Sunday, April 20, 2008


America's public education system is being taken over by a variety of educational mercenaries under such guises as charter schools. Amy Hanauer of Policy Matters writes in an important new book, "Keeping the Promise?," that in Ohio alone powerful business interests drain $500 million a year from public education.

The record of charter schools ranges from the mediocre to the disastrous. In DC, for example, less than 15% of charter schools meet federal and academic performance goals.

In New Orleans more than half of the city's public schools were replaced by charters, with the charters skimming the cream off the top of the teacher pool.

'Keeping the Promise?' is a collection of essays examines the charter school movement's founding visions, on-the-ground realities, and untapped potential - within the context of an unswerving commitment to democratic, equitable public schools. Essays include policy overviews from nationally known educators such as Ted Sizer and Linda Darling-Hammond, interviews with leaders of community-based charter schools, and analyses of how charters have developed in cities such as New Orleans and Washington, D.C.

There's good news, too: the story of Boston's semi-independent "pilot schools" that are part of the system and use union teachers but set their own course. The four year graduation rate for 2006 was more than 23 percentage points higher than tradition Boston public high schools: 75% vs. 52%. Pilot 10th graders also score 23% higher on the 2006 state English exam.

This is one of the best books we've seen from an advocacy group. Rethinking Public Schools has put together a factual, thoughtful work that looks at both the positives and the negatives and shows how a semi-independent schools could actually work to the benefit of all. It is absolutely essential reading for anyone involved in public education and/or charter schools, whether as a teacher, a politician, a parent, or a journalist.



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