Gist Recommendation to Close Charter School is a Positive for School Reform
Education Commisioner Deborah Gist is recommending that the state’s first charter school be closed.
Gist is recommending that the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education not renew the charter for the Academy for Career Exploration, formerly Textron/Chamber of Commerce, when its five- year charter expires next year….Gist criticize[d] the school’s performance while noting that its reading scores are higher than the average in Providence, the district where the school is located.
While 80 percent of ACE’s juniors scored proficient in reading, none were proficient in math on the 2011 New England Common Assessment. Ten percent were proficient in math in 2010; 2 percent in 2009.
“ACE has consistently failed to educate its students in math,” Gist wrote in a four-page memo to the Regents, who will likely vote on the matter later this summer. “Overall, the school’s administrative and board leadership has not provided oversight for student learning.”
As I recall, when it was still Textron Academy, the former head of the school, Rick Landau, left because of frustration with the school’s teachers union, who insisted on maintaining the practice of “bumping,” which meant that teachers versed in the pedagogy of Textron could be removed by teachers with more seniority and without relevant training. I’m not sure if this practice continued, but it’s clear the school has not lived up to it’s part of the bargain.
Those dancing on the grave of the Academy for Career Exploration because they think it proves charter schools are universally bad are missing the point. For instance, while RIFuture’s Bob Plain pithily commented, “So much for the private sector being able to do it better…”, it’s hardly the case that the failure of one charter means all charters are bad (but that’s not to say they’re a panacea, either).
Charters–even unionized ones–are generally more flexible than public schools when it comes to reforming and applying new teaching methods and, yes, even when it comes to shutting them down. So the real takeaway from this story is that, because it was a private endeavor, the commissioner is able to close it down because it didn’t perform and she can do it much more quickly than if it was a public school (Central Falls, anyone?).
That Gist can recommend closing–and presumably actually close–a charter because it’s not performing is a mark in favor of the charter school model. Shutting down a bad performer is exactly the sort of immediate accountability (relatively speaking) that school reformers are looking for. If this flexibility existed in our public school system, then maybe there wouldn’t be a need for charter schools at all.