Charter Schools May be Harmful
The charter school movement has swept the country, offering what many say is a simple, low-cost answer to the educational crisis. If bureaucracy and rigidity are to blame for failing schools, then why not contract groups of educators and businesses to run their own schools, using public money?
Well, it’s not that simple. Charter schools are not the panacea their supporters make them out to be. Indeed, these schools are not well regulated and often fail to serve students or their communities fairly or well. Furthermore, the flexibility and innovation ideally offered by charter schools can be achieved with fewer risks within public school systems.
MISGUIDED SUPPORT FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS
Advocates of charter schools, like Lisa Graham Keegan, Arizona’s Superintendent of Education, stress that charters upgrade educational standards by forcing schools to compete against one another and by attracting new players who can provide new and challenging environments for learning.
Since 1991, when a Minnesota law pioneered state charters, such schools have grown in popularity.There were 252 operating in the 1995–1996 school year; there were 428 by early 1997.
Support for charter schools comes from high places and cuts across party lines. President George Bush favored charter schools. So does President Bill Clinton. In 1997 he proposed doubling the charter school budget, and the Republican-controlled Congress approved...
(The entire section is 843 words.)
Homeschooling is Viable
Of all the ingredients in the recipe for education, which one has the greatest potential to improve student performance?
No doubt the teachers unions would put higher salaries for their members at the top of the list, to which almost every reformer might reply, “Been there, done that.” Teacher compensation has soared in recent decades at the same time every indicator of student performance has plummeted.
Other answers include smaller class size, a longer school year, more money for computers, or simply more money for fill-inthe- blank. The consensus of hundreds of studies over the past several years is that these factors exhibit either no positive correlation with better student performance or show only a weak connection. On this important question, the verdict is in and it is definitive: The one ingredient that makes the most difference in how well and how much children learn is parental involvement.
THE NEED FOR PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT
When parents take a personal interest in the education of their children, several things happen. The child gets a strong message that education is important to success in life; it isn’t something that parents dump in someone else’s lap. Caring, involved parents usually instill a love of learning in their children—a love that translates into a sense of pride and achievement as knowledge is accumulated and put to good use. Time spent with books goes up and time wasted in...
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Homeschooling May Not be Viable
Carole Kennedy is a principal at one of the local schools in Columbia, Missouri. But one of the students she says worries her the most isn’t even enrolled there. “This boy was in our school in the fourth and fifth grade and had behavior problems. His parents never had an interest in his education. They’d miss parent-teacher conferences. They’d drop him off at concerts and then not pick him up. When he got to middle school, he had attendance problems. His parents got tired of the calls from the attendance office and announced that they were going to pull him out of school and teach him at home.” Homeschooling laws vary widely from state to state—some require that parents follow an approved curriculum or bring in their children for annual testing. But, in Missouri, all the boy’s parents have to do is file some paperwork. “Now,” says Kennedy, “his former friends say he’s doing nothing all day.”
HOMESCHOOLING’S INCREASING POPULARITY
Stories like this may not be as rare as we’d like to imagine. Once a relatively limited phenomenon, homeschooling is on the rise. Between 1990 and 1995 the number of children taught at home more than doubled—today it stands at over one million. And, as the popularity of homeschooling continues to increase, so does the likelihood that well-meaning parents who lack the knowhow, time, or resources to be effective teachers—or, worse, parents who actually have malign motives for keeping...
(The entire section is 1009 words.)