Print This Post

Education leaders discuss impact of charter schools

Posted on 04.10.2013

Indianapolis is set to open 12 new charter schools by 2020, according to a  recent article in The Indianapolis Star. This has prompted a conversation regarding how charter schools will affect students and educators.
Executive Director of the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning   David Dresslar, a former superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, described similarities and differences between charter schools  and traditional public schools.
“In many ways they [charter schools] are much more similar than they are different from public schools,” Dresslar said.
According to Dresslar, one major difference is the degree to which charter schools can decide their lesson plans and curriculum. Dresslar said that charters have more freedom to decide curriculum and that teachers have more latitude to plan lessons.
According to Dresslar, another difference is that charter schools are open to students all across Indianapolis while traditional public schools are open only to students who live in a particular neighborhood.
A third difference is the governance structure. Dresslar said that public schools are governed by a school board with the state deciding curriculum, but charter schools have a completely different structure.
“A traditional public school is run by an elected school board, while charter schools are run by an appointed charter board,” Dresslar said. “Charter schools are also authorized by an authorizer, which for most of Indianapolis is the mayor, although there are a few authorized by Ball State University.”
Although Dresslar mentioned that charter schools are not geographically restricted and have open enrollment for all students in Indianapolis, a recent Indianapolis Star article reported that among the 12 new charter schools set to open, approximately 6,000 open spots exist. Assistant Professor of Education Terrence Harewood explained the selection process among charters.
“What happens is that the individual names are placed in a lottery, and the school determines who fits in to the spots among these particular grades. And if your name is picked from the lottery, you are allowed to enroll … If you have a sibling at the school, you are often guaranteed a spot at the school as well,” Harewood said.
According to Harewood,while charter schools offer students a chance to develop their potential, one drawback is that there is higher teacher turnover. This exists, in part, because charter schools have extra demands and fewer perks for teachers, such as longer hours, less pay and no unionization. As a result, students who come from unstable backgrounds can experience increased difficulty in trusting their teachers.
Associate Professor of Teacher Education Greta Pennell said that the new charter schools likely would not have an affect on how student teachers are taught at the undergraduate level but may necessitate some tweaks in higher levels of education.
“We can’t actually tailor the teaching that way [for teaching in charter schools] because they [students] are going to be licensed to teach all children,” Pennell said. “So we prepare people so they can meet the standards and be licensed as a teacher. So if you want to be a high school teacher, I have to prepare you to teach high schoolers in the subject you’ve selected to teach … the tailoring doesn’t happen until grad[uate] school.”
Dresslar, Harewood and Pennell emphasized that a common misconception is that charter schools are private schools, when actually charters are more similar to public schools than the general public  may think.


RSS Feed  Follow Us on Twitter  Facebook Profile