Peter Greene: Insightful Blogger
I read education sites all over the web, and from time to time I find one that really impresses me. Of course it’s usually because I agree with the writer, and yesterday, while reading the education section of Alternet.org, I rediscovered Peter Greene’s blog at curmudgucation.blogspot.com I came across it some time ago and was impressed then. He writes the opinion blog “View From The Cheap Seats” for Education Week, and after reading an entry from his curmudgucation site entitled The Ballast I have become a fan. He teaches high school English and is active all over the web on multiple sites, and he writes almost every day, often with multiple entries. I am delighted by his writing style and the prolific body of work I can find that he has produced.
Charters Leave Students Behind
In The Ballast, he delivers a wonderfully inspired angle on charter schools which I will remember and use in my own arguments in favor of public schools. Noting that some charter schools have risen above their public counterparts, but the reasons are problematic. “How do these lucky few rise? The charter doesn’t have better teachers. In many cases the charter doesn’t have a single pedagogical technique or instructional program that is a bit different from its public school counterparts. What it has is a concentration of students who are supported, committed, and capable.”
And to get these supported, committed and capable students concentrated in their classrooms, these charters are able to leave other students behind. The charter students “are able to rise because the school, like the pilot of a hot air balloon, has shed the ballast, the extra weight that is holding them down.”
This charter school reality has been identified and quantified by many researchers who have studied enrollment and retention policies among charters. They usually have fewer second language students and fewer students with disabilities, and their cohorts get smaller and smaller as students progress through grade levels. It’s like Mitt Romney’s self-deportation immigration policy–the students that charters don’t like because they don’t perform simply disappear from the enrollment numbers, leaving those that fit and succeed in place. These kids are the ‘ballast’ that Greene talks about here–the students that public schools must educate, but which charters are permitted to leave behind.
Charter Attrition Rates Generate Inflated Result
Some of the so-called high performing charters in New York are particularly egregious in this respect, with elementary grades enrolling a few hundred students and cohort graduation numbers of 30-40, all of whom go to college. Diane Ravitch has highlighted this issue in Beware the Charter Attrition Game from August of last year. She lists multiple charters and their attrition rates, which belie the notion that they serve all students. Greene’s concept of ballast–the students who are filtered out by charters and return to public schools.
That this is a significant problem is highlighted by Greene when he notes [Charters] “dump those students in a public school, but … take the supplies, the resources, the money, and send it on with the students [they] decided are Worth Saving. “
Bravo Peter. I’m adding Curmudgucation to my own list of blogs worth following.
Thanks so much for the kind words!