Grey Lady Gaga

The NY Times is gaga for charter school stories. Today there's a mini-debate.

Two recent New York Times articles have described opposition to the thriving charter school movement in Harlem. An influential state senator, Bill Perkins, whose district has nearly 20 charter schools, is trying to block their expansion. Some public schools in the neighborhood are also fighting back, marketing themselves to compete with the charters.

...What is causing the push-back on charter schools, beyond the local issues involved?

I've got a short piece in the mini-debate. But I'm wondering about a different question.

Is political push-back -- with potential cuts in funding, new restrictions on operating freedoms -- the biggest risk to charters?

While that stuff is scary, is the bigger risk actually...quality? The average charter school nationally is not so hot, even as some localities -- including Harlem, including Boston -- are excellent.

The good news is some of the groups growing most aggressively, like Uncommon Schools, rock. Rookie teacher Jamie G in Brooklyn visited our training program this weekend as a guest speaker; he mentioned he is observed by his Brooklyn principal every week, with a 30-minute follow up meeting. Awesome support.

But apart from standouts, a bunch of new charters are weak. Leadership and teaching talent pipelines are totally stretched.

And quality will get worse if, as part of the Obama effort to "transform" 5,000 charter schools, many are given the charter label (but continue to give kids the same thin academic gruel).