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Time to end the charter-District divide and build a united front

By James H. Lytle on Apr 21, 2015 02:44 PM

It’s time to end the charter vs. District school schism in Philadelphia. The horse is out of the barn. The deal is done. Get over it.

If Philadelphia’s public schools are going to get adequate funding, there needs to be a “united front” of charter and District leadership marching arm in arm to City Hall and Harrisburg. Supporting one or the other should not be a litmus test for mayoral or City Council candidates. Division won’t bring victory in Harrisburg.

District leaders need to join charter sector leaders and others to plan solutions to Philadelphia’s longstanding public education challenges. School Reform Commissioners Marjorie Neff and Bill Green, along with Superintendent William Hite and PFT president Jerry Jordan, should join with charter leaders such as Mastery’s Scott Gordon, Boys' Latin’s David Hardy, KIPP’s Marc Mannella, and with PSP’s Mark Gleason to form a factionless group formed for this purpose.

If this requires locking the group in a room until they emerge with a common agenda, then so be it. As a group, they have a great deal of credibility locally, statewide, and even nationally. They need to capitalize on their collective strength.

The group should keep in mind that most parents and the greater public don’t care about the ideological warfare between charter and traditional school advocates. What they do care about, as shown in a recent Pew study, is the quality of public schooling in Philadelphia. They care about the city’s future and they understand that the availability of attractive public schools and a well-educated workforce are essential to the city’s well-being.

There are, of course, sticky issues to resolve: the impact of charter school reimbursements and growing charter enrollments on the District’s budget, how to increase charter access for English language learning and special education students, and revising the special education funding formula for charters.

These are the kinds of issues the group needs to reach agreement on. Otherwise, City Council and the state legislature can hide behind divisiveness.

On the debate about whether charter schools or traditional schools are more effective – at this point, the research is conclusive. On the whole, neither outperforms the other.

What charters do provide is an opportunity for parental agency, a way to make a choice in their child's education. Charters have generally been more conventional and less experimental than their early supporters had hoped, but they have been sites for experimentation in pedagogy, organization, school time, staffing, compensation, and other basic features of schooling. Their success in recruiting students has forced traditional schools to adapt, as is evident in Philadelphia, where support for autonomy and innovation in traditional schools has increased.

Like charters, District schools are not a monolith. District schools encompass a wide range of organizations and services, and there are many things charter operators, leaders, and faculties could learn from an association with them. Examples include providing for students with special needs, whether gifted, disabled, or English language learners; integrating technology into the core curriculum; providing quality vocational and career preparation programs; dealing with diversity; doing more with less; and ensuring the employment rights of administrators, teachers, and support staff.

In Philadelphia, school leaders — principals, teachers, students, and parents — need to appreciate the advantages of collaborating across the divide for both political and programmatic reasons. Both sides have much to teach and learn from each other. And they share a common purpose – educating a substantial majority of the city’s children. That is where our energy needs to be focused.

 

James H. Lytle is Practice Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, a former District administrator, and a former superintendent in Trenton.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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Comments (22)

Submitted by Annony (not verified) on April 21, 2015 3:13 pm

The list of the power people include the charter CEOs, SRC and "dump the losers" Gleason.  No union representation?  Just look at the shenanigans by ASPIRA... Mastery no longer pays into PSERS.  Hardy mocks and threatens people.  Teachers have a responsiblity to fear the proposed collaborators.

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Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on April 21, 2015 4:16 pm

Torch, I absolutely agree that the charter sector should work hand and hand together with the public school sector as charter schools were supposed to fill the needs of the community. I believe that the majority of charter school leaders, especially the stand alone "true charter school" leaders, believe that charters should operate as public schools and should work together to enhance public education, not undermine it.

But let me be clear -- it is not the public school sector or the PFT who is going around trying to pull off corporate raids on public schools or trying to undermine them to get a bigger market share of "the seats."

The people who are doing that are the exact people you name in this commentary, and the state legislators in Harrisburg who allow this BS to happen and create the laws which enable and allow the corporate raid on our public schools. It is not Jerry Jordan or the PFT members.

I for one look to governor Wolf and Pedro Rivera, our new Secretary of Education to have the "moral leadership" capacity and political acumen to stop the BS for the good of all the children and all of Philadelphia's communities.

We need leaders who operate on "civic virtue" and not private profit.

 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 22, 2015 3:09 pm

If they can solve that problem then the Arabs and the Israelis are next. You can't be on the same side when you want the other party dead. Get real people.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 22, 2015 4:40 pm

The bickering is a result of propaganda initiated by the true puppet masters in both sectors.  If you talk to teachers and administrators in most traditional and charter schools, you find people who want to do what's best for kids, want more resources, and want to evade all of the political BS.  The protesters and power brokers in both charters and districts exist to simply further their own agendas.  

Having a system where both camps work together is actually possible.  However, the ultimate goal should be a complete revamping of how education is organized.  Do we need 500 districts in Pennsylvania?  Should kids have to decide to only go to a charter school or a district school?  Why can't there be a better system built on customization, choice and meeting student needs?  Getting rid of the true fat cats at the top would free up significant funding to allow this.  At least is would kick start the conversation.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on April 22, 2015 7:52 pm

yo lytle,

"School Reform Commissioners Marjorie Neff and Bill Green, along with Superintendent William Hite and PFT president Jerry Jordan, should join with charter leaders such as Mastery’s Scott Gordon, Boys' Latin’s David Hardy, KIPP’s Marc Mannella, and with PSP’s Mark Gleason to form a factionless group formed for this purpose."

where ya been.  these people (with the exception of jordan) get in the same room on a regular basis. that's not the solution, that's the problem.  they get in the room together anymore than they already do and there'll be no public schools left at all.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 29, 2015 8:11 pm
Fox in the hen house.
Submitted by mcled jessica rose (not verified) on August 10, 2015 3:02 am


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Submitted by colesingh (not verified) on November 4, 2015 12:30 am
 
 
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Submitted by colesingh (not verified) on November 4, 2015 12:52 am
 
 
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1. GETTING YOUR EX BACK
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3. CHILD BEARING.
4. BREAKING OF GENERATION COURSE.
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