Monday, September 16, 2013

Welcome to CharterLand!

This from the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign:
Many policymakers like to herald charter schools as the cure-all solution to a struggling public education system. But even if you wanted to attend one, a charter might not want you. Based on research from Dr. Kevin Welner at the National Education Policy Center, this new infographic from the OTL Campaign illustrates the obstacles and pitfalls some charters set up to weed out or push out struggling students and those who need additional supports. While some charters do well by their students, even in the best possible scenario charter schools aren't a systemic solution to providing an opportunity to learn for all students.

Ensuring every student has access to a quality education shouldn't be a game, so is "CharterLand" really the best way forward for America?

“Good schools shouldn’t weed out kids. They should teach everyone.” That’s the bottom line of the new CharterLand infographic from the Opportunity to Learn Campaign of the Schott Foundation.

Inspired by the venerable children’s game “Candy Land,” the infographic asks players to work their way past Hoop ‘n’ Hurdle Hills, Marketing Meadows, and Push-out Path, illustrating the various ways that charter schools can shape their student enrollment. This shaping is done though a dozen different practices that often decrease the likelihood of students enrolling with a disfavored set of characteristics, such as students with special needs, those with low test scores, English learners, or students in poverty.

The game is based on the article, “The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment,” written by Kevin Welner, Professor of education policy at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education and director of the National Education Policy Center.

Welner’s article, published in the journal Teachers College Record, identifies 12 different approaches, using lighthearted category names such as “The Bum Steer,” “Location, Location, Location,” and “Mad Men.” The new CharterLand infographic continues in that lighthearted vein, but the subject itself is of crucial importance, since it raises vital equity issues.

Researchers and governmental authorities have long known that, while many individual charter schools are both equitable and excellent, charters generally under-serve a community’s at-risk students. The new infographic and Welner’s article both build on this research to identify the charter school practices that result in those enrollment outcomes.

When charter schools fail to serve a cross-section of their community, they undermine their own potential and they distort the larger system of public education. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” says Welner. “The task for policymakers is to redesign charter school policies in ways that provide choice without undermining other important policy goals. For instance, being innovative doesn’t require being selective or restrictive in enrollments.”

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