from an expert in the field:
Mike Feinberg is co-founder of the Knowledge Is Power Program
(KIPP), a charter school system (
JULY DEBATE RESULTS:
Does a country’s economic
prosperity lead to happiness?
THERE IS NO SUCH thing as a silver bullet for public education. Charter
schools are merely one promising tool in our ever-expanding tool belt of
approaches to K– 12 educational reform. These autonomous public schools
provide a testing ground for innovation, where ideas can be tried, refined and
then shared with educators from across the public school system.
When we started KIPP, we weren’t trying to solve all of America’s educa-
tion challenges; we simply wanted to set up our students for success in col-
lege and in life. Our plan? Hold classes from 7: 30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, every other Saturday
and three weeks in the summer; have teachers set high standards and be available via cellphone
after hours; and focus on teaching both academics and character. Eighteen years later, with 109
charter schools in 20 states across the country, 84 percent of our eighth-graders go on to college.
Charter schools are based on a simple horse trade: Freed from the strictures of the traditional
district system, public charter schools can use innovative new ways to engage and support students.
If they don’t meet goals outlined in their charter agreement with their sponsor, or authorizer, they
can be closed. When done right, advancements don’t stay within charter schools’ walls; they spill
out, sparking a vibrant dialogue among public educators. That way, the best school practices can
reach many more students than charter schools would be able to serve on their own.
Cross-pollination between charter schools and traditional district schools is paying off. The
Houston Independent School District’s Apollo 20 program is implementing best practices from
KIPP and YES Prep and other charter schools in struggling district schools, and the Spring Branch
Independent School District in Houston is partnering with KIPP to start new schools within
schools modeled after our practices. This spring, officials from 18 urban school districts serving
more than 3 million students entered the eight-month-long KIPP Leadership Design Fellowship, a
federally funded program designed to share best practices and explore how to cultivate visionary
leadership in public schools of all kinds.
High-performing charter schools over the past decade have shattered the myth that your
ZIP code defines your destiny. To understand the true value of charters, it’s important to look at
not only the results, but how they are proving what is possible for public school students across
the country. C
Percentage reflects votes
received by July 9, 2012
JUNE DEBATE RESULTS:
Do the benefits of “super PACs”
outweigh the criticisms?
YES: 26% NO: 74%
Percentage reflects votes received by
June 30, 2012. Results may reflect
Debate being picked up by blogs.
from an expert in the field:
Julie Cavanagh is a teacher, member of the Grassroots education
Movement and co-producer/narrator of The Inconvenient Truth Behind
Waiting for Superman (
CHARTER SCHOOLS, in theory, appeared to be a good idea. Unfortunately,
the charter school landscape has evolved into a politically charged campaign
that aims to impose the same business-minded approaches that took our
country to the brink of economic disaster in recent years.
In the past, race, gender, financial and/or immigrant status, or whether
one had a disability, were the determining factors in access to a quality public
education. The promise of one common public education system was to make these factors moot,
to eliminate the access gap and to provide educational opportunity for all.
We have fallen short of that promise. Charter schools, however, do not bring us closer. In fact,
they threaten years of progress in educational policy that have brought us closer to the goal of a free,
fair, high-quality, integrated public education system.
Charter schools are not public; they are education corporations, many run as chains, and some
for profit. Charter schools admit children only by lottery and counsel out children who do not
adhere to their rules or standards. Charter schools serve far fewer English-language learners, students with special needs and those who qualify for reduced-price and free lunch as compared with
public schools. Public means there is public oversight; charter schools are their own independent
boards of education, and are overseen by boards of appointed, not elected, members with no or
minimal parental involvement and empowerment.
Charter schools are not more successful or innovative than public schools. They have significantly higher staff and student attrition rates, which contradicts claims of high student achievement.
Test scores increase as charter schools counsel out the neediest students. Yet, a study by the Center
for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University of 2,403 charter schools
across the country showed that 80 percent of charter school students performed the same as or
worse than students in public schools.
Access to a high-quality public education is a basic human and civil right; it is not something
that should be won in a lottery. Instead of creating winners and losers, as the business model of
competition and choice ultimately does, we should focus on the real reforms that will finally achieve
the promise of one free, fair, high-quality and integrated public education system. C
Opinions expressed are those of the
individuals or organizations represented
and are presented to foster discussion.
Costco and The Costco Connection take
no position on any Debate topic.
AUGUST 2012 The Costco Connection 19