Posts Tagged ‘school choice’

Sun-Times editorial gets it right

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

In something of a breakthrough, the Sun-Times editorial board today came out against CPS’s plan to open 13 new charter schools this year. Echoing my comments in the Tribune earlier this week, today’s S-T editorial agreed that opening new, unproven schools while claiming a need to close as many as 100 existing schools doesn’t make sense, especially given the fact that overall charters are no better than regular schools.

“How exactly can CPS square that circle? We aren’t convinced it can….Charters are like regular schools – some great, some mediocre, some lousy.”

This published opinion comes on the heels of a critical piece by the local public radio station WBEZ, “Charter schools with failing grades still featured at quality schools fair”:  “A high-profile Chicago schools fair today is supposed to show off quality new schools, many of them charters….But a WBEZ analysis of the more than 100 new schools featured at the expo this year shows 34 percent of them are rated Level 3 by the district, the lowest grade given. Schools receiving the designation include campuses run by some of the largest charter networks in the city, including UNO and the Chicago International Charter School. This is the first year the district has graded charters on the same scale as traditional schools.”

“Quality choice” morphing to just “choice”?

Perhaps under pressure from the truth, and its growing appearance in the media, some charter promoters seem to be dropping the “quality” label from their sales rap. The WBEZ story quotes Phyllis Lockett: ” ‘The purpose of the (New Schools) expo is really to give parents first and foremost this notion and the sense that they do have a choice, that they should do their research,’ Lockett said. She said parents will receive guides that help them figure out what questions to ask as they shop for schools.”

In a letter to the Sun-Times published under today’s editorial, New Schools for Chicago’s Chris Butler calls it the “dignity of choice.”

I’d venture to say that having to shop for schools is about as dignified as camping out overnight at a WalMart to get a video game console. Oh, and there’s a waiting list for that, too.


Elite schools and small class size

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Sidwell Friends School has a history of small class sizes

Don’t miss this debate on CNN between a class size researcher and the co-founder of Parents Across America and head of NYC’s Class Size Matters, Leonie Haimson. She’s so good she quickly gets him arguing on her side and has time left to go after the hypocrisy of Bill Gates and Mayor Bloomberg in sending their children to private schools with class sizes of 15 or less, while forcing low-income urban schools into a position of having to raise class sizes every year.

The Obamas don’t escape this charge, either. Class sizes at the Sidwell Friends School, which Malia and Sasha attend, range from one teacher for every ten students in the lower grades to one teacher for every 16 students in some fourth grade classes.

In a thoughtful essay, “Mr. President, we want your children’s education, too,” D. C. public schools graduate Rachel Levy expresses her disappointment with comments President Obama made recently on the choice he and the First Lady made about where to send their daughters to school.

In response to a Today Show question about whether he would send his daughters to a D.C. public school, he said that the D. C. schools were still struggling, that they had made great strides (presumably under scary education broom-wielder Michelle Rhee) and that parents with less clout than the Obamas should still have similar choices. In other words, Levy says, “the president subtly plugged his own administration’s plans for education reform while using the coded language of the urban neoliberal elite.”

If the new school reformers’ policies, which you and your administration support, are the right ones, why don’t you send your own children to the very schools where such policies are being implemented? If that is not possible, why send them to a school that is in many ways the mirror opposite of your revolutionary reforms?…Mr. President, if we should all have your healthcare, as you have said we should, then shouldn’t we all have your children’s quality education, too?

Good questions, ones that the president ought to answer.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.