Louisville's problem is not uncommon for large cities but what makes it more difficult to turn them around is our unwillingness to implement new forms of education with a proven track record. In every state in America except for eight, school districts have the ability to convert failing schools into public charter schools, but not in Kentucky! Public charter schools have the freedom to set new curriculum and give parents the ability to choose a school that fits the individual needs of their child.
Of course! The problem with JCPS is that it doesn't have enough choice. In fact, the lack of choices in JCPS is so dire that JCPS published this booklet and this booklet this booklet devoted to telling you that your child will only go to the worst school in the district.
Hal, I realize I only had a lousy public school education, but let's think on this for awhile, shall we? If JCPS currently offers a wide array of schools with different magnets, teaching philosophies, and curriculums to children, is choice REALLY our problem?
And how about that "proven track record"? Bull droppings. Charter schools is such a vague term and charter schools have such a mixed track record that pinning success on the concept is like saying a pickup truck is the answer to every person's transportation needs because you know a guy who had a Ford F-150 that has 400,000 miles on it.
Hal Heiner is a businessman, so certainly he understands that it is tough to craft a solution if you don't have a clear understanding of not just the problem, but the causes behind the problem.
So let me ask these questions of Hal Heiner, and the others behind the most recent charter school push.
1) Who is behind the charter school push? Specifically, what are their motives, what is their experience with JCPS (and how recent is it), what is their knowledge of the current JCPS situation, and why are they pushing charter schools as a solution? This is important because charter schools are a big business, and as open to corruption and fraud as any public institution.
2) What specifically will a charter school fix that cannot be fixed within the existing school system? In other words, why is a charter school better than a regular public school that makes the same changes?
3) What guarantees are in place to make sure that a charter school actually raises performance among low performing students and how will this be measured to ensure we understand the reasons behind the improvement?
4) What real world data do we have about the success of anyone chosen to run the charter schools? How has this data been gathered and analyzed that show the results come from the charter school itself and not from other factors influenced by those that run the school?
5) What method will be used to place students in charter schools? Will every student be placed there based on parental choice, or will some simply be assigned as they are today in many of our schools? If the charter enrollment is based on choice, as Heiner indicates above, how do we avoid the problems we have today with all parents who want into a school that they choose? And how do we avoid the charter excluding children who are most at risk?
6) How will we ensure that charter schools aren't shedding problem students once they're enrolled?
7) How will we ensure that the charter schools are audited closely to ensure that their testing data is not being influenced by fraud?
8) What will charters do for the kids that are NOT in JCPS' decent schools and not in the charter schools? How do we avoid the situation we have today where there are still low achieving schools?
To be clear, JCPS needs to address the problems they can fix. But we cannot fix problems simply with another type of school. Only solutions that address the problems in these low achieving schools directly will improve our schools.