Scholastic’s Administrator Magazine includes four views on whether states should raise charter school caps. One administrator queried is Bernard Pierorazio, superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools in New York, whose comments are worth reading in full:
Instead of increasing charter schools, let’s learn from what they do well. What is the attraction of charter schools for parents? Why is the federal government bullying states into increasing the charter school cap in the recent Race to the Top legislation? The attraction is a rigorous core curriculum that challenges all students; a support staff that cares about children; an extended daily learning schedule and a year-round program; smaller class size; parental involvement; dynamic school leaders who use data and have empathy for children; and, most importantly, an instructional staff that disaggregates data, individualizes learning, and consistently evaluates student progress through formative assessments.
Urban school superintendents across this nation struggle to implement the same goals as charter schools on a daily basis but are thwarted time and again by the well-negotiated but adult-centered rules imposed by organized labor, as well as state and city governmental financial constraints that cause an annual disruption to education. Unions must become cognizant of the big picture. Teacher evaluation based on student success must be woven into every contractual agreement. Tenure rules must be reexamined to enable retraining and dismissal of continuously unsatisfactory teachers. Commensurate salaries and recognition of master teachers must also be part of every negotiated agreement. In addition, a longer school day and an elongated school year, including a robust early childhood program, must be part of every large urban district. This is how we make our public schools system strong and keep our students in it.
Mr. Pierorazio’s conclusions are correct: teacher union leaders and governmental bodies thwart educational improvements by resisting effective innovations piloted in charter schools, like extended learning schedules, tenure reform, and merit pay. But how can one argue that, therefore, we should limit charter school seats and implement those reforms that, by his own description, can’t be implemented because of institutional resistance?