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.

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Monique
Monique(@monique-chartier)
Editor
9 years ago

“So much for the private sector being able to do it better…”
It would be too easy to ask for the student achievement record of private schools versus the achievement record of public schools.
Instead, let’s look just at the public sector. Take Rhode Island, for example. We’ve had years (decades?) of teacher pay in the top quintile and student achievement in the bottom quintile. (Apparently, last year was the first year that student achievement rose above this ranking. Let’s hope the trend continues.)
It’s pretty clear not only that results of the public sector are quizzical but, more importantly, Rhode Island has decisively demonstrated that more more more money does NOT equate to better education results.

Leo
Leo
9 years ago

“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”
That is exactly the right take-away, which is not suprisingly lost on the union-hacks at RIFutureless.
Well done, Marc.

StuckHereinRI
StuckHereinRI
9 years ago

“So the real takeaway from this story is that, because it was a private endeavor, the commissioner is able to close it down…”
Unfortunately in the public school sector this is impossible, for several reasons.
So unlike in business, where you either fix or close under-performing entities (offices, manufacturing plants or entire divisions), “closing” a public school is not an option.
Question is, what are the real road-blocks to “fixing” them? Sure, everyone has an opinion here, but where and how to we start?
The problem isn’t going to fix itself, we need some TRUE leaders to step up and offer some real solutions.
Not a trivial problem and the the solution won’t be trivial either.

Leo
Leo
9 years ago

The answer is simple and straight-forward. Follow FDR’s wise and sage advice …keep the Unions out of the Public sector.
A good start would be following Wisconsin’t blue-print.

SteveH
SteveH
9 years ago

One of the big problems for any school (public, private, or charter) is that most of the teachers were indoctrinated in ed schools. Even when our son went to a private K-8 school for a few years (Pennfield in Portsmouth) they still used Everyday Math and followed many silly ideas of ed school philosophy. Some of us parents tried to make changes with no luck. This changes somewhat in high school where teachers actually have to be certified in the areas they teach, but the damage has already been done for many kids.
Choice will take time, but some desperately want to show that the “experiment has failed” before too many success stories appear. Choice is no guarantee, but it is a process.

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