Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another Charter School For Hillsboro?

Last night I attended the board hearing on the proposal for a new Knova Learning charter school in Hillsboro. Their proposal can be found here:

I thought they made an excellent presentation, though I was disappointed that they showed up late. The board quizzed them on some issues I consider important (how will you handle English language learners?), and others I would label as rather unimportant (how is it possible to get a quality education from uncertified teachers?). They seemed very skeptical that a charter school could deliver good educational results with lower cost-per-student than the traditional schools. But I think the overall questioning exhibited an emphasis on process orientation rather than results orientation, and missed the main point:

Attendance at the charter school will be entirely voluntary.

So if they fail to deliver, the parents will vote with their feet, and the school will fail. Inherently, a charter school only receives money in proportion to the students it can attract. So if the board is worried that they won't be as successful in their educational model as the current public schools, why not let them try? It is up to the individual parents to learn about the school, and actively make the choice to send their children. The internal details are interesting, but should not be the criteria for allowing or disallowing the chartering of the school.

In my opinion, the main requirements to open a charter school should be:
  1. A basic level of sincerity and competency, showing they have the means, intention, and ability to run a school.
  2. The ability to attract parents willing to try the school.
  3. Transparency of results: an honest system for reporting the same measurable results by which public schools are judged.
In my chats with various neighbors, I have found some who are perfectly happy with our current schools-- and some who are furious at the way their local schools are run. The latter group is eager for additional charter school options, and we need to do all we can to open up more choices for them.

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