CONTROVERSIAL EDUCATION REFORMS
Many of the debates about particular educational reforms are mostly and inherently controversial (Au, 2014; Zeichner, (2015). The controversy thereof, many a times, occur because of the existence of multiple diverse and mutually opposing values, aspirations, and general interests. For example, if one party is for a particular change such as reduction of tests in schools, that particular party will come up with quite convincing reasons such as the need for specialization and reducing burdens to students (Au, 2014). Similarly, the opposing party comes up with equally convincing reasons, and in this case, reasons such as more tests to increase accountability of the teachers and so on will ensue (Au, 2014). This paper will focus on one veteran reform: expanding charter schools as reform to improve education in the United States. Although this reform was proposed more than a decade back, it is still fresh in many states in the United States (Au, 2014). There is concrete evidence that almost every state is currently championing expansion of charter schools over public schools to improve the quality of education in respective states (Zeichner, 2015). But, in view of various underlying factors discussed below, this paper attempts to prove that expansion and promotion of charter schools over public schools is not a perfect solution. Instead, as the study will show later, charter schools are a creation of other much bigger problems such as inequality in education delivery system and certainly a potential failure of the national governmen5t of the United States in this regard.
The current proliferation of charter schools in the United States has not come spontaneously. The idea of charter schools began in early 1980s and took enough momentum in the early 1990s. During these times, it was proposed that slow learners and the students with special needs needed extra time with their teachers outside the classroom. And sure enough, it was a bold move which proved success in improvement of academic performance of the students involved. The idea evolved to become privatized as the federal government was not able to fully monitor it. Many charter schools were created and that is when education became an important entity in the financial markets (Kretchmar, 2014). As a proposed reform, it was expected that charter schools were more considerate about individual student’s performance and would be more of student-centered than the case with public schools that were surrounded by activism, abolitionism and federal bureaucracies that made education and learning processes teacher-centered. Still, it was evident that charter school actively engaged in inherent competition that served as a key drive in the improvement of the quality of education (Au, 2014). But, as shown below, the proliferation and promotion of charter schools bore other rather graver problems in the education system in the United States. The major problems identifiable are related to the quality of education, socioeconomic variables, and equality in education delivery, racism, and student concerns (Kretchmar, 2014).
Although there are still heated campaigns for the expansion of charter schools at the expense of public schools, there has been enough evidence that equality in education has not improved. The existence of charter schools and the competition thereof has always meant that better performing schools are better than the struggling ones (Au, 2014). As a result, every parent desires to have their children enrolled in the better performing charter schools. Due to privatization of the charter schools, the owners of these charter schools have turned to profit as the central focus at the expense to focusing on the quality of education delivered to students (Kretchmar, 2014). This has led to spontaneous deterioration of education such that it is the number of students enrolled that matter and not how best the students perform (Zeichner, 2015). Greater numbers of students are indicators of and means to widening financial profiteering margin (Zeichner, 2015). Still there is a grown mentality the students in public schools will certainly not perform well. More so worse is the fact that many of the teachers in both the private and public sectors have dreams to quit their jobs and start their own schools as a source of much more income (Au, 2014). This means that the first goal of the charter schools reform of making education a student-centered phenomenon is gradually being reversed and eventually becoming teacher-centered again. The curricular control is no longer a privilege of the federal government realistically (Berends, 2015). There is excess autonomy in the way the schools are run especially when it comes to pricing educational packages, student enrollment control and accountability relative to student performance. The current inherent believe that charter schools provide quality of education compared to public schools is therefore a lie (Zeichner, 2015).
Indeed, there are enough studies that show that charter schools are not the best option any more. For example, an academic performance study done in the Stamford College indicates that good scores of charter schools even perform poorer than public schools. In the study, it was found that only 17 per cent of charter schools performed better academically than comparable public schools (Berends, 2015). Still, half of the rest of charter schools showed same academic performance as comparable public schools did while the remainder performed poorer than comparable public schools (Berends, 2015). Arguably, this indicates that many charter schools are only focused on profit. What the students achieve academically is no longer the central focus and this has led to general deterioration of the quality of education and the education delivery system in the United States (Au, 2014).
The cost of education has also emerged as a major barrier to equality in education delivery in the process. Almost all charter schools are for profit and they are the competition thereof has led to exaggerated prices of education packages. This has resulted to a society where the wealthy get the best education and certainly the best jobs which mean best income and lifestyles. From past history of the American society, it is a living fact that the minority and marginalized communities are from low income neighborhoods and costly education packages to them exist only in dreams. Such minority groups are at the risk of getting the poorest quality of education since enrollment in the highly priced charter schools is not affordable at all. Closely related to capacity to afford education is the racism factor. The whites are generally wealthier than the blacks, Hispanic and Asians. In the process, the blacks, Hispanic and Asians form the marginalized groups characterized by limited privileges when it comes to buying various educational packages among other necessary life needs. Aforementioned, the privatization of education has always meant limited federal government control over major decisions in charter schools. Therefore, there exists low control of things like equal chances to enroll in various schools. In other words, students from minority communities – the blacks, Hispanic, and Asians - generally have limited chances of enrollment in schools of their choice partly due to their low affordability index, and partly due to racial segregation that is undeniably inherent in the American society. The end result is consequential imbalance in the education delivery system in the United States. The bottom line is that the current promotion of charter schools is not a real solution in itself; it is a source of other major problems in the overall educational system. A good system reform will certainly be student-centered – the charter schools reform does completely the opposite (Berends, 2015).
In conclusion, the expansion of the charter schools in place of public schools, as an all statutory actively championed educational reform, is no longer serving to improve the quality of education and the quality of education system in the United States. While a good education system is always student-centered, the charter schools reform leads in the opposite direction; it has led to 1) completely no significant change in academic performance in comparison with comparable public schools, 2) unequal educational chances for all students and therefore imbalance in the education delivery system in the United States, and 3) teacher- and profit-centered education system in the United States (Berends, 2015). While the initial reasons for championing charter schooling were built on the believe that it would capture the best academic values, improve teacher-student discourses and improve academic performance, the current charter schools are mostly profit-centered which has led to poor performance of the education sector. Charter schools reform is therefore a mockery to the initial goals – it is a predisposing factor for other major problems and deficits in the education system of the United States.
Au, W. (2014). Sponsors of policy: A network analysis of wealthy elites, their affiliated philanthropies, and charter school reform in Washington State. Teachers College Record, 116(11), 1-24.
Berends, M. (2015). Sociology and School Choice: What We Know After Two Decades of Charter Schools. Annual Review of Sociology, (0).
Kretchmar, K. (2014). Mapping the terrain: Teach For America, charter school reform, and corporate sponsorship. Journal of Education Policy, 29(6), 742-759.
Zeichner, K. (2015). Venture philanthropy and teacher education policy in the US: The role of the New Schools Venture Fund. Teachers College Record, 117(6).