Choosing Sides on Charters [Audio]

When I started my school choice process, I was completely ignorant of the sides of the charter school debate.  I had an understanding that there were pro- and anti- charter people, but I never understood their positions in any depth.  In the almost two years since starting this blog, I have had a lot of folks lobbying me from both sides–charter school organizations, child advocacy organizations, and parents.  Now I understand the issue better, but I’m still not completely swayed one way or the other.  Though I care about improving our educational system at large and improving the charter school system specifically, my primary concern all along has been about what is best for my child.  This blog has reflected that–with a few tangents, it has been been about school search and not about school policy.

I have learned that for many of my readers, opinion on policy is an important factor in school choice.  It makes sense–if you are strongly opposed to the charter movement, sending your child to a charter isn’t exactly consistent behavior.  The problem for most of you who are like me is that there are not a lot of impartial resources out there to help you form an intelligent opinion.

Yesterday on WHYY’s Radio Times, there was an animated discussion on Pennsylvania charter schools that succeeded pretty well on that score.  The segment featured a charter school advocate but also referenced the Stanford CREDO study critical of PA charters (primarily cyber charters) that I wrote about last month.  Here’s the description of the program from the WHYY web site

Since 1997 when Pennsylvania first authorized the establishment of charter schools, over 70,000 students in grades K-12 have enrolled in one of 135 “bricks and mortar” charter schools and a dozen cyber charter schools state-wide . In Philadelphia, one out of four students attends a charter school and the numbers are growing. Charter schools are created by parents, teachers, community leaders, and education management organizations. And while they have become a centerpiece in the school choice movement their very existence is the source of considerable debate. A new study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes reports mixed results when it comes to student learning. Have Pennsylvania’s charter schools fulfilled their promise? Our guests include the report’s author DEV DAVIS , ROBERT FAYFICH of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, and education researcher GARY MIRON of Western Michigan University.

The discussion is definitely worth listening to-it’s a good primer for those of you who are considering a charter school for your own kids.  The most poignant comment for me was–“let’s call them franchise schools”  On the fence yourself?  Have a listen.

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