Charter schools in New Orleans - Perhaps the most compelling case I've seen so far

Discussion in 'General Education' started by EdEd, Sep 12, 2012.

  1. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Very interesting read about charter schools in New Orleans for 2 reasons:

    1. Almost all schools in New Orleans are charters apparently.

    2. Academic achievement and high school graduation have dramatically improved in New Orleans, especially compared with state averages.

    The author cites typical reasons why charter schools are good, but given that only 17% of charters nationwide outperform public schools, I'd be interested to see why New Orleans is different.

    Anyone from New Orleans want to shed some light?

    http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/09/12/03osborne.h32.html?print=1
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    The link would only give the first 2 paragraphs.... in the mood to summarize??
     
  4. EdEd

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    Actually, here's a link to a more in-depth report by the same author, along with an executive summary up front that does a good job:

    http://content.thirdway.org/publica..._Bayou-A_New_Model_for_American_Education.pdf

    In short, however, after Katrina New Orleans decided to move a number of its schools in the charter status, and since has seen a lot of improvement. I just found the more detailed report and haven't given it a read, and am hoping it will clarify how New Orleans has been different than other cities in terms of its charter school implementation, as it seems that they are experiencing different results than in many other cities.

    Sorry, I know that's not a great summary!
     
  5. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    That's funny, because here in Louisiana, we hear the exact opposite coming out of New Orleans. Most schools in NOLA are not charters, though there are a number of charters in the area. Most schools are actually probably Catholic. Many of the public schools in Orleans parish were taken over by the Recovery School District and turned into charters, and they consistently continue to have among the lowest scores in the state. After Katrina, many of the poorest students did not return to the district, which did help test scores. NOLA has quite different demographics now than pre-Katrina. Note that while going from 23% on grade level to 51% in 6 years is tremendous growth, it is still well below the average of students in Louisiana and in NOLA public schools. This assessment does not show the whole picture behind the charter schools in New Orleans. I've heard little good from parents and students in those schools, nor from teachers.
     
  6. EdEd

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    That's an interesting perspective MissCeliaB - thanks for chiming in. To respond to a few of your points:

    1. How do you respond to the figures presented that most are charters? I wonder where the discrepancy is? Where are you getting your info about how many charters are in New Orleans?

    2. In terms of poverty, while free/reduced lunch does not fully describe the level of poverty students experience (for example, 2 students could both be FRL but still be very different in their experiences of poverty and absolute level of poverty), the author of the article cites a fact that the relative number of students of FRL and African-American status are essentially the same.

    3. You are right that 51% is definitely still low, but the author seems to think that's relatively commensurate with the state average. I guess we need to dig a little deeper to figure out the average.

    4. You mention hearing few positives - it seems from the report that there was a substantial increase in positive review from 2009 to 2011 or so. Have you noticed any more positive reviews coming out recently?
     
  7. Jazzy*Jai

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    I worked in a charter in New Orleans and I can tell you first hand that everything isn't what it seems.
    From my experience personally, they don't teach the kids they drill facts into them. I taught Kinder at the time and they would send home the report card assessment home 2 weeks ahead of time for the parents and kids to "study" it.
    There is no behavior management or discipline on place because they don't want that on their record, the teachers just yell at the kids or punish them.
    After being told constantly to get with their program and stop using my teaching methods and act more like the other teachers...I hightailed it out of there after 6 weeks.
     
  8. Go Blue!

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    I agree with the previous poster and as someone who works in a "charter school" - I am NOT a fan at all. I teach at a public "charter school" and have had just as many issues here as I did at the non-charters I worked at before. My current school has a foundation that supports us but we are still run/governed/managed by Baltimore City Public Schools who gives us the majority of our funding and in return, we must follow their mandates. I thought charters were suppossed to give schools freedom to be independent of the district (although I love being part of the local union)? Here in BCPS, the word charter school only seems to mean "themed program" as I have yet to expierence the benefits I hear that charter schools have to offer.

    We are not a selective school since this is an Open Choice district and we have students from all over the city. Thus, we have to deal with the same BS behavior the non-charters do (fighting, disrespect, wild and rowdy kids). Demographically, 99% of our students are Black at my school and over 95% get Free/Reduced Lunch and the free monthly MTA bus passes they use to get to and from school. These demographics match the other two previous schools I worked at and our test scores are on average with the rest of the district. Overall, I don't see the benefits of these public "charter schools."
     
  9. EdEd

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    Sep 13, 2012

    That's a really interesting perspective. Have you gotten the sense that your experience was pretty similar, having spoken with folks from other schools?
     
  10. EdEd

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    That's interesting - do you know why your charter school was founded? By who and for what reasons? I'd be interested if there was a unique educational philosophy?
     
  11. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Thanks EdEd. I just forwarded it to our school President. He's always on the lookout for what's new in education.
     
  12. MissCeliaB

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    1. I get my information from driving around New Orleans. Many of the schools that are "charter schools" are run by the school district and are simply renamed public schools with the same teachers, students, etc. as before the charter. Many of the charters in New Orleans have no unique educational philosophy, but instead exist for the money, and to provide the jobs. The open, they make their money, they close. With our new voucher program, the problem will get worse.

    2. I'm just not going to address this one because I'm trying to find a non-snarky, polite way to, and I'm struggling.

    3. The average is in the article you posted. RSD: 51% Louisiana: 68% OPSB: 82% Yes, they have shown tremendous growth, but when you have so far to grow, it's easier to make big gains. The gap between 20 and 40 is easier than the gap between 80 and 100.

    4. I still hear terrible things. Certainly not all of the schools are bad, but many are. I think charter schools can be done well. I don't think that many of the ones in the RSD are. The data do not show the whole picture.
     
  13. Peregrin5

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    I'm come to realize that pointing out the successes or failures of certain charter schools as proof that charter schools are effective or not, is largely a pointless exercise.

    The whole point of charters is to remove government bureaucracy. However the effect of the amount of government bureaucracy on the learning of students is unknown, as there has not really been any research into it.

    So charter schools can vary and DO vary widely from each other. The ones that succeed tend to have the same characteristics as public schools who succeed (i.e. happy teachers, effective management, etc.). Those who fail either have the same characteristics as failing public schools or put too much emphasis on making a profit, and put student learning behind other priorities.

    Saying a charter is doing well doesn't prove anything about charters because each is different. Most often, they're simply good environments for student learning because of practices that benefit teachers and students, and can be replicated at a public school without having the public school go charter.

    This whole discussion about how good or bad charters are, I've found is pointless. Maybe if more effort were lent to improving existing schools than to try a "dangerous social experiment" (to borrow the words of those who oppose another movement) to privatize education, then perhaps more students would learn.
     
  14. EdEd

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    Thanks for the info - definitely interesting to hear an inside perspective.
     
  15. EdEd

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    I largely agree with this, except that I think there may be certain reasons why charters (or public schools) have come to be good educational environments, and studying the pathways to success can be interesting. So, in that respect, while charters certainly could be the same as public schools, they also could find success differently as well. In other words, let's take the example of "happy teachers" as you mentioned - it could be that a charter school has developed a unique way of instilling happiness that would have been more difficult to accomplish within the constraints of the existing public school system.

    Also, I definitely agree that you can't look at isolated examples and draw the conclusion that charters, as a whole, are performing better or worse. However, part of the point of charters is not to necessarily outperform public schools, but to explore new ideas that might be able to replicated. Because of this, those isolated cases of success could prove very important, and therefore (with even of those isolated cases) be proof of the concept. In other words, charter schools could still under-perform public schools and still be a valuable addition to the educational landscape.
     
  16. Peregrin5

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    True. I am not averse to trying new things in order to benefit education and learn new things. That is educational research in action.

    The problem arises when parents or certain very politically minded people hail charters as the savior for our schools, and point to success stories or anecdotes and refrain from pointing out that 83% of charters do worse than their public school equivalents.

    These same people sometimes believe that unions are horrible faceless corporation and that teachers are overpaid and should have no rights. You aren't going to get happy teachers if you remove their benefits or having them working for near poverty wages. Or hiring ill-prepared non-credentialed teachers to teach urban inner city students with no experience because it saves the school money in teachers wages.

    It's just become so political and profit minded, this entire issue, that I am sometimes sick of hearing about it and correcting those who make incorrect assumptions and conclusions based on their inability to use logic.
     
  17. EdEd

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    I very much agree that the concept of charter schools has more issues involved than just what we've been discussing, and that some special interest groups want to use charter schools for things other than educational innovation.
     
  18. blazer

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    Could you provide a link to the 83% figure please. We are having Charters schools (we call them Free schools) shoved down our throats over here and their proponants always claim that they will be better than the schools they compete with. Mind you quite a few of our charter schools are actually failing private schools who have converted so as to get public money!
     
  19. Geauxtee

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    The Orleans Parish Schools are doing better after the Katrina. For one, the school board was corrupt and stealing money from the schools for awhile in the nineties. The buildings were horrible.
    1) There is always been a handful of good public schools patronized by the upper middle class/middle class. These schools are charters now, and are still doing very well.
    2) The new charters serving the poor/lower middle class are a mixed bag. The charter schools that have been successful employ lots of young teachers without families and work them to death. Most of them have an extended school day from 7:30-4:30, then the teacher is on call from 6:00-9:00pm every night to answer homework questions. Parent involvement is a *bit* better because KIPP and others make parent sign involvement clauses to enroll their child. KIPP does kick students out if they can't get "Kipperized." If a student is doing poorly due to behavior or whatever at a charter, they can get kicked out and go to the Recovery School District.
    3)The Recovery School District is basically a renamed version of the Orleans Parish School district. Like, there is high turnover, lots of behavior problems -- it's better than Orleans Parish because Katrina revitalization wiped out a lot of the corrupt people but still far from perfect. It's your basic inner city public school system, lots of problem but more conversations on how to change things.
     
  20. EMonkey

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    I think the problem is not whether some charter schools do well or not. I think the problem is that there are two levels of expectations and financial assistance that is being set up. It is similar to the levels that were already there in the wealthier communities to middle class communities to poorer communities or in the segregation of schools. Charters instead of fixing the school system fix it for certain children and not for all. Rather than working on fixing it for some why not focus on giving the freedom and financial support to all schools? Well, probably because that would inconvenience the idea of privatization of education.
     
  21. EdEd

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    The quote of 83% is not quite accurate - the figure is that only 17% perform better, so it doesn't mean that the rest perform worse - could be roughly equivalent.

    It's also not really an accurate statistic because charter schools are not a singular construct. Because each state charters schools differently (if at all), and each of those schools operates under a different model, it's not possible to apply the 17%/83% statistic to new schools because the new school isn't exactly the same as others.
     
  22. EdEd

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    Sep 16, 2012

    Thanks for the perspective!
     
  23. Marci07

    Marci07 Devotee

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    It looks like part of the success for charters in New Orleans and even here in Chicago is due also in part to the ability to kick students out to regular public schools. See, regular public schools can’t do that, we have to educate all students!!
     
  24. EdEd

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    To respond to the criticism that charter schools are different because they can expel kids - not just in response to you Marci07, but all similar posts - that is indeed a valid point, and should be considered when comparing schools and examining research. However, I think it's also important that we not just negate potential things charters are doing right - not just write them off because they have a particular option that public schools have less of.

    Definitely not disagreeing with you, though, Marci07 - that can be play a big role.
     
  25. Marci07

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    I worked at a charter school and there were so many things that gave them an advantage over public schools that I noticed from my experience.

    Charters have freedom to hire anyone they want, even teachers without a teaching certificate.

    Charters can independently implement any curriculum they want. Public schools here couldn't and still can't choose their own curriculum based on their needs. In math for example, we had to follow district wide curriculum and were forced to follow it word by word.

    Most charters hire young teachers and work them long hours and are even expected to work more hours after school. This could turn teaching into a profession for only teachers without families if this continues. I don't even think that the burn out these teachers experience is good for students either. When I worked at a charter school, I was the only one with a family with kids and was not able to do much after our long hours which made me feel like I wasn't as good as the rest even though I had more experience teaching than any of my colleagues and my students were performing well. IMO the rigor in teaching wasn't as strong as in public schools.

    Charter schools are not all able to legally meet the needs of special ed students. Many special ed. students can't attend charters and are sent to regular schools.

    Lastly, the big one that made a big difference is that charters can set and implement any discipline policy they want while we can't. We have a lot of limitations as far as how to discipline students. For example, we have new longer day where students get 25 minutes of recess and teachers can't take away this recess time for students as a consequence for misbehavior. The reason this is a big issue is because working in low-income schools with several students with behavior issues, having a strong discipline system is essential. I can't even send to the office an extremely disruptive student who takes away precious instructional time to the office!!! Yet, at a charter school I was able to do that easily.

    In spite of all these limitations, many of our regular schools are outperforming charters here in Chicago. It shows that having experienced certified teachers does matter.

    Can we instead of opening more charters, try to give the same freedom to public schools and then we can compare?
     
  26. EdEd

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    Regarding your last question, that's exactly what charter schools are - public schools that are given more freedom.

    You're absolutely right, though, when you say that charter schools are different and have advantages, which is exactly the point. We want them to do things differently so we can see what works. The problem isn't if they are successful - it's that we don't then take those advantages and attempt to give regular, non-charter public schools the same advantage. For example, if freedom to chose a discipline policy is an advantage, then you're right - allow public schools broadly to change in that direction as well.

    I have some other thoughts about each of the advantages that I wanted to address after each one below...

    If this proves to be an advantage over requiring a teaching certificate, then it might make sense to allow non-chartered public schools to do the same.

    Definitely the core advantage for any charter, which is the point - if that newly chosen curriculum works better (or simply the freedom to implement any research-based curriculum), then that freedom should be extended to non-charters.

    This is a valid point, but maybe that's what it takes in low-income schools. For example, doctors and lawyers both spend a lot of time at the sacrifice of balance and personal time. Maybe the teaching profession requires the same, and the freedoms educators have enjoyed (which many would argue have diminished substantially anyway) are no longer possible in our current society.

    No doubt, this would affect future work force, as yes - teachers with families wanting time at home from 4pm on would likely be ruled out.

    I'm not aware of this - are you saying that children with IEPs are legally not allowed to attend charter schools, or simply that it's infeasible because there aren't supports available in many charters to meet the needs of kids with special needs?

    Definitely seems like something that should be allowed in regular public schools!

     
  27. Marci07

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    I don't know how to work this site very well yet so I can't put a reply below your points. I'll reply to a couple:

    Charters don't offer a lot of support and services for Special Ed. students as regular schools do. In fact, special ed was for a long time a hard-to-fill position here in Chicago so Special Ed teachers would rather work at public schools that would offer better pay and benefits. For this reason, many special ed students, not all, had to be sent back to regular schools.

    I totally see your point that low-income schools need the long hours because of the poor conditions and educational urgency they face. Just as a doctor and lawyer sacrifice their personal time teachers in low-income need to do that, and believe me, many of us already do that even when we don't work at charters!! I'm also so glad you used doctors and lawyers as an example to compare because you know that their pay is generally much, much higher than ours. In that case then, let's match the pay with the sacrifice!!! In fact, those low-income schools need the best and strongest of the teachers, why not offer an significant meaningful salary that will draw them to teach at charters? I bet you that many doctors and lawyers would not continue in their profession for the same salaries that teachers get!!

    In other professions too, the pay matches the sacrifice of personal life. My husband, who is an accountant, turned down a position that will offer him much more money he is making now because he didn't want to sacrifice time with his family.

    See, charters want the best of both worlds, low-pay in exchange for long demanding hours. You can't have both and be effective!!

    Not to brag, but in spite of not being able to go on field trips after school hours and work on Saturdays, I was able to outperform many of my colleagues by working only my required 7:30 - 4 hours. Which means also, that it is the quality of the time that matters most than just quantity!! Many of regular public schools with less hours of instruction are outperforming charters!! Like I said, I didn't see a lot of rigor in these charters!
     
  28. Marci07

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    I read an article once that talked about the consequences of overworking doctors and it was not that good!!! Not that I'm against hard work and long hours, as I put myself through college while being a single mom, but I just can't fathom being as effective at anything when you are overworked!!!

    Even reading posts here in A to Z is an example of how working long hours trying to meet demands takes a big toll on teachers' health!! I'd like a study that proves that long hours of work is more effective than a balanced life.

    For that matter, I would also like to see research that talks about the dynamics of teaching vs. other professions that lead us to more mental exhaustion and mental/physical problems when overworking us.

    In our profession, you need a specific personalities traits that are needed to be nurturing while at the same time educate students. Could these personality traits make teachers more susceptible to breaking down under high pressure and long hours? Why is it that there aren't more men in this profession?

    There needs to be a lot more research done and dig much deeper to figure out what are the best conditions to be the most effective teacher for low-income students than just extend long hours and demand more.
     
  29. EdEd

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    In terms of the quotes, when you're typing your reply, highlight the text you want to quote and click on the little quote icon right above the text-entry field - looks like a little text bubble :).

    Gotcha. Yeah, this was my understanding.

    Very much agreed!

    Also agreed.

    Actually, I think they can and do. The question is whether it's sustainable. There are a number of effective charter schools that find people to work under such conditions because those teachers like the feeling and experience of being part of something innovative and effective. However, will they continue to feel that way when they are 34? Is it even important if they do? What if it's okay that the average stay in such a school is 5 years? This may be similar to a workforce in a setting like summer camps, where work demands are extreme, but camps don't expect to keep their workforce around for 30 years (though some do). They realize that there will always be "new recruits" that can fill that role. A problem in that setting may well be having senior teachers with a lot of experience in the building, but again - if it's working with a relatively young workforce, maybe having veterans around isn't as important a variable as one might think.

    And you should have been studied! Meaning that it would have been great for the research to look at what you did as part of researching "what works."
     
  30. Marci07

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    You are kind, but I actually was the only one at the charter with a teaching certificate and had worked at a low-income for 3 years already. While many of my coworkers lost precious instructional time trying to learn how manage their class, I was already teaching bell-to-bell. While my coworkers were trying to do fun activities to be students' friends, I set my rules and got the students working. It wasn't these teachers fault, they just didn't have the teaching background I had. I was not extraordinary!! :)
     
  31. EdEd

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    But maybe you were! A number of teachers have 3 years of experience and a teaching certificate and are not effective. What are the behaviors/characteristics that made you different?
     
  32. Marci07

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    I'm known to push students hard. Students are in shock at the beginning of the year because I don't give them much room to be lazy. I validate their challenges and go out of my way to help them when struggling, but I expect a lot of work and won't give them a break if they don't work hard. I'm strong at setting my rules and my students know it. Usually students consider me to be very strict.

    Students respond to my style because I take the time to get to know them and learn about their culture. Well, I've worked in schools with mostly Hispanic students and this kind of gives me a little of advantage because I also grew up poor like many of them but I make a big effort to learn and engage students from other races too.
     
  33. EdEd

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    Definitely sounds like you are an asset to your students!
     
  34. Marci07

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    Sometimes I'm a little slow at getting certain things. Through this conversation in addition with all the issues we've been having in Chicago with the strike, I just realized that there is no doubt that there is a huge movement across the nation to eliminate Public Schools and replace them with charters. Since they can save a lot of money by overworking nice young good teachers for a meager salary, they can use this money for their own selfish purposes.

    It is true then, that our public schools in cities with a large number of low-income students, well, at least I know for sure in Chicago, are being set up to fail!!!!!!!! The demands they impose on us are so irrational so many times that they could even be even considered inhumane. They demand miracles and blame us when we don't deliver!!! WOW!!! I'm in state of shock and disbelief!!! I'm so upset about this!!!

    Well, I know that those charters are starting to get unionized!!! So, soon, they'll be also fighting for their rights!!
     
  35. EdEd

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    One of the difficult aspects of charters is that different people want them for different reasons. There are plenty of great charters that are great places to work for their employees that achieve great results. I have a family member who has personal experience in a series of them, and knows a variety of people who couldn't be happier. Many of those teachers feel that they finally have the flexibility to be professional educators in those environments, even if the work hours are longer.

    Back to a fundamental point of the discussion of charters - they aren't a singular construct. Even if most charters in New Orleans weren't effective, that doesn't mean all charters everywhere are. And, even if some politicians or city leaders want charters to save money, that's not to say that others don't want them because of the innovation and community focus some manage to achieve.

    So, one problem with attempting to prohibit all charters is that you get rid of both the good and the bad. How would you feel about a charter approval process that was extremely stringent, perhaps with a cap on the number of charters offered, and an independent committee composed on community members (perhaps even elected community members) that had final say over approval?
     
  36. Marci07

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    Sep 17, 2012

    I actually never had a big issue with charters. Like I said, I even worked at one but left because the benefits and salary was not as good and also because I couldn't commit to the super long hours I was expected to work.

    The problem that makes me resentful against charters is that it looks like they're being used as a reason to put more demands on us at regular public schools while taking away freedoms and resources. We are being set up to fail!! All of this is so that politicians save money. Why not instead give us those same freedoms and resources and we’ll show how innovative we can be?
     
  37. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sep 17, 2012

    What demands do you see as a result of the increase in charter schools?

    In terms of giving the same freedoms as charter schools, I agree - I've always thought that teachers should be allowed to try new methods as long as they can back them up with research, and develop an evaluation plan to demonstrate results if an evaluation plan is not already in place.
     
  38. Marci07

    Marci07 Devotee

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    Sep 17, 2012

    I'll post a reply a little later. In the meantime, here are a few articles that are being posted right now about charters. It looks like they're having a hard time finding teachers who can go through the long hours with little pay. Their turnover and instability is worse than regular schools. Like I said, you can't have the best of both worlds!!

    http://www.chicagoacts.org/charter-news/142-a-revolving-door

    http://gothamschools.org/2010/07/08/charter-schools-see-higher-teacher-turnover-across-the-nation/
     

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