The Charter School Dilemma

Did you know that there is another free option for education besides public schools?

Charter schools serve more than five times the number of students that traditional public schools and private schools serve. Many parents and students look to charters schools every year as an alternative to public schools because most charter schools take a non-traditional approach to learning, focus on specific area of study, or teach to a certain demographic of students. Charter school teachers in most states do not have to be certified educators, and since they are not held to the same regulations, many teachers focus only on specific areas of study rather than a wide range of topics. When compared to public schools, 52% of charter school teacher’s highest degree earned was a bachelor’s degree while 48% of traditional public school teachers received a master’s degree. When charter school teachers are not held to the same standards and regulations as public school teachers than their students suffer academically.

Thankfully there is a way to rectify this problem. If charter schools implemented a teaching excellence framework(TEF) within four years, the school would enhance their teacher’s ability to properly educate their students.

In a 2002 study completed by the American Federation of Teachers it was concluded that “charter school teachers have one-third to one-half the experience and are considerably less likely to have advanced degrees than other public school teachers”. When the teachers in your local charter schools are not properly educated than the students that they are producing are not going to be properly educated. This becomes a problem when these students go to apply for college or find a job but they don’t match up to the students that traditional public school produced who are held to federal standards.

Charter schools in the United States pride themselves on offering students a unique education. Most charter schools have specific area of focus such as math, science or technology. When teachers are hired just to teach a specific subject they are most of the time not accredited teachers. Only twenty-three states in the US require that Charter Schools hire certified teachers.Most teachers that are hired by a specific charter schools to teach a certain kind of math or science were formally working in that specific field. Just because the teacher might a significant amount of knowledge in that field doesn’t mean that they have the ability to relay that knowledge to others.

Charter school teachers are given a better opportunity to express their teaching style. Many educators believe that when teachers are given this opportunity they can teach better to the specific students in their classroom. In many cases when teachers are given free range with their teaching they abuse this power. According to the Center for Public Education, “Charter school teachers have less experience than those at typical public schools; more than one-fourth had less than three years full-time teaching experience”. Since charter school teachers have less experience in the classroom and are not being watched as carefully, there is no real way to know if they are teaching their students properly.

Although charter school teachers have the ability to teach using different techniques this might not be best option for the students in their class. When these teachers have more control over their classroom than traditional teachers than its becomes more difficult for charter schools to control the education that their students are achieving because there is not a standard for teaching in the individual charter school.

In a recent investigation completed by Stanford University, researchers found “found that 37 percent of charter schools posted improvements in math scores; however, these improvement rates were significantly below the improvement rates of students in public school classrooms”. These schools scores are not matching up with traditional public schools because their teachers are not matching up with traditional public school’s teachers.

One explanation for students not testing as well on state tests is that some charter schools solely focus on mathematics, english or technology. While this style of education has its benefits, it is damaging to the student later in life when they don’t have an adequate knowledge of to write properly or perfrom simple mathematics. A 2009 study perfrormed by RAND education found, “charter middle schools appeared to be falling short of public middle schools in Chicago (in reading) and in Texas (in both reading and math)”. Charter School teachers are not required to be certified teachers in the state of Arizona. When test scores were released from this spring’s AZ Merit test it found that 41 percent of 3rd graders are “proficient” or “highly proficient” in English”.

One way this can be changed is by using a “teaching excellence framework”. A teaching excellence framework is “an evaluation system that hinges on frequent classroom observations and coaching sessions”. This system uses older, more experienced teachers who mentor and evaluate the newer teachers who enter the charter school. The veteran teacher observes a lesson in the new classroom a couple of times a month and then after each lesson the mentor sits down and explains how the mentee could better run their classroom. This system uses a rubric so that the goals are the same across every teacher pair. This system has been implemented in the state of Delaware by Thomas Edison Charter, Kuumba Academy, Prestige Academy, and East Side Charter.

Since using the system these charter schools have experienced a surge in better teachers and test results. Eastside Charter “witnessed a total increase of 30 points in reading and 26 points in math on DCAS exams from 2011 through 2014”. Since the four Delaware charter schools adopted the TEF, another charter school system Imagine Charter Schools has adopted an almost identical TEF. Teaching Excellence Frameworks have proven, that by more young charter school teachers being mentored and gaining classroom knowledge then their students will receive an increase in education and test scores.

If every charter school implemented this system than test scores and overall academic achievement would rise. The teaching excellence framework allows for all teachers in the same school to have the same teaching standards. Through the teaching excellence framework charter schools can increase their data and statistics when compared to traditional public schools exponentially as demonstrated by the four Delaware charter schools. If charter schools were able to increase their test scores to be equal if not better then when compared to traditional charter schools, the children attending these charter school would be receiving a tremendous education. Charter schools have all of the makings to be a terrific educational resource all they need to reach this goal is more guidance for their educators and staff.