Letter: There’s more than one way to deliver quality in education

Posted 7/30/20

I was pleased to see attention paid to educational quality by Gina Georgina Macdonald in a letter in last week’s Phoenix, “Let the numbers prove why ‘school choice’ is so …

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Letter: There’s more than one way to deliver quality in education

Posted

I was pleased to see attention paid to educational quality by Gina Georgina Macdonald in a letter in last week’s Phoenix, Let the numbers prove why ‘school choice’ is so important.As a society, we are obligated to focus on student achievement, which will have future economic, social and psychological impacts.

The achievement statistics and data on costs-per-student in the letter truly are concerning. However, answers don’t lie in data, but in the interpretation of the data within the correct context. 

Yes, reforms are needed in many public schools. The letter mentions Achievement First Illuminar Mayoral Academy as an example of a successful charter school in Rhode Island. I have no doubt that the Academy is an excellent school, however I wonder whether comparing the Academy to local public schools is a false equivalence, like comparing apples to oranges.

Families of children in the Academy must be proactive in order to secure a spot for their children. This indicates an exceptionally high value placed on education by the adults in a child’s life.

The public schools also must take all students, whereas a charter school can decide that a child cannot continue at the school. The groups of children in public schools are more heterogeneous and require more flexibility in teaching approaches. Whether we like it or not, the reality is that teachers need the support of social workers and other mental health professionals. This costs money.

Observing best practices at high-achieving charter and public schools might be the most realistic approach going forward. I have always believed that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Rather than pitting public schools against charter schools, both of which vary in quality, looking closely at successful educational approaches in all types of schools will provide the best insight. 

The main problem with an education system based on charter schools is that children will be left behind. Ms. MacDonald correctly points out that there are not enough spaces at charter schools. If the public schools are not strengthened, what happens to those children who do not have access to a charter school? 

Why do we have public education in this country? The system of public education is based on the premise that every child has a right to an education financed at public expense. Monies are set aside to prepare the children in our society for their best possible life.

Although children come from varying backgrounds, public school education should be of similar quality in all school districts. Of course, this is not the case, but it should be the goal.

I understand why many people think we need to give up on some of the public schools, especially in urban areas, but that is not the answer. We cannot abandon our children. The argument for charter schools is not helpful for the most socially underprivileged children, who need our help the most.

Barbara Byrnes Robinson
Bristol

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