools can bring dramatic improvements in school standards, especially for schools for poorer children in poor areas."

    It was announced last week that more than 700 groups have expressed an interest in setting up a school.
     
  20. Liljag

    Liljag Companion

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    Jun 23, 2010

    Yes, the article does make sense and there are points I agree with. Of course, children from homes with more education/more professional will benifit more from any school because education is more prioritized. In the end, everything is parent dependent and regardless if a school is instituted which is the end all of schools, if the child is not supported by the parent, their education will be affected. I do not agree with the statement that Charter schools do not close the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest. Here, any child has the chance to go any school that they want regardless if it is a private school, a Charter school or a public school. They can then go on to attain a University education which is also free. If people from low income areas only had the option of attending schools in their areas, then they would only be able to recieve an education/take a program offered in that area, thereby limiting their choice and not have the ability to take a line that might affect if they are accepted into say a medical line at Karolinska. We are also the only country in Europe offering a Universal voucher system, thereby increasing independent providers of schools.

    Competition from independent schools has also improved results in public schools. Before we started the policy of free schools, chilcren had NO choice of what school they went to..only attending public schools in their area. Children at Charter schools have the opportunity to attend smaller classes, be taught by teachers who may have a certain training in a subject, and have more choice in taking a subject line that they find interesting rather than take one that is just offered in their community . This is the point of the whole model but what the UK system has done (or rather wants to do) is ignored how the Charter schools here follow the same curriculum as the state schools and thereby allowing less governmental influence (except for Math and Science correct?). Maybe it has not improved the standards overall in Sweden (which were not really low to begin with) but it has not lowered them and it has allowed children more choice which, as I said, was the point of the system.

    I think that whenever you are importing a standard from another, difficulties arise and things such as Charter schools here helped with a problem which Sweden was facing in the 90s, especially in high immigration areas, a problem that may or may not be as large in another country. It is not a "quick fix" for an educational system, promising the same results, or may have helped to solve a problem which is not the focus for the country importing it. But it should not be instantly dismissed because of a 3rd party article. I mean in the article you quoted, it says

    "In Sweden, non-profit and for-profit organisations are able to set up and run schools which are publicly funded, but independent from government control."

    This makes no sense as they have to follow the exact same govermental curriculum as Public schools and are subject to govermental control. You have to be approved by the community in meeting governmental guidelines in order to even start a Charter school and Charter schools are constantly being evaluated by the government here and can be shut down if they are not meeting govermental standards.

    Edit: Enough of my ranting :)
     

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