Boston educators want to persuade charter schools to rejoin the district as quasi-independent “pilot” schools. Reducing competition is a bad deal for students, writes Michael Goldstein, founder of MATCH, a highly successful Boston charter.
Imagine that the Yankees asked the Red Sox to “join them” – and let George Steinbrenner run both teams. After all, it’d be in the Yankees’ best interests. But would elimination of friendly competition benefit the fans?
A new proposal (read: PR ploy) to fold independent charter public schools into the Boston Public School district as pilot schools is no different. The proposal would eliminate the friendly competition between pilots and charters that benefits Boston parents. The district would immediately face a $16 million annual shortfall (the amount the state pays to BPS as charter school “reimbursements” for departed students). Dissatisfied parents who seek charters (overwhelmingly African-American) would have no place to go.
Boston’s pilot schools have more independence than traditional public schools but not as much freedom as charters. Pilots are less likely than charters to be shut down for poor performance.
All charters and most pilots have random lottery admissions, yet both types are small public schools that outperform traditional schools.
For example, pilot middle schools had 30 percent of students score proficient or above on the 2005 MCAS, much better than BPS as a whole. Charters were even better, with 56 percent of students scoring proficient or above. Same with high schools: Pilots 36 percent proficient, charters 65 percent proficient. And both types of schools are doing this with mostly black and Hispanic populations, proving that the achievement gap can be closed with the right approach.
Pilot schools were created to compete with charters for students, teachers and innovative leaders, Goldstein writes. When charters hit the 5,500-student enrollment cap in 2002, “the Boston Teachers Union immediately halted the creation of new pilot schools.” A 2006 deal allowed new pilot schools but with less freedom from union work rules.