I have to admit that I once was a pretty whole hearted supporter of charter schools. I also believe philosophically in freedom for education of children, parent choice, student choice and other factors that are not results related. I also believe that results based methods of evaluating schools (primarily charter schools, but really all schools) are suspect.
There are many reasons to be cautious about the current measures of academic success in schools. Here are two.
First, so much of what a kid learns depends on parental involvement and dedication that it's tough to determine how successful a school or teacher really is. You can evaluate method and how successfully a school uses a particular method, but it's hard to determine the connection between that method and the results because of the number of variables.
Second, we do not know that high test scores or even going to college really has demonstrated a successful education. This leads to another interesting question that few seem to be able to answer: "What is a good education?" If early life is to prepare a student for later life, then life skills may be as important as academic skills. Plenty of successful people are not making a lot of money and do not have "good" jobs. On the other hand, I know many people who have dropped out of college to pursue music, acting, comedy, sales, or a trade and are extremely glad they did. In many cases, they are also making more money that many of their college trained counterparts, even 30 years later. They are also successful citizens who keep up on current events, think deeply about ethics and politics, and often hold very well thought out views on "the" issues.
In my not so humble opinion, I have a much greater appreciation for these people, even when they radically disagree with my views, than I do for those who simply have good jobs, a nice house, and a "wonderful" family. It isn't that I don't appreciate friends of mine who are good engineers and design useful products, it's just that I am not sure that is success.
For that reason, I wonder about charter schools and other schools. Are they effective?
I also wonder when I see the use of funds (both in charters and in traditional district schools) if there isn't some better way to "educate" kids. I've written in this blog about my ultimate high school, but short of a radical change in education, couldn't we provide more hands on learning and more real life lessons for kids. I commonly teach adult learners in an evening format university setting. One of their biggest fears (average age of about 30 years old) is interviewing for a new job. How does that happen?
I recently interviewed candidates for a position. None of them could answer a basic algebra question that I gave them, but a couple stood out in their ability to communicate and their desire to do a good job. I thought about waiting for the person who could answer the algebra question (and perhaps I should have), but I chose someone who gave me confidence that she could related to schools and was competent to do the tasks that I had for her. So far, so good. The point is that an employer doesn't always need the smartest or best educated person. An employer needs someone with a good attitude who will get the job done. That's a different skill than being able to score well on a state certified exam.
In my mind, a test of schools, and particularly charter schools that have more freedom, is whether they are producing students who will succeed in the real world. Do they have the ability and desire to succeed at whatever they do, rather than judge themselves on some ranking system that may or may not have anything to do with whether or not they are good people who others want to hire or work with.
I guess I've rambled here more than I intended, but I guess that's what blogs are for sometimes. What do you think?