Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On Charter School Quality

I just read an editorial in New Jersey's Star-Ledger extolling Governor Christie's charter school authorization policy. In particular, the editorial refers to a new, "more rigorous review process, based on the best practices of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the gold standard in this field."

I have looked at these in the past, and am about to review them, since it appears they have been updated; but I retain a certain initial skepticism towards such. I am not saying that every charter school that applies deserves public funding; even in Sweden, whose charter (they call them friskolor, "free schools") school laws I admire, about half of all applications are rejected. But "rigor" and "quality" in charter school authorizing, while sounding unobjectionable, can be dangerous temptations, since behind this mindset is the assumption that the authorizers will know quality when they see it; and if that were the case, then the authorizing districts should already have a record of recognizing talent when selecting the principals of district-run schools and of successfully choosing and promulgating their own innovative plans; and if that were the case, the public wouldn't be clamoring for the opportunity to start charter schools in the first place, at least in large cities with dysfunctional education systems, like Los Angeles.

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