Saive oure skules

Poor spelling and punctuation doomed a letter-writing campaign against new charter schools in Massachusetts.

All the proof state Board of Education member Roberta Schaefer needed to OK controversial new charter schools were the letters before her from public school students.

Schaefer ridiculed the letters against a proposed school in Marlboro for their missing punctuation and sloppy spelling — including a misspelling of the word “school” in one missive.

“If I didn’t think a charter school was necessary, these letters have convinced me the high school was not doing an adequate job in teaching English language arts,” Schaefer said.

Despite the letter-writing campaign, which Schaefer said was orchestrated by school officials, the Marlboro-based Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School as well as new charter schools in Cambridge, Lynn and Barnstable were approved yesterday.

Via Best of the Web.

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  1. This is so ironic, so beautiful, so predictable …..

  2. Laura (southernxyl) says:

    I wonder if it’s possible that the kids felt irritated and resentful at being coerced into political activism, and sabotaged the letter-writing campaign on purpose.

  3. Andy Freeman says:

    In many of these campaigns, the teacher reviews the letters before they are sent, or even helps write them.

  4. Laura (southernxyl) says:

    Maybe the teachers were as thrilled about it as the kids were.

  5. The first thought that comes to mind after reading this article is this:

    But then I think about how these kids have been let down by their schools… And all the unions can think of is how to protect their turf… Pretty frustrating, really…

    Of course, this brings up the issue of the teachers forcing their views upon the kids… I wonder if the kids could’ve sent letters supporting the charter schools… Or, at the very least, if they could opt out… (I’m assuming that this letter writing campaign was an assignment…)

    I’m not even going to ask if the argument for charter schools was presented during the pre-writing indoctrination sessions…

  6. I had the same mixed reaction as Zach – happy, but sad. I was one of many who wrote a letter in support of AMSA (unprompted) even though I don’t live in that area. As in our area, the schools scream bitterly about paying for the few kids that go to charter schools even though up to 20 percent of our kids go to private schools and save the town a ton of money. Our schools complain that they do well in the state’s (lowest common denominator) tests, so they don’t think they should pay for the students to go elsewhere. They consider the payments to charter schools an unfunded mandate by the state.

    Then I began to wonder why the public schools are screaming about the money. They can just put all of the charter school payments on a separate line item of the school budget and pass the cost along to the town. It should be that simple especially for just a few students. The real problem to the public schools is the exodus of many students and the loss of total money and control. Direct competition is not what the public schools want. The siphoning of students to private schools is limited by their high costs, but charter schools are a much bigger threat to the public schools. I know many parents with several kids that cannot afford private schools who would jump at a chance to send their kids to a good charter school.

    These precedents in Massachusetts should break the logjam. Competition is good.

  7. PJ/Maryland says:

    Has anyone actually seen any of these letters? The article in the Boston Herald quotes state Board of Ed member Roberta Schaefer saying the letters had spelling and grammar mistakes, but doesn’t actually quote any letters. Not that I disbelieve Schaefer, but it would be nice to see how bad the errors are. Also, I’m assuming the letters are from HS students (the charter school is a high school, I gather), but are we talking freshman or seniors?

    I’d think that letters written in a public school, sent to a public official, wouldn’t be private.

    I’m also mystified that the article ignores the question of why the students were writing the letters in the first place. Everyone here seems to be assuming that students were encouraged (brainwashed?) into writing; I certainly can’t think of any other reason (“Please, Board of Ed, don’t give me another option!”). But aren’t there rules about teachers teaching their own opinions in the classroom? (Or if not, why not?)

  8. There are no rules about teachers teaching their own opinions in the classroom. Is it possible to teach that way? It would certainly be difficult. How would I grade an essay?

  9. Here’s another local article about the approval of the charter schools:

    Why hold the kids up to public ridicule by naming names and publishing their letters? To quote the Boston Globe article:

    “Board member Roberta R. Schaefer said she was convinced of the need for a rigorous high school in the Marlborough area after receiving letters from students lacking grammatical skills. One letter she released contains no punctuation at all. “I don’t think it should be gone through with if it does get excepted Marlboro High School will lose money it doesn’t have,” the letter said.”

  10. Laura (southernxyl) says:

    Rita, I think PJ’s talking about teachers teaching their political opinions to their classes. If you assigned an essay on the Iraq war, for example, and took off points when kids didn’t reach the same conclusion you did, that would be wrong. That’s kind of extreme, but it’s along the same lines of assigning kids to write letters for or against political initiatives. The kids themselves certainly wouldn’t have thought to write letters about charter schools on their own. They could only base their opinions about the effect charter schools might have on what their teachers told them.

  11. “I know many parents with several kids that cannot afford private schools who would jump at a chance to send their kids to a good charter school.” Steve

    In Tucson, I tried to find a good charter school. The variety is there, but the quality is not guaranteed. They aren’t necessarily better, only different. There is a good experiment happening, but I ended out sending my daughter to the devil I did know.

    The problems charters have are the hiring and retention of good teachers, struggles to have good administration, and the fact that facilities and supplies aren’t well funded. The rest is hard work and planning. Sounds like success is almost guaranteed, huh?

  12. In Tucson, I tried to find a good charter school. The variety is there, but the quality is not guaranteed. They aren’t necessarily better, only different. – Jon

    They could also be a lot worse. A lot depends on the laws in each state. Some states allow charter schools only if their “charter” is extremely different from that of the public schools and the state’s K-12 education establishment approves it. This means that there are a lot of “different” charter schools out there. There is one charter school in our area, but it has an “un-schooling” approach to education. This may work for for some students and parents, but I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

    The AMSA charter is quite different (in theory) because it offers more specific and rigorous academic standards. This is no guarantee, but competition is good. A relative of mine in another state says that he sees improvements in his daughter’s public school that are directly attributable to competition by charter schools. The schools admit it. The charter schools that the public schools fear the most are the ones that set higher academic standards. That’s why it will be difficult to open up many state’s restrictive charter school laws.

  13. PJ/Maryland says:

    JuliaK, I don’t insist on seeing the kids’ names (they’re minors, so that might not be public info, anyway); I just thought a few example paragraphs would be a good idea.

    At least the kids don’t seem to have just copied a form letter the teacher wrote on the board. (Or, if they did, they’re really bad copiers…)

    Sorry I wasn’t clearer, Rita, but Laura(southernxyl) is right. I don’t mind teachers teaching their own opinions/beliefs, but they should make an effort to bring up both sides. If I were a reporter in Boston, I’d ask the students if there were any reasons to be in favor of the charter schools.

  14. I spend enough time talking with people on the web to know that such poor languages skills are not uncommon and don’t need to be faked.

    But it’s utterly priceless. The sad thing is, a lot of those kids don’t know how bad their skills are. If they did, they would be better at it.