The opinions expressed in this piece are solely the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BU College Democrats at large.
Support by Alex Blankman (First-Year Rep)
Let me begin with a few staggering statistics: According to the National Assessment of Education Progress Reading Test, 67% of all American fourth graders scored “below proficient” in reading and the United States ranked 25th in math performance out of 30 countries. The institutions that are producing these results are not fairing any better than our students. 1 in every 10 public schools is considered a dropout factory, which means that 60% of its students do not graduate in four years.
There is little doubt that our public school system is broken. It is one of the greatest crises faces our country today. This lack of quality education is impeding the US from competing globally and it facilitates the cycle of poverty in America. The US educational system is in need of a radical change, not minor adjustments. This kind of extreme transformation has been difficult to achieve in our existing school system because of a puzzling bureaucracy.
In response to the inaction of the government to improve education, educational experts devised an alternate solution. They created the first charter school, which receive less public funding than the average public school and in turn has more flexibility. Since the first charter school was created in 1991, there is an immense amount of data supporting the success of these new kinds of schools.
To begin, the groups governing the charter schools have realized that children, especially those in low-income areas, need more time in the classroom. Therefore, they elongated the school day and school year. As a result, charter school students receive on average an extra 79 days of class time. This has led to higher academic performance on proficiency tests. For example, Harlem Success Academy, a New York City Charter School, boats that none of its students are below national standards in math or reading and almost 50% of its class are performing higher than grade level.
Another advantage of a charter school is its understanding that no two students are the same. It is difficult to force a child into a preset system that does not allow for an inch of flexibility. Therefore, a charter school can provide a much more personal environment. The motto of a charter school is that even if a child is born into difficult circumstances, he is still capable of being successful in school. He just needs to right help and tools to realize his potential. It is for this reason that if a young student is consistently late for school, a teacher from a charter school may provide wake-up calls each morning to ensure the student’s attendance. The flexibility of charter schools provides a much more individualized experience.
The greatest aspect of the charter school system is that is provides low-income families with a choice in regard to their child’s education. Selecting one’s education was normally a concept that was reserved for the elite. The wealthy are able to either pay for a private school education or move to a neighborhood with a strong school distract. Unfortunately, this is not an option for many families in America. Charter schools give parents a way to avoid sending their child into a locally zoned school that has proven to be a failure. Instead they can select the highest quality education and what will be best for their child.
Continuing our charter school system does not mean that we should neglect improving our public school. The US government should keep striving to offer an equal education for all. However, this will not be a quick or easy process. So, it crucial to maintain the charter school system to help thousands of students who would otherwise receive the worst education America has to offer.
Opposition by Greg Phipps (Communications Director)
Charter schools: moving toward European-style segregation? For me, America’s socialized public education system has always been a source of national pride. In the Land of Inequality, it’s the one institution we have that is truly equal, that facilitates opportunity and gives students a chance at realizing the American Dream. . We reject the European model, which relegates underachievers to vocational school and thus bars them from post-secondary education. Indeed, the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that makes high school graduation a priority for all of our students and, in doing so, gives every graduate the chance to go to college and further his or her educational development.
The rise of charter schools fundamentally threatens this model. Charter schools attract the highest-performing students, recruit the best teachers, and dominate the political sphere. Remaining public schools are thus cast to the back burner, with lower-quality students and teachers and fewer resources to work with. Supporters of charter schools point to their higher educational outcomes when compared to traditional public education. I would call this a chicken-or-egg problem: schools with higher-quality students and teachers will necessarily outperform schools with lower-quality students and teachers. The diminished quality of public schools resulting from this fact dampens their reputation, driving good students who aren’t offered admission to charter schools toward private education. This creates a cycle of negative feedbacks that further deteriorate traditional public education.
In Boston, charter schools have the potential to exacerbate pre-existing educational disparities. Boston
has more than twenty public high schools, and Bostonians complete an application process to attend their desired school. This system creates inequality between the various high schools. Some Boston high schools, like Boston Latin, are very good; while others, like English High School, are very bad. This means that, within the district, underperforming students are only offered admission to underperforming schools, creating a cycle of underachievement. Add charter schools to the mix, and this cycle is likely to get even worse, as failing schools see a reduction in funding and teacher quality.
These two cycles – of negative feedbacks and underachievement – dramatically undermine the egalitarian principles of American public education. They create a system that is inherently unequal and more closely resembles the European model. High-performing students, segregated into well-funded charter schools with high-quality teachers, certainly benefit from improved prospects at attending a prestigious four-year university. Yet low-performing students are segregated into the remaining public schools, deemed “failing” due to their poor test scores and underachieving teachers. What happens to these students? Can we reasonably say that they have an equal shot of attending a four-year university? That they will have equal access to opportunity and social mobility? The answer is no.
While charter schools are all the rage, I see them as detrimental. Call me idealistic, but I think every public school should have equal levels of funding and a comparable quality of teachers and students. Charter schools are the antithesis to this ideal.
Reject segregation. Reject charter schools.