Thursday, January 28, 2010
Whose responsibility is it to replicate successful charter schools?
There are many successful charter schools in the country, some are small and some are large. Some use a project-based learning approach, others are direct instruction. Many of these have long waiting lists of families who dream of getting into the charter school, but probably never will.
One of the tenets of charter school law is that charter schools should innovate in ways that can serve as examples and be replicated. So, when I read the story about Souderton Charter School Collaborative, I have to ask a question. This is a very successful system, but no one is replicating it. The school has said that it doesn't want to grow or expand.
It appears that the charter laws aren't adequate to cover this. The implication in Colorado's charter school law is that the district will adopt practices of successful charter schools. But what about the responsibility of the school itself? If it is successful, especially with a small population as SCSC has, isn't the charter school somewhat responsible to at least help demonstrate that the practices are replicable? Isn't this a perfect opportunity for successful charters to show that this is no accident? Isn't this a perfect opportunity for districts to show that they aren't the monoliths that many charter advocates make them out to be? (NOTE: I am often one of those who make the monolith claim.)
I am not sure that I have a perfect answer, and I'm pretty sure that I don't want the answer rigidly legislated. It seems to me that there should be an organic change that happens to both charter leaders and to district officials when they see a really successful educational model that works for kids, but it doesn't seem to be happening universally. Whatever anyone thinks of KIPP schools, at least they are taking on the replication issue seriously, unlike many of the other successful schools. EMOs replicate, but they don't always replicate because they are successful, so they aren't good examples.
Because I don't have the answer, I'm going to keep my judgment very soft, but I urge a local and national discussion about this issue. If you are great, replicate!
As an example I just wrote an article for my examiner.com column about Ridgeview Classical Schools. Check it out.