As of December 2014, approximately 2.5 million children across the United States attended charter schools. In the city of Barterly alone, approximately 48,700 Barterly Public School students attend a charter school. Charter schools are highly desired compared to traditional public schools and are typically extolled for claiming to improve the public educations system through higher student performance levels. Since charter schools provide an alternative to traditional public schools that claim to outperform and in turn “fix” the current public education system, has the increase in charter schools in Barterly actually helped Barterly Public Schools?
While charter schools are often seen as a better option than traditional public schools, Barterly charter schools have not helped the Barterly Public School district since they have not resulted in higher performance rates; they have displaced students, and have exacerbated the district’s budget deficit.
The following data provides a summary of the school along with some background information.
History: School had been in existence for six years.
Demographics: 98% African American – 2% other.
Socioeconomics: 80% of students received free/reduced lunch (this is essentially the number of students whose families lived below the state’s poverty level).
Academics: 25% of the students were at grade level – the school had never had more than 50% of its students above grade level.
Structure: The school had 600 students with an elementary and middle school – located in one large building. The elementary teachers were divided into grade level teams (K-2, and 3-5). The middle school teachers taught their specialties, i.e. language arts, math, social studies, etc. They were not divided into teams.
Teachers and staff:
(1) 60% highly qualified, i.e. met state teaching standards.
(2) Large number of teachers were retired from the public school system, i.e. earning a second pay check
(3) Numerous clicks among teachers – most worked independently rather than as a team
(4) Former school principal had been on the job for two years. He was disengaged and demonstrated poor ethics (example: he took a two week vacation during the academic year and told his staff that he was having back surgery).
Students’ parents: Although they understood the value of an education and wanted the best for their children, less than 5% were college graduates and only 50% had a high school diploma. Many of the students lived in single family homes (raised by their mothers or grandmothers).
Observations from Jane, Dorrington, who was hired as a Consultant:
“I spent the first two – three weeks visiting classrooms and listening to my teachers, staff, students, and their parents. Although the school was struggling financially I did not find this to be the root cause of the academic problems. About half the teachers, mostly those who had retired from public school teaching and decided to work again at a charter school, complained about the lack of student motivation, significant behavior problems, and the parents’ failure to support their teaching efforts. Some teachers, however, especially the younger ones, had a more positive attitude and they offered ideas and recommendations for improvement.
The students seemed bored and had little interest in school-work. They told me that some of the teachers did not care about them and that all they did was yell and tell them that they were failures. Many parents told me that they did not want to be constantly bothered by phone calls from the teachers about their children’s discipline issues, and that “the school should do its job of educating the children.” When I walked into the classrooms it seemed that many teachers were spending more time on discipline than academics. During the lunch hours, I would often hear teachers complain about other teachers or they would simply argue that the school was a “mess.” A few even asked me why I would waste my time working as a consultant in such an environment.”
Obviously, this school needed to be thoroughly transformed – otherwise, it would die a slow and painful death. Although the information in this case is limited, it offers enough of a picture to allow you to gain an appreciation for the basic situation. There are many schools and organizations of all kinds, nationwide, with similar stories. Given the material we have discussed in class during the past five weeks, consider the following in your discussion (three or four paragraphs):
- Where would you begin in your efforts to transform the school?
- Which of the four frames, discussed in our text, would you focus most of your time on?
- Do you feel confident that you would be able to make this school successful? Why?