Collaborate with charters

Columbus City Schools (Ohio) is renting an empty school site, but charter schools need not apply, writes Stephanie Groce, vice president of the school board.  “The administration explained to me that they do not want to lease that building to any school that might compete for students with Columbus schools.” Learn to collaborate, Groce writes in the Columbus Dispatch.

Tucked away in a church in the Weinland Park neighborhood, just a few blocks from the vacant building, is Columbus Collegiate Academy, a public charter school that outperforms every middle school in Columbus City Schools. On its most recent report card, 100 percent of seventh-grade students scored proficient or better in math, a feat that none of our middle schools can claim. The students served by the academy are 94 percent economically disadvantaged and 81 percent African-American.

Columbus Collegiate needs room to expand. No dice.  The district rejected proposals from Columbus Collegiate and two other high-performing charters.  A music-education business will rent the building.

District leaders keep the city’s charters at arms’ length, she writes.

When I visited Columbus Collegiate Academy last winter to learn about its program, I asked the executive director: How many principals and administrators from Columbus City Schools have come to visit you? The answer: none. I guess there’s nothing we can learn from a school that outperforms all of our middle schools.

The district and its charter should “share best practices and resources willingly, including facilities,” Groce writes.

Fordham Institute authorizes Columbus Collegiate, notes Education Gadfly.

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  1. I thought one of the huge benefits of allowing charters was that they could experiment and even make mistakes with the families willing to take on those risks with the assumption that when good things happen the larger public school system would learn about them from the charters. It should be standard practice to share good practice. There will be charter schools that stink and charter schools that are fabulous and everyone should learn from all of them.

    We have a charter school here in town and while some people harbor bad feelings, the others (mostly public school principals and teachers) regularly visit to find out what’s working. The charter school sends a representative to most public school functions because there are lots of good teachers in the public school worth learning from as well. It’s a win-win situation. The public school can’t be as forward-thinking (or crazy, depending on how you look at it) without facing lawsuits from parents. So the charter school tries the new stuff and shares the results.

    If educational institutions can’t learn from each other then they don’t really understand how education works in daily life. I don’t care what the politics are, our kids deserve the best we can give them regardless of the source.

  2. It would help if public school supporters would admit that some charter schools have innovated in ways that are powerful for student learning, and if charter school supporters would admit that they have an advantage in the realm of more motivated parents and ability to counsel disruptive students out.

  3. CarolineSF says:

    I would like that notion, EB, but I can’t think of any ways that charter schools have innovated in ways that are powerful for student learning. Can anyone name one?

  4. Oh no, it has nothing to do with any magical innovations that charters might pioneer but in putting parents in the driver’s seat. The fly in the ointment though is that in areas where charters are most popular the district schools are so bad a thoughtful farmer wouldn’t subject his livestock to similar conditions. That makes lousy charters attractive by contrast.

    You can get a way with a lot in an area where “my kid is less likely to get shot” is the standard of comparison.

  5. This is the business model. The charters are competition for the public schools, where the assumption is that competition will drive achievement. It might, but you don’t see IBM sending executives to HP to learn how they do things better or inviting HP into their major accounts. In Columbus, the school leaders are behaving like businessmen, which is the goal of having charters. How is this this surprising?

    Public schools *do* learn from each other. We host guests from other districts who want to see something we’re doing all the time. I visit other districts when I can and collaborate all the time with AP teachers all over the world on lessons and units, etc. That’s because we’re not in competition with each other.

  6. LS…the proper analogy is not IBM vs HP, but an existing division of a company and a new venture started or acquired by that company…say, GE Healthcare and a new medical products manufacturer acquired by GE but for some reason not put under the management of the existing Healthcare group.

    The management of Healthcare would very likely feel competitive with the new group, but if their competitive actions reached the point of being destructive to the new business, say by denying it the ability to purchase needed components, then the length of their continued employment would likely be pretty short.

  7. It’s all about the bottom line. The traditional government-run schools don’t want to lose the per-student funding and also the extra fundraising dollars that families who actually care about their kids’ education bring. The smarter districts have offered magnet and/or GATE programs to try to retain some of these families but most districts have not.

  8. David: Obviously you’ve never looked at Anheuser-B’s business model, which sets division against each other.

  9. Lightly Seasoned…I’m very familiar with the competitive-business-unit model, and am in favor of it. In a well-run company, though, actual destructive behavior by one business unit directed against another is not going to be well-received. To switch to a sports analogy, there’s a difference between playing aggressive competitive baseball and giving the opposing team’s best pitcher food poisoning. Refusing to lease available space to another division comes closer to the second than to the first, IMO.