Rethinking Charter College Mission

Dai Ellis writes:

Take the larger charter school networks as one prominent example on the near side of the E2E bridge. Even for the best charter high schools sending better-prepared students on to non-elite colleges, the attrition in college is depressingly high. These charter networks are generally throwing money at the problem — providing extra support to students once they’re in college, providing last-dollar support to cover gaps left by inadequate financial aid, and helping students navigate often byzantine systems reminiscent of the DMV. And they act separately rather than together–the overblown perception of competition for donors, teachers and students gets in the way of concerted action.

Charter school folks also inadvertently reinforce the status quo by framing everything in terms of closing the achievement gap and then measuring that by insisting that low-income kids get through the same higher ed pathway as wealthier students at the same rate of success. This mentality creates a strong bias toward students attending traditional four-year colleges.

While this is understandable to a point–especially given how broken the community college system is in many places–it can make charter schools and others more reluctant to be early adopters of alternative pathways (eg, “2+2″ models like Portmont and American Honors) and models (eg, competency-based) that might produce better life outcomes for their students. If it’s not good enough for rich kids, the logic seems to go, why is it good enough for our kids?

Read the whole thing here