UGA professor: Make every school a charter school

UGA professor Peter Smagorinsky says he voted for Barack Obama but not Arne Duncan. He wrote a piece earlier this month about his concerns about Ducan’s belief — embedded in the Race to the Top criteria — that test data should be used to define talented teachers.

Now, he has written a piece that asks a question that I’ve raised myself and that I have heard Georgia lawmakers raise:  If the charter schools work because they enjoy increased flexibility and are not bound by all the DOE regulations, why not make all schools charter schools?  If freedom from regulation is the answer, why not free everybody?

Here is Peter Smagorinsky’s view on this issue:

Charter schools have been offered as one way of invigorating g public education by excusing them from many of the rules that bind ordinary public schools. In exchange, they provide charters that outline their mission and means of accountability. They therefore act somewhat like private schools, without the problem of charging their students tuition.

Charter schools are criticized by their doubters on several grounds. One is that they divert resources and high-achieving students from existing neighborhood schools and so undermine the overall quality of public education. Another is that some masquerade as public school alternatives while encouraging (perhaps deliberately) de facto segregation by writing the charter to accommodate privileged white students. In terms of their success in meeting their charters, they are further criticized by failing to produce significantly greater results than the resource-depleted schools that the charter movement is designed to out-perform.

I have recently written about my concerns with Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top agenda and its effects on the teaching profession. I would like to offer one solution to both the charter school debate and the overkill of Race to the Top in one sweeping educational reform: Make every school a charter school, rather than only those presently designated.

This change would have a number of positive effects. Teachers in the present accountability era have become deeply discouraged because decision-making has been taken out of their hands and placed under the authority of people with little experience in schools. Test-developers, policymakers, and politicians believe that endless batteries of standardized tests will make both teachers and students accountable. The more tests, they seem to believe, the more accountable the schools will be, and the clearer it will be who is teaching well and who is not.

In the present climate, teachers are treated like children, and bad children at that. And yet teachers are the lifeblood of schools. Over the years, everyone else comes and goes: students, principals, parents, and politicians. What gives a school its character and continuity is the teaching force, those who commit to the institution and carry out its most important work over years and decades.

Race to the Top is designed to identify and punish teachers whose students perform poorly on tests, even if those students are also hungry, abused at home, discouraged by peers from studying, living under dangerous circumstances, unloved, and otherwise in need of much more than today’s math or grammar lesson. Race to the Top has centralized decision-making so as to erase such differences in students, making them all appear to be well-fed, emotionally healthy, school-ready, and equally fit to fill in blanks on tests designed for generic children. Yet the teachers who are never consulted are responsible for driving their diversely prepared and talented groups of students through the same narrow assessment chute.

Imagine a different situation, however, one in which every school is a charter school that defines its own mission and assessment practices. Adopting this plan would require every faculty to discuss its students, community, beliefs, views of students’ social and professional futures, and other concerns in order to determine what sort of education its students deserve. I think that any faculty charged with the responsibility to determine its own goals and assessment practices would be highly energized by the process and the confidence invested in them by the system. Faculty morale, which has been battered in recent decades, would inevitably improve given the faith placed in their local knowledge and the respect accorded them as authorities on students and teaching.

I suspect that most faculties given this opportunity would not choose to subject themselves and their students to endless batteries of standardized tests. Perhaps to satisfy those who believe that we do need some form of standardized assessment to make cross-school comparisons of “achievement”—and I am not among them—faculties would be required to administer at least one such test over the course of the year. But they would be given the latitude to choose that test, which would require them to examine the various assessments to see which provides the greatest degree of authenticity relative to their curriculum and teaching. The competition would also force test-makers to continually refine their assessments so that teachers, not policymakers and psychometricians, regard them as authentic, which I think would produce better tests.

Race to the Top considers “merit” to be a function of teaching to standardized tests. I see meritorious teaching very differently. I find merit in trying to become a better teacher. A plan proposed long ago by Temple professor Michael W. Smith would have merit pay distributed to teachers who study their own teaching in order to improve it. A school’s charter could include a component that assesses effective teaching through teachers’ participation in action research teams in which they identify a local teaching problem or challenge and systematically study it to come up with instructional or programmatic solutions to experiment with. Again, the goal is to improve teaching in part by vesting teachers with decision-making authority. In this system, a principal would be less of an overlord looking to keep ill-behaved teachers in line, and more of a collaborator in helping teachers think of how to teach more effectively toward the charter’s mission.

Of course, the teaching force, like any other professional group, does include people unfit for the job. I don’t pretend that my proposal would completely remove all dead wood. On the whole, however, I think it would help make schools more energetic, dynamic, and satisfying places for students and teachers who seek out the classroom for intellectual, emotional, and practical rewards.

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drew (former teacher)

June 8th, 2010
6:18 am

Great idea! Or at least, a step in the right direction. Anything that moves toward a more local control, and away from federal involvement of schools, is good. Just as students have different needs, schools have different needs, and should be allowed the freedom to cater to the specific needs of their students.

Of course, this will never happen because, God forbid, what if different schools used different assessment tools to assess students? How could we ever identify the good teachers if we don’t have a standardized test to tell us? Plus, the feds (or any oather government agency for that matter) are NOT into giving up power. And they have no problem dangling money in front of school systems in order to get them to jump through their “hoops of accountability”.


June 8th, 2010
7:00 am

I like the idea of local control in principle…..but how do we make sure that students in GA and MS get the same quality education as students in, say, Massachussetts or other states that have “better” schools??

We have to find the right balance between accounting for differences between schools/students….and making sure that we don’t unintentionallly set low standards for kids who come from a tough background.


June 8th, 2010
7:05 am

I absolutely agree that we must account for differences in students (and teach them compassionately)….

BUT, often that translates to misguidedly “going easier” on kids because they have a hard life.

Many low-income kids are multiple grade-levels behind in school. The last thing they need is for someone to lighten up on them.

We have to adjust how we approach these students…but without sacrificing high expectations. The low-income schools that do succeed do so because they hold their kids to high standards of behavior and academics.


June 8th, 2010
7:24 am

Do you ever write your own articles, or just copy and paste something someone else wrote?

36 years in education

June 8th, 2010
7:25 am

Chronological age is a strange criteria for entering formal school. Why not use weight? or height? or readiness to listen and learn?


June 8th, 2010
7:29 am

He makes a great point! Enjoyed reading the article, but let’s just face it, education is a major platform for politicians. It is a political volleyball used to bend the public’s mindset in their direction based on their agenda. What is best for children in the political arena is rarely considered, and they DO know that much of it is related to extraneous factors they have never ever been able to get rid of (crime, drugs, etc.), and furthermore, teachers have no control of.

easiest solution

June 8th, 2010
7:36 am

allow teachers to remove students from the classroom whose behavior disrupts the learning environment. teacher morale and student achievement would immediately improve. go ahead and change everything else but this one element and scratch your head in wonder as nothing changes.


June 8th, 2010
7:55 am

This debate itself is another example of the political nature of politics. Public education cannot succeed, because the “public” cannot educate every child. With all due respect, some children will always be “left behind” while others will voluntarily chose remain behind. Having experience teaching at a traditional public school, a private school and a charter school in both urban (northeast US) and suburban areas, kids are pretty much kids, and I would argue the greatest challenge to any teacher lies in the areas of discipline and teaching children who are not prepared to learn. These issues lie almost exclusively with parents/family. It’s as if a builder is hired to build 10 homes using the same blueprint, but he has different materials for each home; some kits do not include nails or electrical wiring, while others have no roofing materials or siding. At the end of the job, you may have 10 homes, but they will not look the same, and some my be a “home” in name only. And this is not to suggest the charter is school is the last, best model. Charter school boards are just as susceptible to political agenda as a bloated buracracey, albeit on a smaller scale.

no mas

June 8th, 2010
7:58 am

i like this idea. I attended public school in a state where the primary political division is the village or town rather than the county, so school districts were very small – mine was two elementary, one middle school, one junior high and one consolidated high school that served two townships. I imagine this would be more or less like a charter district. The school board was elected, and the superintendent was hired by the Board after two or three public meetings where the candidates were voted on by the public.

The district schools were among the top five in the state. There was a lot of public involvement, teachers stayed around a while, and all board reps were elected at-large – citizens felt they had a large voice in what went on – including public vote on raising taxes. Meetings, needless to say, were sometimes contentious, but anyone who attended the meetings knew exactly why a tax hike was requested, and felt like they knew exactly what their taxes were paying for .

charter parent

June 8th, 2010
8:04 am

Drew is on to something. Unfortunately the good professor hasn’t done his research. The level of flexibility that charters now have is very, very limited. Charters are expressly forbidden from waiving any federal laws. Therefore, the testing requirements, teacher qualifications standards, open enrollment obligations, etc. are all the same for charters and normal schools alike. And the federal government is adding more and more regulations to “support” charters every year. The charter movement is being regulated out of existence by the federal government and/or being exploited by some companies who “sell” well intentioned parents a school that is not substantially different from their regular school counterparts but ensure the companies a 10% or 20% profit margin from taxpayer dollars. The federal government now regulates every aspect of public education – charter school and regular school alike – and this administration it is not going to give more control to state, county, or local charter boards.


June 8th, 2010
8:05 am

But the bottom line of the whole thing is this – there is no statistical data that says true charter schools work – they are a flash in the pan for a very short period of time – the parents don’t keep up their commitment, the district cuts the funding, the state cuts the funding. Face it, we can’t segregate children anymore – we’re all going to have to roll up our sleeves and as parents, pencil in some time to help. As non-parents/grandparents/community members, we have to step up to the plate and offer to help – quit griping about taxes – we all have a responsibility to educate our community, one or two cougars or soccer moms from the morning tennis league don’t get it – the community has to get involved – make our schools a part of our community, not just a brick building down the road from the house – we might be real surprised at how many people would be willing to help, if we did one simple thing – ASK! The schools have forgotten the art of inviting those that were a part of that school for help –

I don’t understand, I know things have changed since the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s – the very people who dream up these ideas are folks that went to school and experienced education during these times. Could it be that a return to basic education might be the more important than some pie in the sky, new way?

So many children reach the middle school years already lost – we teach whole language, phonics, literacy learning, direct instruction, this program, that program, this form of discipline, this form of this and this form of that – how about some basic pencil and paper math, English, reading, spelling, writing – old school yes, but all these great think tank “education experts” have forgotten the way they became who they are – BASIC EDUCATION –

Some day we need to get over the fact that EVERYONE has to have an advanced education – granted, college and post secondary opportunities should be available for those that want it – but it shouldn’t be expected, just because we are entitled to it – not everyone is college material, not everyone is trade school material, some people want to finish school and go to work – what’s so wrong with that? We have forgotten that we need workers – people happy doing what they do, instead of feeling like a heel because they just want to work. We should be proud of folks that work, just like we are proud of those that go to college –

At some point and time this education bar we raise has to be attainable – right now it isn’t. It keeps being raised and for what reason? – China, Germany, Japan and all the other countries are leaving us behind – there’s one little thing we forget when comparing United States education to the rest of the world – we provide an education to EVERYONE – we don’t pick and choose, test and cull, like the other countries – kick them to the street if they don’t achieve by the age of 8, 10 or 12 – every child that attends school in the U.S. is required to go to school and that school provides content to everyone – warts and all – AND where do all foreign folks that want post secondary education attend college – THE UNITED STATES! We aren’t doing too bad a job – educating the rest of the world.

Instead of some new, cool way to educate, let’s teach our children to read, that way the computer is more than a fancy game device. Let’s teach our children to write, that way Word, PowerPoint and Excel finally will be used. Let’s teach our children how to add, subtract, multiply and divide any number, that way they know the answer they get on a calculator is correct – then let’s move into fostering that knowledge into what a child wants to do – we might find those crucial test scores we so dearly love, will go up, self esteem will rise and our children won’t be so quick to leave the communities they grew up loving.

Student Athlete

June 8th, 2010
8:13 am

Teaching is no different than any training endeavor. Some will respond to instruction and others, for whatever reason will not. Having teaching experience in public, private and charter school settings, I can say that every student is different. Whether it is nature or nurture, some will succeed and others will not. There is nothing wrong with setting the bar high, as it has been my experience that no matter how low the bar is set, some students will not even make the attempt. Is it the role of a public school system to account for this at the expense of more motivated students? Or think of it this way. Take track coach and give him 10 athletes of varying sizes, weights, etc. and hire him to “teach” the athletes how to hurdle. Is it fair to expect the 6′3″ 175 lbs. slender student, whose parents are both ex-Olymic hurdlers to perform at the same level as the 5′10″ 250 lbs. student whose dad was a nose tackle in the NFL, or the student with scoliosis or some other spinal condition that makes even walking a challenge? You’re never going to have the same results. And this is not to suggest that charter schools are not immune to political posturing, or that the board of a local charter school does not have an agenda similar to the a larger urban public school board.

Maureen Downey

June 8th, 2010
8:43 am

@Prof, In May, I posted 70 blog entries. I wrote 60 and I posted 10 others that folks sent me. The best part of this blog is the ability to share other people’s perspectives.


June 8th, 2010
8:57 am

Charter schools are just another feeble attempt by parents to separate their children from the bottom quartile of students. Good luck with that. It cost me $15k/yr in private school tuition to do the same.

Public schools could group by ability and provide instruction consistent with the ability level of the student, but the politically correct pathogens will not allow it. The moment minorities are overrepresented in the lower classes, they will scream racism and the ability grouping would be shut down.

In the end, ALL students suffer the consequences.

Marney Mayo

June 8th, 2010
9:23 am

Your basic premise is already in place in Georgia, and Has been for several years. It is called the “Waiver of Rules and Laws” and was inserted into the Georgia Educational code in conference committee by Kathy Ashe in 2006. see DOE rule:

It was placed in the law as a “put up or shut up” to the members of the education establishment that did not want charter schools to have the flexibility to waive rules–exactly the argument you are making.

So let me ask you.

Have you ever heard of this?
Are there a bunch of systems running to use this provision?

As I pointed out to Ms. Ashe at the time—this provision calls into question the need for “conversion charter schools” because most of them aren’t and don’t seek to be different in any way that isn’t perfectly allowable and much more simply applied for with the paperwork for whatever are the waivers that that school or system wants.

Been 5 years now. Has it worked?

Marney Mayo

June 8th, 2010
9:27 am

should be 4 years

Jean deLoach

June 8th, 2010
9:30 am

In my county , the PTB have picked the teachers to be on the charter committees. The teachers as a whole have had little to no say in the process. It was decided by the( part time )Superintendent and the others in control in the Central Office. I do not see how this can work as intended. Here, the teachers are NOT in control of any pf the process – (and by the way, this county has also told the public little or nothing of what is being done to meet budget. )


June 8th, 2010
9:40 am
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Legend of Len Barker

June 8th, 2010
10:37 am

There are a whole lot of buzzwords up there, but not a whole lot that I see that would actually improve the educational system.

“Adopting this plan would require every faculty to discuss its students, community, beliefs, views of students’ social and professional futures, and other concerns in order to determine what sort of education its students deserve.”

If we tailored the education to reflect the community in the rural part of the state I come from, we’d be handing out coloring books. The most chic store in town is a toss-up between Rite Aid and Badcock Home Furnishings. We are a minority population-wise, but nearly half of the counties in the state are in the same boat. We are generally what is holding back the education system with our lower scores and uneven quality of education. Charter schools would not help us as all. Who wants decisions made on a local level when the chairman of the BOE brings a spit cup to the meetings?

I think the standardized testing in place now is completely misguided and botched, but it’s something we need. He believes that administrators would choose a test that would challenge both students and teachers. Most probably would. A handful would go for the feelgood option.


June 8th, 2010
10:45 am

I think I asked this same question (without the essay) a couple of months ago.

Educator for Life

June 8th, 2010
10:49 am

No wonder he teaches at UGA. He is indeed foolish for making that statement. First of all, Georgia is a local control state, meaning the county systems can make decisions for their schools already. Charter Schools do have some freedom, but they still have to perform and adhere to state mandates in terms of student participation on certain standards. Good teaching is good teaching, no matter what type of school. I am not saying that Cahrter Schools aren’t decent, but there are several public schools that are perfomring way better than some of our top private schools. Wanna know why? Start with parental involvement. Private schools thrive on it and Charter Schools lean on parents too so that school is successful. Our low-perfomring schools have horrific parental involvement and the school is the way it is for a reason. UGA Professor, please understand that the county systems, not the GA DOE, treat teachers like bad kids.

Happy Teacher

June 8th, 2010
10:58 am

As a charter school teacher, I think the author misses the mark here. Some charters are great schools and serve populations and communities that desperately need them. But, so do a lot of existing public schools. Charters should only be a PART of the solution, or else we are asking for a wild-west scenario. There are already enough poor charters out there to know that going totally charter would be asking for trouble.


June 8th, 2010
10:59 am

Suggest folks check out Edweek’s article on the “efficacy” of charter schools. It was published about 10 days ago, I think.

What the professor suggests is that teachers be given POWER and treated like PROFESSIONALS. Won’t ever happen.

Maureen Downey

June 8th, 2010
11:06 am

@Scienceteacher, You did. I remember your comment. I did not get into it in this post, but one of the goals of the education reform commission many years ago was to give schools with a good track record a lot of flexibility. Barnes maintained that the state ought to leave those schools alone that were doing well, and concentrate on those that were not. (Which is now what Duncan says he wants to do on the national level.)
However, the plan to extend great flexibility to successful schools never happened. And now, we are unclear as to even what is a successful school.


June 8th, 2010
11:07 am

Charters DO enjoy a cachet which helps them attract better students. So if we all have that “cachet”, it won’t have that power anymore, will it? No current charter would want that!

The idea that teachers have control over decisions is….revolutionary in a time when teachers are given a “curriculum map” that tells them what week to cover what (no matter that the kids do not have the requisite skills to even attempt the new material–it’s all about exposing them, not mastery!)!


June 8th, 2010
11:08 am

What about the fact that Charter Schools can choose to pay their teachers much less than a public school salary, regardless of level of education and experience? What type of teachers would this system attract? Would teachers leave Georgia?


June 8th, 2010
11:20 am

@ Carly- not to mention they churn and burn teachers to keep salaries down. The general thrust of merit pay. Arne Duncan will destroy public education if Obama does not step in.

Happy Teacher

June 8th, 2010
11:31 am

@Carly and just – Please be careful with such generalizations. Neither case is true of successful charter schools.

It is important to understand that part of the appeal of charters is that they are closed if they do not meet the requirements of their charter. So, if they employ the kind of unsustainable practices you mention, they will not be able to meet their charter and they will be forced to close.

An advocate for public education change & choice

June 8th, 2010
12:04 pm

What the author suggests is a slippery slope that would take ALOT of careful thought and planning before its executed. Furthermore, I agree with EDUCATOR & CHARTER PARENT alike. First, charter school boards aren’t immune from short-sighted policy making or corrupt fiscal management. Second, the traditional Public Education model is SO caught up on maintaining central control over budgets that run into the hundreds of millions of dollars there it would take considerable political will to manifest the idea

An advocate for public education change & choice

June 8th, 2010
12:08 pm

Continuing with my observations, the current Charter school law in GA allows for individual traditional public schools (Chamblee High School in Dekalb for example) as well as entire public school districts (Decatur & Marietta city schools for example) to convert to the charter model.

My point, if a group of concerned educators and parents within a given feeder footprint work together they could make a change. THe question becomes who is going to step up and do the work? Its seems easy for folks to grip and moan about what’s not being done in stead of doing something about it.

William Casey

June 8th, 2010
12:32 pm

36 YEARS IN EDUCATION makes a valid point totally ignored by “educational planners”: chronological age is a silly criteria (my expansion of 36 YEARS point) for moving children through schools. It’s done from habit and also because schools serve a “baby-sitting” function in our society regardless of whether any learning takes place. “Readiness” and aptitude for the standard tasks at hand make a lot more sense. Pretending that all children of the same chronological age are even close to each other in readiness/aptitude is seriously hurting the efficiency of schools. And, yes, I do understand the sociological and psychological reasons for not mixing 14 year-olds with 9 year-olds, etc. Neverthrless…

Peter Smagorinsky

June 8th, 2010
1:02 pm

Hi from the author of the piece that Maureen has posted here. First, thanks to all for reading and writing. Y’all are a much more thoughtful and civil group than the folks who comment on the AJC sports blogs.

Just a word about the limitations of the op-ed genre. It provides about 800 words to make a point quickly and succinctly; it doesn’t allow for the sort of long and elaborated argument that we academics are given for our other “scholarly” writing. So it’s just not possible to flesh out a plan like this in the manner suggested by some commenters. Many of the points made in response to the blog are thoughtful and well worth considering, and I wish I had clear answers for all of them.

I also would stress that I’m not a pie-eyed optimist about charter schools, or schools in general. I’m more simply saying that charter schools can operate more flexibly than can non-charter schools, and making all schools similar in operation to charter schools would make the teaching profession more attractive and energizing than it presently is for many teachers. I’m not saying that charter schools are necessarily better than neighborhood schools, and indeed research that compares the two is at best mixed. Allowing all schools to charter their own mission and assessment practices would produce a system that emphasizes local control. If you want to throw in open transfer, then go for it, which would then allow parents and students to find the system that serves their needs best. Very free market, indeed. But like the broader free market, it would need some sort of regulation (see, e.g., what happened with banks and oil rigs when regulation was lax). How that would work, I don’t know, and confess freely that I’m not a school administrator and would not have the stomach for it. But I’ve been a teacher, and know many, and can say with confidence that the current sort of centralized, assessment-driven system will make the profession dull and uninspiring, and will make students’ classroom experiences rote and tedious. My own informal understanding is that when teachers lose their motivation, learning suffers. Putting instructional decision-making back in the hands of teachers, while not solving every problem, will vitalizing a profession that grows less inviting with each federal imposition.

There’s much more to say on the topic. Thanks for listening.

David S

June 8th, 2010
1:26 pm

Make every school a private or a charity school and get the government the hell out of the education business altogether!

If freedom is the great thing that it is, then only without government can there be freedom because government is the opposite of freedom for everything it does is essentially “force” (to paraphrase one of our founding fathers).

Making every school a charter school will just mean a different set of regulations that each school will still be bound by.

If the regulations are a problem, then eliminate the regulations. Of course government wouldn’t know what to do with itself if it weren’t micromanaging every aspect of our society and our economy. Why they might actually have to focus on such constitutional requirements as “securing our liberty” and other foreign concepts.

David S

June 8th, 2010
1:41 pm

Peter Smagorinsky – “Very free market, indeed”

What sort of dictionary do your use that would define a system in which monies are taken from the public (under threat of force) based on the value of their property and distributed equally among government run facilities for the purpose of providing a “service” as VERY FREE MARKET indeed?? That is plain socialism, no matter how many charter schools your try and wrap it up in.

In a free market, the purchaser of educational services would contract VOLUNTARILY with the provider. There would be a contract that would define the services to be provided and the conditions around that provision along with payment requirements and likely provisions for termination of contract. The buyer and seller would “regulate” the transaction, not some government agency, and the pressures of the marketplace regarding services wanted and value (price) would control all activities. Force, fraud, and the like would be adjudicated by private courts or binding arbitration.

This is nothing like you are suggestings, and your ignorant comments about the oil industry and the banking industry further show the emptiness of your knowledge. Oil is heavily subsidized and regulated by the government as is all energy production (absolutely no free market). It is this significant government involvement that is at the root of our energy problems and why competitive alternatives have little or no chance (I mean just imagine if the oil companies had to pay for the trillion dollars wars in the middle east that are just being fought to protect their product?). As for banking, the existence of the Federal Reserve, which manipulates interest rates, prints money our of thin air for banks to lend and make massive profits from, and everything else they do is certainly not FREE MARKET. A free market would be based on a sound currency that the market decided upon with interests rates that fluctuate based on savings rates and market pressures and not the current system where political pressure generates endless supplies of money for government spending and failed banks are propped up by actions of the Fed at taxpayer expense. Do a bit of homework next time you wish to comment on the economy and free markets.

bootney farnsworth

June 8th, 2010
2:08 pm


you’d have done much better for yourself if you’d stayed in
your comfort zone.

trying to link in banking and oil – two profoundly heavily regulated
industries which do not engage in a true free market system – cut the
credibility of your piece to shreads.

you come off sounding like another shrill left of center academic with
no real world grounding.

it might work with the hard core Obama crowd, but: just trying to interject playbook boogymen like oil and banking into the point you’re
trying to make for sheer shock value doesn’t fly, make you look smart, or give you extra credibility.

now, if you’d care to back up and try again without snark….

bootney farnsworth

June 8th, 2010
2:13 pm

snark aside, Pete was making a valid point until he fell all over himself.

there does have to be some level of regulatory control at some level.
human history shows without it we behave like canabilistic, rabid animals.

Devil's Advocate

June 8th, 2010
2:14 pm

David and bootney – please take your anarchist drivel elsewhere. It is silly, childish and wholly unrealistic.


June 8th, 2010
3:06 pm

As test scores continue to miss the goals, a new plan will have to emerge. I’m not convinced charter schools are the answer, but if they would allow local communities to have more input and choice in the schools, then I’d be willing to try it. It would allow for schools to truly meet the needs within an individual community or to specialize in one area where there are numerous school to choose from. I’m in a district with one middle and one high school, and it would be nice if we could partner with nearby districts (also small) to encourage specialization and allow students to cross district lines to attend the school that best fits their needs. Something to think about, for sure.

Promised, not delievered

June 8th, 2010
3:40 pm

How many blogs has it been since Maureen promised to post about the latest E-Rate scandal, the one that made front page headlines? Two blogs? Four blogs? Six? Where is the story as promised?

An advocate for public education change & choice

June 8th, 2010
3:41 pm

@ David S: All we need do is take an examination of what has occurred within the post secondary space over the last 10-20 years to get a glimpse of what the concept of all private school education would look like on the primary or secondary levels. In fact, I believe there is enough examples with Educational Mgmt companies operating institutions on the latter two levels for us suggest turning what is now a publicly funded and operated model into a totally private on may be well be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Purhaps there is room for an expansion of private institutions but to turn the entire traditional public school model what your description seems to suggest as a for-profit model is something I personally would be leery of.

An advocate for public education change & choice

June 8th, 2010
3:44 pm

@ Promised and Maureen: I’m shocked given the front page article in Sunday’s AJC that the ERate debacle in APS hasn’t been touched on yet.

But since it was mentioned, I’ll say that you have to wonder what more lies hidden under the rug with APS. Somebody needs to do an investigation of the ROI (or lack thereof) on the millions APS has invested and remains committed to invest in the Beltline.


June 8th, 2010
3:45 pm

lets see charter schools versus public school, How about we start with the basics, reading writing and spelling these three necessities are needed by all regardless of their economic status. Undiscipline parents begat undiscipline children. Parents and teachers use to work together now it seems alot of educators are fighting both the parent and the student. Teaching a child rignt and wrong begins at home not in the classroom it is in poor taste and downright inconcievable that a teachers has to become a surrogate parent. Until parents step up to the plate and encourage their offspring to get an education and learn the basic necessities required public schools will always get a bad rap. Education doesn’t cripple a child, it uplifts them and those who can’t see that are blind.

Kira Willis

June 8th, 2010
4:05 pm

How about simple school choice? It’s a win/win for all involved: schools, teachers, communities, parents, and, most of all, students? Making charter school law requires another “charter school department”. School choice eliminates all of that, and the control goes back to the consumers.

MACE knows

June 8th, 2010
4:22 pm

“Again, the goal is to improve teaching in part by vesting teachers with decision-making authority.”

Don’t know where MACE stands on charters, but they’ve been saying the above for years.
You can’t have good learning conditions until you have good teaching conditions, and with that must come decision making authority for teachers.

Which is why the top down autocratic educational establishment in this state routinely tries to demonize MACE.

29 hours, 44 minutes

June 8th, 2010
4:26 pm

29 hours, 44 minutes since Maureen said “check back shortly” for her blog on newest E-Rate scandal at APS.

Peter Smagorinsky

June 8th, 2010
4:36 pm

I appreciate the additional responses by those who question my credentials to comment on the economy. You’re right–I have no economic training. Perhaps when I referred to a free market approach to school choice, I should have qualified it by saying that relative to the current system where students are obligated to attend the public school in their district or zone, what I’m proposing has a degree of choice. I’m particularly interested in choice for educators about how to conduct education, rather than having to teach under a centralized, reductive assessment system developed by people who don’t teach reduce their instruction to trivialities. From that basis, families could gravitate toward schools that share their values and emphases. This plan would undoubtedly involve new sets of problems. But I think I would prefer them to the problem that school is getting increasingly irrelevant to many kids and teachers because tests have become their raison d’être.

Those who commented on this aspect of my remarks will undoubtedly disagree with me on much. I am not a libertarian, which is probably statement enough to demarcate our differences. Privatizing everything, as seems to be the sentiment, surely will come with a few problems. However, as some will point out, arguing economics is above my pay grade, so I won’t try to engage others who possess greater knowledge than I will ever have about how money and government work. I will simply say that I share Winston Churchill’s view that capitalism is the worst economic system — except for all the others that have been tried. Actually he said this of democracy, but you get my point (I hope).

Just one illustration of a problem perhaps unanticipated by some commenters: The idea that school choice eliminates bureaucratic intervention and leaves control to consumers, and does so simply. I taught in 3 high schools in the Chicago area from 19766-1990 and can say with confidence that “consumers” mostly have one kid’s interests at heart and don’t really care about much else. So consumer/parental control can be pretty chaotic in that everyone wants something different from the school; and when people oppose support through taxation, it’s impossible to provide the many services that are demanded by all the different consumers: anti-bullying programs, courses in Japanese, personal attention to children of exceptional makeup, full-blown art and music programs, character education programs, and about a thousand other demands from parents and other advocates for student sub-populations.

All this is to say that education is very complex and not open to easy solutions, including my proposal to allow all schools the same latitude that is currently only granted to charter schools. I should probably stop here before I get out of my depth again. Thanks again for contributing to this discussion, no matter how great our differences might be.

[...] on a sensationalized headline, so I took the time to read through the recent @AJCGetSchooled blog post by Maureen Downey. Actually, it was a  letter written by University of Georgia professor Peter [...]

Question for Peter

June 8th, 2010
5:08 pm

Maybe Peter can answer this, since neither Perdue, Kathy Cox, nor any school system superintendent will touch it.

Why have we done nothing, as far a a real substantive policy, to give teachers more authority to deal with discipline?

Not “training” but authority?