Why school choice works in Massachusetts

Sep 2017
5,245
6,304
Massachusetts
#11
I think at least in well educated areas, that the concept of a charter school is becoming something specific needed for the future. For example, around here we have 3 new charters for STEM. They spend roughly 80% of the school day on sciences and math. Its set up and geared for those who want to be engineers or doctors. They had a 100% placement last year at all Ivy League schools. Others I have read about elsewhere might focus on music or the arts or even a sort of voc tech school. I think its interesting since the kids get to spend so much time doing what they love.
I don't object to it in principle, but it's not necessary to have a separate charter school for that. I mean, look at universities as an example. Harvard isn't a "STEM school." Yet it has some of the finest STEM programs in the country, and a lot of students who spend the vast majority of their academic time on STEM learning. You can have an overall institution that houses a lot of sub-programs that specialize. There's no reason you can't have a nice local high school with a strong STEM-track program for a subset of its students (or music-track, etc.)

You could even argue that students would get a more practical education if they share an institution with many who don't share their interests, rather than a homogeneous student body. If you're taking STEM, but also take a handful of classes with people who aren't STEM-minded, you're going to develop skills for dealing with such people. If you're taking STEM, and even your non-STEM classes are with STEM-minded students, you may not develop those skills.

I can see the importance of that in my job, where I deal with engineers in coming up with specs for big project contracts. One reason I'm good at it is that I started out as a STEM major myself, and I love science, so I can kind of translate from engineer-speak to something that makes sense for non-engineers, making me a valuable project interface. But without someone like me, some engineers struggle horribly to explain what they mean to anyone who doesn't think like an engineer.
 
Mar 2012
54,653
36,289
New Hampshire
#12
I don't object to it in principle, but it's not necessary to have a separate charter school for that. I mean, look at universities as an example. Harvard isn't a "STEM school." Yet it has some of the finest STEM programs in the country, and a lot of students who spend the vast majority of their academic time on STEM learning. You can have an overall institution that houses a lot of sub-programs that specialize. There's no reason you can't have a nice local high school with a strong STEM-track program for a subset of its students (or music-track, etc.)

You could even argue that students would get a more practical education if they share an institution with many who don't share their interests, rather than a homogeneous student body. If you're taking STEM, but also take a handful of classes with people who aren't STEM-minded, you're going to develop skills for dealing with such people. If you're taking STEM, and even your non-STEM classes are with STEM-minded students, you may not develop those skills.

I can see the importance of that in my job, where I deal with engineers in coming up with specs for big project contracts. One reason I'm good at it is that I started out as a STEM major myself, and I love science, so I can kind of translate from engineer-speak to something that makes sense for non-engineers, making me a valuable project interface. But without someone like me, some engineers struggle horribly to explain what they mean to anyone who doesn't think like an engineer.
Charters werent really around much for my kids so all my knowledge of them is from friends or reading. It appears they come in two forms, ones that are popular with children of highly educated parents, doctors, etc. The schools allow for professionals to come in and teach them specifics. They also can get college credit and advance at a much faster rate. These parents feel public school moves too slow or doesnt allow for advanced students. The second form of charters seems to be for students whose parents want to get them out of public school for various reasons. Often times its too many kids in a class or disciplinary issues. I also have heard of specific charters where all the kids are special needs of some sort. The Gates and Buffett Foundations invest heavily into charter schools.
 
Feb 2007
25,237
17,692
Colorado
#14
I saw where many states are opening STEM academies to address the shortage of students in science and math. Schools where 80% of the day is dedicated to just science and math. State of the art labs etc. Super neat if one wants to get into MIT or a serious engineering school.
In Colorado you can send your kids to any public school in the state, despite your residential address - some restrictions do apply, like overcrowding and resources. As long as you are willing to bus them.

But it allows parents to shop around (if-you-will) for the best of the best. Some suggest this leads to better schools as they are vying for enrollment.

This includes charter schools as well.

In Texas we had only one option for public and that was determined by your residential address. Based on where you lived, that's how your school was. Lower end of town meant crappy schools.
 
Mar 2012
54,653
36,289
New Hampshire
#15
In Colorado you can send your kids to any public school in the state, despite your residential address - some restrictions do apply, like overcrowding and resources. As long as you are willing to bus them.

But it allows parents to shop around (if-you-will) for the best of the best. Some suggest this leads to better schools as they are vying for enrollment.

This includes charter schools as well.

In Texas we had only one option for public and that was determined by your residential address. Based on where you lived, that's how your school was. Lower end of town meant crappy schools.
I have read several states considering that. Some claim it promotes better overall equality of education. Lots of new choices out there these days.
 
Sep 2014
27,141
16,199
USA
#16
I think at least in well educated areas, that the concept of a charter school is becoming something specific needed for the future. For example, around here we have 3 new charters for STEM. They spend roughly 80% of the school day on sciences and math. Its set up and geared for those who want to be engineers or doctors. They had a 100% placement last year at all Ivy League schools. Others I have read about elsewhere might focus on music or the arts or even a sort of voc tech school. I think its interesting since the kids get to spend so much time doing what they love.
I think is where the direction should go with education. We need to focus on jobs and careers and not so much enrichment classes. Technology has made learning easy...if a student has a strong interest in "bohemian basket weaving" they can search out information on their own now. The same concept with college.
 
Dec 2018
2,757
1,017
Florida
#17
I mostly agree -- though I'd teach to a much broader test than just the ACT/SAT. I'd teach to a suite of subject-area tests as well (similar to the AP and achievement tests). But, I agree that if you have a good enough suite of tests, there's no problem teaching to the test -- that, in fact, it beats the hell out of teaching to the eccentricities of an individual teacher or the politics of a local school board, etc. I also very strongly agree with the pyramid approach.

I say that as someone who suffered due to our dumb-ass, state-by-state, district-by-district approach to curriculum. I was an Army Brat and we moved every two or three years, sometimes part-way through a school year. This resulted in the worst of both worlds. Sometimes I'd get the same material two years running, completely wasting my time. Other times I'd be dropped in the deep end of a subject where everyone else in the class had learned the foundational material the prior year, and I just had to figure it out on the fly. I also wasted a lot of time on what I'd call "local studies" -- where local civic pride causes the state to make people waste time on local trivia that's of no interest to someone who isn't going to be there for long... I mean, I suppose it's nice that I can tell you the state dog of Maryland, the state flower of Texas, give you a list of semi-famous poets from Connecticut, and recount the fate of the Popham Colony, but my time could have been better spent with a more structured and universal agenda. A more nationally consistent approach would also be a money-saver for taxpayers, since we could, say, procure a single batch of 6th-grade biology texts, with huge market power to get an outstanding per-copy cost, rather than every state or locality doing piecemeal procurement of different texts at much higher cost.
Well here is my issue with going broader than ACT/SAT. Colleges do not look at anything else. They look at your GPA and your ACT/SAT. They also may look at AB/IB stuff too. But other than that? It is a COLOSSAL a waste of money. The local school district here just spent $500,000 from a rain day fund on additional testing of students that they already know are consistently failing. Tests do not teach. Teaching does.

If it isn’t on the SAT/ACT? Then it is subject to change from school to school anyway and since our colleges are not looking at it anyway? Who cares? Sort of. That can change. The thing is...it is important for each district to review the problems they have and address them accordingly. The local district is superb, but they have a racial problem due to a strong divide in money and so on. But even then? There is no “bad school.” They all do quite well.

But the county north? They have an 85% turn over rate on educators and their superintendent has 0 experience in education (and was nothing but a cocktail waitress prior...and no...I’m not kidding). They don’t pay teachers and they waste money on testing and have all kinds of problems. They actually just fired or let go most of their teachers in their middle school and may have more to come, but only stopped due to the suicide of a student.

Anyway. Stuff changes from district to district and they need to handle problems that they have in that fashion. I think a big issue is that education lacks a lot of the professional development that is required to handle issues when it gets beyond elementary school.
 
Sep 2017
5,245
6,304
Massachusetts
#18
Charters werent really around much for my kids so all my knowledge of them is from friends or reading. It appears they come in two forms, ones that are popular with children of highly educated parents, doctors, etc. The schools allow for professionals to come in and teach them specifics. They also can get college credit and advance at a much faster rate. These parents feel public school moves too slow or doesnt allow for advanced students. The second form of charters seems to be for students whose parents want to get them out of public school for various reasons. Often times its too many kids in a class or disciplinary issues. I also have heard of specific charters where all the kids are special needs of some sort. The Gates and Buffett Foundations invest heavily into charter schools.
One issue with them is that they tend to further balkanize a society that is already tearing apart at the seams. I mean, once upon a time even most of the children of the wealthy went to school alongside children of the working class, in neighborhood schools. Private schooling always provided a way around that, but it used to be very rare. It became more common after racial integration of schools, when racist parents, especially in the South, used private schooling as a way to make sure their kids didn't have to attend school with "those people." But, still, most kids of all economic classes continued to go to public schools. With charter schools, though, parents have a public-school option that's the equivalent of a gated community, where their kids can avoid having to interact with the kids of the "little people." Sure, there's not a strict economic filter there. There are kids of poorer families who get into charter schools. But since early opportunities are driven so much by economic caste, it functions disproportionately as an economic filter, whenever it's not done strictly by a lottery system (and, even then, it can act as a filter, if the school has a fairly free hand to weed out unwanted students after the fact). That is probably good for those kids who can get into the charter schools, but it represents a long-term risk to the cohesiveness of the United States, if we get more and more adult citizens who have very limited experience dealing with anyone from outside their own caste.

I think I'm actually more comfortable with private schools than charter schools. With private schools, the rich can pull their kids out of the public school system, but not their money (assuming we don't implement stupid policies like private-school vouchers). So, when they opt to put their kids behind the wall of the private-school gated community, there's the beneficial side-effect of leaving the public schools with more money per student for those who remain. That helps to counter the negative consequences. With charter schools, though, not only do the neighborhood schools often lose their best students and their most engaged parents, but they also lose that money, which really screws those left behind.
 
Mar 2012
54,653
36,289
New Hampshire
#19
One issue with them is that they tend to further balkanize a society that is already tearing apart at the seams. I mean, once upon a time even most of the children of the wealthy went to school alongside children of the working class, in neighborhood schools. Private schooling always provided a way around that, but it used to be very rare. It became more common after racial integration of schools, when racist parents, especially in the South, used private schooling as a way to make sure their kids didn't have to attend school with "those people." But, still, most kids of all economic classes continued to go to public schools. With charter schools, though, parents have a public-school option that's the equivalent of a gated community, where their kids can avoid having to interact with the kids of the "little people." Sure, there's not a strict economic filter there. There are kids of poorer families who get into charter schools. But since early opportunities are driven so much by economic caste, it functions disproportionately as an economic filter, whenever it's not done strictly by a lottery system (and, even then, it can act as a filter, if the school has a fairly free hand to weed out unwanted students after the fact). That is probably good for those kids who can get into the charter schools, but it represents a long-term risk to the cohesiveness of the United States, if we get more and more adult citizens who have very limited experience dealing with anyone from outside their own caste.

I think I'm actually more comfortable with private schools than charter schools. With private schools, the rich can pull their kids out of the public school system, but not their money (assuming we don't implement stupid policies like private-school vouchers). So, when they opt to put their kids behind the wall of the private-school gated community, there's the beneficial side-effect of leaving the public schools with more money per student for those who remain. That helps to counter the negative consequences. With charter schools, though, not only do the neighborhood schools often lose their best students and their most engaged parents, but they also lose that money, which really screws those left behind.
I have actually heard the woman that runs the charter school system in NYC, Success Academies, which is predominantly low income in Harlem, tout this is a good thing. She says life isnt fair and this is how parents and kids learn the reality of life. She strongly believes that we should have at least 50% charter schools nationwide, so kids learn to compete and get more of life. She basically likened this to getting a job and having to apply. It sounded odd but I guess her schools are immensely popular in NYC. For me I find it all fascinating since none of this was around in my poor town growing up. We had a parochial elementary school and a public school system. No choices. However, I do recall parents telling some of us not to think about the other districts that had more stuff than us because we "were meant to be poor." I feel that could be a bad mindset as well and encourages generational poverty.
 
Jul 2011
55,938
10,908
NYC/Москва
#20
I have actually heard the woman that runs the charter school system in NYC, Success Academies, which is predominantly low income in Harlem, tout this is a good thing. She says life isnt fair and this is how parents and kids learn the reality of life. She strongly believes that we should have at least 50% charter schools nationwide, so kids learn to compete and get more of life. She basically likened this to getting a job and having to apply. It sounded odd but I guess her schools are immensely popular in NYC. For me I find it all fascinating since none of this was around in my poor town growing up. We had a parochial elementary school and a public school system. No choices. However, I do recall parents telling some of us not to think about the other districts that had more stuff than us because we "were meant to be poor." I feel that could be a bad mindset as well and encourages generational poverty.


There is more too it as well. The failing schools in our inner cities have as much to do with the parents as the school. You have parents who don't value education who outnumber those who do.

To alleviate that charters schools and vouchers are the answer. Why keep kids in failing schools who want to learn? Why fight against charter schools and vouchers?