Podcast about charter schools mentioned in class the other day

On Tuesday we talked about a whole lot of stuff related to education, and at one point touched on how the education system could be improved. One of the ways that the US has tried to improve upon the education system has been by experimenting with highly competitive school environments in charter schools – working on the assumption that more competitive = better. And in a way, it worked – the super competitive charter school environment produces higher standardized test results, without fail, than the more “relaxed” public school environment. On the other hand, many teachers have left the hcarter school system, feeling it didn’t actually serve the students, as it teaches them to pass tests rather than in-depth understanding and critical thinking. We see both the positive and negative aspects of the competitive environment, which exemplifies some of the points made in Nelson & Dawson paper.

The StartUp podcast spent the last season of their show looking at Success Academy, a network of charter schools that has been very controversial in the US for the reasons outlined above (about whether its actually “better”), and other reasons (specifically the allegations that they push underperforming kids out of school to stay competitive). They speak to the CEO of Success Academy, current and former teachers, parents of current and former students, and the students themselves – some who have graduated from Success Academy already, some who are still in the system, and other who have either been recommended to leave, or left of their own account. To get the full story, listening to the whole season is recommended, but any of the episodes on their own can be heard independently to get one facet of the story, which I think was super thoroughly reported and investigated.

Here’s the first episode: https://www.gimletmedia.com/startup/success-academy-1-the-problem#episode-player

1 Comment

  1. I think that our conversation didn’t necessarily reflect the complicated educational paradox that Charter schools are in the American education system. Charter schools do receive state funding and there is a competitive element to their teaching style, but that is not a result of necessarily wanting to create a hyper-competitive environment for kids. As a part of Bush’s no left behind initiative in 2000, the amount of funding that a school receives is tied to the performance of the students in standardized testing. As somebody who grew up taking standardized tests every single year in both public schools and charter schools, kids are not competing for high grades on these standardized tests, the results are not used for any other purpose than school funding (this may have changed in the 4 years since Ive been in college).
    Charter schools are not encouraged by the state or federal education system, they exist almost in a legal loophole in the United States where they essentially operate outside of the public school curriculum but compete in the same arena. There is inadequate regulation state to state and the results with Charter schools vary VASTLY. Furthermore, children aren’t sent to schools to engage in this hyper competitive environment (generally). In the US, as in Canada, you are assigned to a particular school depending on where you live and charter schools are a chance for students and parents to be a part of a better school system (real or perceived) because attendance is not restricted by your residence.

    I say all of this as an American and a student of both a charter school and public high school.


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