Use lessons from charters to improve public schools
Should Buffalo create a parallel system of mediocre schools or should we apply the best practices learned from the charter movement to our existing school system?
Instead of gutting the Buffalo Public School system, I urge the Board of Education to use the contract negotiations and out-of-time school reorganization plans that lie before it to apply lessons from the charter movement while maintaining the integrity of our public school system.
Great charter schools (and public schools) have these qualities in common:
• Building-level autonomy: Great schools have strong principals who articulate focused approaches to learning, which in turn promotes teacher buy-in. The new contract must allow principals to select their teacher team.
• Wrap-around services: A curriculum can only do so much in the face of poverty and institutional racism. Great schools provide services like access to health care, three meals a day, before- and after-school time to support working families and social workers to triage the myriad obstacles that urban students face. Partnering with existing community organizations makes this approach cost-effective.
• Support for the profession of teaching: In exchange for the changes to work rules required to empower principals, keep the heroic profession of teaching strong by raising salaries, lowering class size and fostering greater opportunities for professional development.
A good example of this kind of model is the reorganization proposal for the Dr. Martin Luther King Legacy School submitted by a group of administrators and teachers from the current Dr. Martin Luther King Multicultural Center. (I especially laud their inclusion of services for children who have experienced trauma.)
Don’t gut our public school system by outsourcing education and public wealth to less accountable organizations. Instead, I urge the board to use the lessons from the charter movement to build, rather than cripple, our public schools.