“I prefer the charter school environment because of the freedom it afforded me as an educator and the feeling of family it built between students, parents and teachers,” Talbott said. “Charter schools also have autonomy to make out-of-the-box academic decisions for their students, and they are often places where creativity in the classroom is more encouraged simply because the educational ‘island’ setting prevents too much red tape from restricting it.”
Though some charter schools excel, the charter model is not a guarantee of success, said Thad Domina, a UNC education professor.
“The evidence on charter school effectiveness is mixed,” Domina said. “The best research suggests that on average charters are no more or less effective than traditional public schools.”
And opponents suggest it might not be the efficiency-boosting, cost-saving measure intended.
“Handing over the keys of our lowest-performing schools to private charter school management operations adds a new layer of bureaucracy and lacks the accountability needed to ensure public taxpayers’ dollars are being used effectively,” said Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. “This school takeover scheme is unproven at best.”
The bill has also drawn criticism for the potentially problematic way legislators would determine the lowest performing schools.
“I certainly do not believe that the A-to-F grading scale is fair to all students, and it should not be considered as the sole measure of success,” said Talbott, who supports the bill.
Ellis said there is additional concern that the A to F grading scale, which the bill proposes to use as its only measure, simply acts as a proxy for income.
“The identification of low-performing schools is based on a seriously flawed A-to-F grading system that does nothing more than point out where the less wealthy school districts are located,” he said. “Academic growth should be weighted more heavily in this system.”
Domina said there’s a need for fairer alternative.
“While we certainly ought to be dedicating special resources to schools that educate large proportions of poor and otherwise disadvantaged students, it makes little sense to label these schools ‘failing’ by dint of the disadvantages their students bring with them to school,” he said.