On a discussion forum about education and charter schools which aired last night on my local PBS station, I heard much that concerned me about the critical thinking skills of people in influential roles in education.
One comment was memorable. A fellow vested with public schools asked of a charter school operator:
If you open a charter school and in 3 to 5 years it’s not outperforming the district averages, are you prepared to close it?
A couple things disturbed me about the underlying premises of this statement.
First, do we close public schools that do not outperform the district average? No. Do we close a restaurant that does not ‘outperform’ it’s peers? No. If it can draw enough customers to stay open, we let it be and let the owners and customers decide. Why would we apply a different set of standards to charter schools? Should public schools have a monopoly on mediocrity?
Second, what does ‘outperform’ mean? Average test scores? Why do we have such little regard for what parents think of their child’s education? Why wouldn’t we let it stay open if parents are satisfied?
Unfortunately, the charter school operator accepted the premise and responded:
If we don’t meet our plan achievement goals, we are prepared to shut it down.
His face then contorted as if he realized that he accepted the faulty premise.
A better response would have been:
We’re going to let parents decide if we’re successful.