Is there justification for a charter school in Elmira? A guest viewpoint opposing the proposed Finn Academy written by Kathy Pilling-Whitney appeared in the Elmira Star-Gazette on May 1. In Ms. Pilling-Whitney’s view, “Competition for school funding between charter schools and traditional public schools is inappropriate and dangerous. Charter schools such as the Finn Academy rob an already stressed Elmira City School District. That is unfortunate and unfair to our students, especially when the same resources and ideals can work in the schools we already have.“
Ms. Pilling-Whitney wrote: Charter schools hurt education for other students
The charter school question as a reform avenue in the American education system has come full circle in not delivering on its promise.
While charter schools began as a way for educator autonomy, creativity in addressing curriculum, a shared vision of teaching and learning, and school-based decision-making, they have become a leech on an already drained and stressed public education system.
The reality of charter schools is they don’t perform better than public schools, and they may have poorer test scores, depending on the school, especially with for-“Charter Management Organizations” (CMOs). Initial jumps in student scores may reflect initial parent involvement and better student attendance. Stanford University research tries to address all the complex issues of teaching and learning in different states with different regulations. In testing in charter schools from 2009 to 2013 (four growth cycles for testing on the NAEP) “56 percent of students showed no significant difference in math, while 31 percent were significantly worse in math.”
Along with no positive long-term proof of achievement, the issues of poverty, language barriers, homelessness and mental health, among others, are not addressed by most charter schools, since significantly fewer of this population are represented than in traditional public schools.
Public education has taken a beating in the search for continual improvement, but traditional public school continues to educate everyone. The idea that traditional public schools are failing as a whole is a lie. Since 1975, our schools are no longer racially segregated. Our schools must accept students who have physical, emotional and or mentally handicapping conditions. Traditional public schools must accept students who do not speak English and they must have high graduation rates for all students — something that was not true 50 years ago.
Our society has changed, and schools are not the cause of change but reflect that change. Society has failed our public education system. School funding needs to support every student equally, whether that student is from Elmira or wealthy suburbs of New York City, as is done in Finland (hence the better test scores in Finland). Parents need to support their children by getting them to school every day. Teachers need to be part of a team with the parent, advocating for children.
Competition for school funding between charter schools and traditional public schools is inappropriate and dangerous. Charter schools such as the Finn Academy rob an already stressed Elmira City School District. That is unfortunate and unfair to our students, especially when the same resources and ideals can work in the schools we already have.
Pilling-Whitney, an art educator in the Elmira City School District, is the Elmira Teachers’ Association vice president.
The comments to Ms. Pilling Whitney’s guest editorial suggest that at least some charter school backers seek to undermine public education, teachers unions, or oppose common core standards rather than promote quality education with justice for all.
A guest viewpoint written by Andrea Rogers, which appeared in the Elmira Star-Gazette on May 20, takes the opposite view. Without challenging Ms. Pilling-Whitney’s claim that charter schools rob the public school system, Ms. Rogers claims that charter schools have a positive role in education. Here is a summary of her points.
- Pilling-Whitney is confused
- Her facts are wrong
- Some charter schools have shown success
- Pilling-Whitney is biased
- Tens of thousands of NYS parents have chosen charters for their children.
I was put off by Ms. Roger’s personal attacks and her failure to directly address the charge that charter schools rob the public school system. Charter schools in NYS represent taxation without representation–these schools are funded from school tax revenues, but unlike public schools are not supervised by the elected school board.
Ms. Rogers wrote: Studies show charter schools improve student learning
In her April 29 Guest Viewpoint, Kathy Pilling-Whitney is confused about what the research on charter school performance shows (”Charter schools hurt education for other students”). As the great Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan might say, she is entitled to her anti-charter opinion, but she isn’t entitled to her own charter school facts.
Multiple studies done by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes have shown time and again that many charter schools do indeed improve student learning. CREDO’s methodology has been peer tested and is considered the gold standard in this field.
The proposed Finn Academy Charter School has applied to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, a charter authorizer with impeccably high standards and a portfolio of successful schools. For example, during the 2012-13 school year, 82 percent of charter schools authorized by SUNY outperformed their host school district in math, and 76 percent did the same in English language arts.
It is not uncommon for people in the existing school system to oppose the creation of a new school in town. After all, not everybody welcomes competition.
But what most surprised me was Pilling-Whitney’s claim that academic improvements achieved in charters are a byproduct of motivated parenting and school attendance. With all due respect, this is old and worn-out assertion of charter opponents that has never ever been supported by a shred of evidence.
Successful charters help improve student performance because they are free to innovate and focus on student needs, and must provide a program that parents want to choose for their children. Keep in mind, charters only stay open if parents and children choose to attend them. If nobody chooses them, the charter will close down.
Charter schools are part of our state’s and our country’s public education landscape. They are part of the solution — not the problem, as Pilling-Whitney suggests.
CREDO found that charter schools that start strong tend to stay strong. Tens of thousands of parents throughout New York State have chosen charters for their children. Finn Academy may have the opportunity to bring this choice and chance at a better life to Elmira. If approved, everyone who cares about children should support their work and not tear it down — especially with baseless assertions.
Rogers is the policy director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network.
The article by Bill Moyers cited below gives another perspective on charter schools. The nyc.gov article gives test results for NYC schools (there is a link for charter schools), but NYC has unique problems unlike Elmira’s.
© William Hungerford – May 2014