In my life as a public schoolteacher, I’ve worked at both “regular” public schools and a charter school. Both are places of craziness, but I’ve always used the analogy that working at a charter school is like all the wackiness of “regular” school combined with an atmosphere in which you’d swear all the staff members are on methamphetamine.
Of course I don’t mean this literally, it’s just that the energy level, passion and professional self-righteousness in the typical charter is crackling with intensity. The drug here, really, is the conviction that “regular” public schools are so screwed up. That and a true passion for the kids leads people to do some crazy, crazy things. Because they are, in essence, business start-ups, your average charter school employee is exactly like those relatives who start selling Amway (i.e. hard to put up with).
I bring up this topic after reading in the “only paper you will ever need” this morning about upheavals going on at Ralph J. Bunche Academy Charter School here in town. For reasons not exactly clear, the principal was recently put on leave, a new principal was just hired and the school was shut down for two school days last month. As Andrea Schoellkopf puts it this morning:
APS spokesman Rigo Chavez on Monday confirmed that Ralph Bunche students missed two days of school in March when a parent allegedly threatened the staff there.
If Burque Babble was read by more than seven people I’d love to open up the comments (anonymous even) to former/current charter school employees to share their stories. My guess is that a typical array of charter school war stories would shock, humor, infuriate and educate many folks who generally see charters as a good idea, but don’t really know much about the day-to-day life at your typical charter school. Heck , let’s open it up for you special seven and just see what happens.
I say that as a supporter of charters. I don’t teach at one anymore, and most likely never will again, but charters can be powerful progressive instruments of an education far superior to that in your average “regular” public school. At the same time, charters have warts, pimples and all sorts of metaphorical skin conditions that don’t get covered/analyzed much in the press and aren’t terribly well-known by those who aren’t involved in these schools.
Right now the public, Presidential candidates included, are pretty much reduced to saying “charters schools are a good idea”. The end. It would be good to get beyond that to some real analysis of what’s going on in these places, quantified via statistical analysis (ok, kinda boring) or through some juicy tidbits of high-level anecdotes.
I’ve got a few tasty bits of edu-gossip on the subject, but am, of course, far too high-quality a person to stoop to unsubstantiated shocking tales of charter school life. That’s where you come in, oh seven readers,…anybody?