Over the years, schools of choice such as charter schools have played a vital role in enhancing education system in the United States. There are 6800 charter schools spread across 43 states and the District of Columbia. Charter schools differ markedly from district schools and private schools in terms of their creation, governance, and autonomy (Finn, Manno, & Wright, 2017). However, like any other education system, the charter schools sub-sector has not been without problems. Although some of Americans top achieving schools are charter schools, evidence suggests that a large number of these schools perform poorly. In this essay, I argue that charter schools should be eliminated due to their damaging effect on the long-term interests of children and society as a whole.
Having indicated that charter schools play critical role in American education system, it is worthwhile to discuss some of the benefits that have been identified with charter schools in American society. One of the most discussed arguments in favor of charter schools is that they provide education options for many families which are not available in the public education system. Mack (2012) argues that a good neighborhood school does not necessarily fit the needs of every child. Such cases have been witnessed in situations where some schools show little/high ambitions which fail to match with what the children enrolled in such schools actually need. This is particularly problematic with schools that have admitted disadvantaged children (Finn, Manno, & Wright, 2017; Ladd, 2002).As such, charter schools offer the escape route for parents seeking appropriate learning environment for their children.
One way charter schools accord students options is through the adoption of a variety of schooling approaches (Apecsecadmin, 2014; Ladd, 2002). One study which examined 1151 charter centers in 17 cities across the nation found that half of these centers pursued general academic policies as evidenced in their mission and vision statements, philosophy as well as curricular statements. The other half showed that the charter learning centers covered various categories of disciplines including technology, engineering, art, and science, among different disciplines (Finn et al., 2017; OccupyTheory, 2017).These options offer students a variety of choices to make depending on their specific needs
When options exist in the education system, they are bound to be positive outcomes in subsectors of the system (Mack, 2012). As Apecsecadmin (2014) indicate, existence of several options for enrolling children promotes competition in the school system .In particular, availability of enrollment options for parents/guardians exerts pressure on district schools sub-sector to improve standards through the reassessment of their practices vis-a-vis those of charter schools. Accordingly, in a free market economy, competition fosters quality of services (Finn et al., 2017). A competitive education system enhances the quality of education offered, an outcome that eventually benefits all learners regardless of the school that they have enrolled in; voucher, charter, private or district schools.
Charter schools have been considered to be more responsive to the needs of minorities. Poor living conditions characterize inner-city life, and a vast majority of residents in these areas are drawn from minority groups such as Blacks and Hispanics. Since charter schools are concentrated in urban areas, they give Black and Hispanic groups more opportunities compared to district schools (Finn et al., 2017). As Rand (2017) finds, charter schools offer more priority to low-income, low-achieving, and minorities as compared to district schools. Providing education opportunities to minorities and those that are economically disadvantaged has the potential to reduce inequalities in society.
Addressing inequalities especially in the education system may not be eliminated as a myriad of factors contribute to social disparities in the United States. For instance, the role of a diverse teaching staff in promoting inclusion in American schools has been well-documented by research (Finn et al. 2017; Rand, 2017). According to Finn et al. (2017), charter schools tend to have a racially diverse teaching staff, and also most of the teachers tend to be young and spend more hours attending to children compared to district counterparts. Diversity and vibrancy of teaching force are critical in the sense that they promote effectiveness in teaching as well as attend to the unique interests and needs of minorities. This way, such programs promote racial integration, one of the most pressing needs in the United States. To this end, these schools are more likely to foster a just society in the long run.
Despite the many arguments suggesting that charter schools promote diversity, enhance quality standards in schools, as well as address inequalities in society, little evidence is available regarding the effect of the mentioned pros of charter schools on quality outcomes (Finn et al. 2017; Mack, 2012).For example, can access alone translate into better quality outcomes among children enrolling in charter schools? How do charter schools address the problem of socioeconomic inequalities? Should diversity be the basis of categorizing schools as the best in terms of academic standards?
Some scholars have argued that diversity associated with charter schools is more in theory than a practical consideration of needs of children. According to Finn et al. (2017), charter schools do not provide the high-quality to children who participate in this marketplace. This is due to the inability of charter schools to sufficiently address the weaknesses of a deregulated market. As Finn et al. (2017) note, despite the existence of at least of 7000 charter schools in the country, the presence of these schools have done little to match education needs and the supply accorded to American children. As such, their presence continues (and will continue) to hurt the educational interests of millions of American children.
Contrary to the assertion that charter schools reduce inequalities, some scholars have found that these schools actually promote stratification. Finn et al. (2017) find that charter schools create circumstances that encourage socioeconomic disparities. This is the case as charter schools have a target market and parents/guardians influence choices of children. In other words, families appear to prefer certain environments (Mack, 2012; Ladd, 2002).).Indeed, studies carried out by Finn et al. (2017) reveal that families consider themselves lucky when they gain entry into charter schools due to perceived better learning ambiance, safety, and convenience. These preferences, coupled with historical issues influencing school choices, are likely to yield scenarios where children of certain racial groups are excluded from charter schools of selected locations. For this reason, the continued existence and operation of charter schools may undermine racial integration efforts in the education sector.
Research has further demonstrated that school success is influenced by several factors, including families that value quality education rather than convenience, safety or ambiance. These families are willing to nurture the academic endeavors of their children (Mack, 2012). A focus on the educational endeavors of children allows parents to make decisions that are based on their long-term interests. As indicated in the previous paragraph, most families prefer charter schools for the safety, ambiance, and convenience. The mentioned factors have often taken precedence of academic achievement, citizenship, and development of non-cognitive skills, which are critical for a better society since they give more focus to the long-term interests of the children (Finn et al., 2017).
Overly, charter schools are considered as open to all students. However, this is not the case when some of the education practices at these schools are examined. For instance, a majority of charter schools have adopted rigorous and strong curricula (Rand, 2017; Mack, 2012; Ladd, 2002).This results from the environment of operation which advocates for a free marketplace. Given this, charter schools are impelled by circumstances to raise their standards to attract more children. However, rigorous curricula have the danger of locking out academic slackers (Mack, 2012).This outcome is likely to engender some form of discrimination in the education system.
Charter schools are riddled with questions of control, transparency, and accountability. Since charter schools are operated by boards of private institutions, management style, charter-schools parents have fewer avenues to resolve managerial issues that may arise compared to public schools (Mack, 2012). When critical stakeholders such as parents/guardians are denied the opportunity to hold schools to account for their failures, the interests of children are put at risk. And since the structure of management in charter schools are managed by charter boards (Finn et al., 2017; Mack, 2012), quality may be compromised due to limited public participation. Arguably, institutions in which the public plays a more active role, there are bound to be accountability and, therefore, such practices should be encouraged.
The need for extra input in order to deliver quality in charter schools has increased demand for teacher hours. These demands attract young people who are willing to work for long hours for additional pay. Despite the vibrancy of young teachers and their diverse nature, there is a danger of burnout or exhaustion (Apecsecadmin, 2014; Mack, 2012). The heavy presence of young teachers also denies children in charter schools the expertise of experienced teachers who are otherwise essential players in inspiring children. Such lack of exposure limits children in their quest for high-quality education.
Charter schools play a significant role in enhancing the quality of education in American schools. The location of charter schools in inner cities puts them in a better position of attracting children from minority backgrounds. Charter schools further provide options to families thereby enabling them to make sound choices regarding education investment. Despite the benefits associated with charter schools, evidence suggests they promote situations where families fail to nurture academic endeavors of children. Also, charter schools have been found to lack transparency and accountability due to inadequate oversight from stakeholders. Since most families choices are biased in favor of charter schools, children in these schools run the risk of enrolling in programs that do not meet their academic needs. A good education system nurtures talent, inspires children, and seeks to address inequalities in society through skills and knowledge. Of the mentioned aims, little has been achieved by charter schools, therefore, should be scrapped.
Apecsecadmin. (2017). Pros and Cons of Charter Schools | APECSEC.org. [online] Available at: https://apecsec.org/pros-and-cons-of-charter-schools/ [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].
Ladd, H. (2002). School Vouchers: A Critical View. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 16(4), 3-24. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3216912
MLive.com. (2017). Weighing the pros and cons of charter schools (Julie Mack blog). [online]
Available at: http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2012/01/comparing_charters_and_regular.html [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].
OccupyTheory. (2017). List of Pros and Cons of School Vouchers. [online] Available at: https://occupytheory.org/list-of-pros-and-cons-of-school-vouchers/ [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].
Rand.org. (2017). What Do We Know About...
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