The two education policy issues that have gotten the most attention this session have been charter schools and Common Core standards. Both issues have had significant public engagement at legislative hearings, and enough articles written on them to fill a shoebox.
Here at the Hub, we’re not settled on what we think about either issue. And we know that many of people in the community development network across the state are not either.
So this week, we’re offering a Point/Counterpoint on the issues of Public Charter Schools and repealing Common Core Standards.
We are going to share resources covering the benefits and challenges of both issues. There are more than enough editorials out there. We’re here to provide you with some fact-based information so you can make up your own mind about these two topics. We hope the information we’ve found is informative and helpful as you watch the progress of these two issues in the final days of the session.
A charter school, or public charter school, is a publicly funded school that is typically governed by a group or organization under a contract (or charter) with the state or jurisdiction. The charter exempts the school from certain state or local rules and regulations. In return for teaching flexibility and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards stated in its charter.
The first law allowing the establishment of charter schools was passed in Minnesota in 1991.
There are approximately 5,700 charter schools in operation today, serving approximately 2.1 million students. West Virginia is one of eight states yet to have passed legislation allowing charter schools. The other hold-out states are Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Vermont.
In the 2013 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, about 70 percent of Americans supported charter schools, and 52 percent said charter schools provide a better education than other public schools.
The debate for and against charter schools is fierce and passionate. Here’s a summation of the arguments of proponents and opponents.
- Encourage innovation in teaching, which then flows into regular school system.
- Maintain same inclusivity of public schools – open to all children, do not charge tuition.
- Provide parents with an education option for their teachers.
- With the education system under-performing in many areas, new approaches are needed.
- Charter schools among some of the top-performing schools in the country.
- A higher percentage of charter students are accepted into a college or university.
- Charters, on the whole, do not result in significant improvement in student performance.
- Revenue to regular schools decreases when students leave for charters, but costs for those schools do not decrease at the same rate.
- Charter schools rarely serve students with severe disabilities, which cost more.
- Two-tier system undermines collective bargaining for teachers.
- Charters merely create new forms of governance, and do not deal with the costly slog of real reform.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an attempt to set unified expectations for what students in kindergarten through 12th grade should know and be able to do in each grade. The Common Core standards currently cover math and English language arts (writing and reading).
The federal government played no role in creating the standards nor did it require that states adopt them. But it incentivized adoption by giving states who had instituted Common Core standards an advantage in the competition for Race to the Top grant funding. To date, 44 states and the District of Columbia have formally adopted the new standards.
Like the charter school debate, the Common Core standards have perplexed and infuriated some, while others claim they are a much-needed innovation in public education.
- The standards ensure that all students graduate with the skills necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.
- They replace an uneven patchwork of academic standards that vary from state to state.
- American students are slipping behind international students – Common Core is informed by the highest, most effective standards from around the world.
- They provide a clear and consistent framework for educators.
- The standards are aligned with college and career expectations.
- The standards are of mediocre quality – proponents’ claim that they are benchmarked against international standards is false.
- They violate federal laws that prohibit the U.S. Dept. of Education’s involvement in curricula decisions.
- These standards further federalize education and erodes state sovereignty.
- Training of teachers, and new technology and textbooks will be expensive for states.
- The standards intrude on student and family privacy, by collecting student data.