Investigating Critical & Contemporary Issues in Education/Charter and Private School Debate

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Kayla Murray Camden

Charter and Public Schools

Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The "charter" establishing each school is a performance contract detailing with the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor usually a state or local school board to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them and the public that funds them.

Some benefits of charter schools are to: increase opportunities for learning and access to quality education for all students, create choices for parents and students within the public school system, provide a system of accountability for results in public education, encourage innovation teaching practices, create new professional opportunities for teachers, encourage community and parent involvement in public education, and leverage improved public education broadly.

People establish charter schools for a variety of reasons. The founders generally fall into three groups: grassroots organizations of parents, teachers and community members; entrepreneurs; or existing schools converting to charter status. According to the first-year report of the National study of charter schools the three reasons most often cited to create a charter school are to: realize an educational vision, gain autonomy, and serve a special population.

Parents and teachers choose charter schools primarily for educational reasons--high academic standards, small class size, innovative approaches, or educational philosophies in line with their own. Some also have chosen charter schools for their small size and associated safety (charter schools serve an average of 250 students). In 1991 Minnesota passed the first charter school law, with California following suit in 1992. Since the first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1992, the charter school movement has grown to more than 3,000 schools operating nationwide in 2004-2005, serving over 700,000 students. By 1995, 19 states had signed laws allowing for the creation of charter schools, and by 2003 that number increased to 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Charter schools are one of the fastest growing innovations in education policy, enjoying broad bipartisan support from governors, state legislators, and past and present secretaries of education. In his 1997 State of the Union Address, former President Clinton called for the creation of 3,000 charter schools by the year 2002. In 2002, President Bush called for $200 million to support charter schools. His proposed budget called for another $100 million for a new Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program. Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Education has provided grants to support states' charter school efforts, starting with $6 million in fiscal year 1995.

A private school is a secondary or elementary school run and supported by private individuals or a corporation rather than by a government or public agency. One of the advantages of private school is that most private schools feature smaller classroom sizes that allow your child to receive a lot more individual attention from teachers. Because you pay tuition for your child to attend private school, this funding often goes toward better academic and extracurricular programs. Additionally, private high schools generally have low dropout rates and less on-campus violence. When teachers and staff know students better, they are able to take appropriate measures applicable to particular students. This works far better than, for example, punishing the entire class, which holds no one accountable. The children that behave properly are not motivated to continue good behavior, if they are going to be punished for someone else's actions. Private schools have the option of expulsion, which is rare in public schools since public education is considered a "right" rather than a privilege. While this may not seem like one of the advantages of private schools, the possibility of expulsion might make some students less likely to fight, to take drugs, or to cut classes.

Private schools cost money and do not receive tax revenues, but instead are funded through tuition, fundraising, donations and private grants. According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the median tuition for their member private day schools in 2005-2006 in the United States was close to $14,000 for grades 1 to 3, $15,000 for grades 6 to 8 and $16,600 for grades 9 to 12. The median tuition for their member boarding schools was close to $29,000 for grades 1 to 3, $32,000 for grades 6 to 12. Note that of the 28,384 private schools in the United States; about 1,058 are affiliated with NAIS. The Digest of Education Statistics 2005 from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that for the 1999-2000 school year, the average private school tuition was about $4,700. are not subject to as many state and federal regulations as public schools. Since private schools are funded independently, they are not subject to the limitations of state education budgets and have more freedom in designing curriculum and instruction.

Private schools have the flexibility to create a specialized program for students. For example, private schools may use art or science in all classes, or take children on extended outdoor trips that blend lessons across the curriculum. Private schools can create their own curriculum and assessment systems, although many also choose to. Teachers in private schools may not be required to have certification, and instead often have subject area expertise. The student population at a private school is determined through a selection process; all students must apply and be accepted in order to attend. Although students may be from different neighborhoods, they will probably have similar goals and interests. This tends to create a fairly homogenous student body.

So, comparing charter and private schools the NAEP Fast Facts report based on data from the 1999-2000 school year (the most recent data that speaks to these questions) on the differences is enlightening. It tell us that: Elementary charter schools tend to have larger class sizes than private elementary schools and secondary charter schools tended to have larger class sizes by an even greater degree than private secondary schools. Nearly five times as many charter school teachers as private school teachers reported the students engaging in physical conflict was a significant problem in their school. Slightly more private schools than charter schools offered extended school, before school, or after school daycare programs. Charter schools using a salary schedule offered a significantly higher base salary to beginning teachers with no experience that private schools did. Notable more full-time charter school teachers participated in in-depth professional development activities in their area of expertise than did full-time private school teachers. There are somewhat more full-time charter school teachers than full-time private school teachers engaged in professional development that focused on the use of computer aided instruction. Last, but not least, consider this. As a part of the public school system, education at a charter school is free. Education at a private school can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. The highest tuition for non-boarding school students is said to be at The Forman School in Connecticut, a prep school for students with learning difficulties, which charges $43,500 per year.

Michelle Moore Charter and Private School Debate

Many pessimists of public education feel that school choice is an answer to fixing problems with public schools. School choice programs are intended to give public school students the ability to attend any of various participating private and public schools, usually based on a system of vouchers or scholarships.

In this paper I will show pros and cons as well as the number of charter, public, private and catholic schools in the United States registered today. I will also give a brief explanation of each type of school that way if anyone is not familiar maybe they will have a better understanding in the future. First I will start off with Public Schools.

Public Schools are elementary or secondary schools in the United States supported by public funds and providing free education for children of a community or district. There are 98,793 public schools registered in the United States as of 2008. Elementary there are 68,990, secondary: 23,436, combined: 5,984, other: 383. The teacher to student ratio in these schools is as follows; Elementary: 15.6:1, Secondary: 16.4:1, Combined: 14.7:1. This is an alarming number if you think about how much a student is actually learning in a setting that the teacher is in charge of educating at least fifteen students by themselves. Another type of school in the United States is Charter.

Charter Schools are public schools operated independently by the local school board, often with a curriculum and educational philosophy different from the other schools in the system. There are 4,578 in the United States registered in 2009. The teacher student ratio is almost the same as the standard public schools it is 16:1. Private Schools seem to be a more popular option for those that can afford it.

In the United States there are 35,060 private schools that were registered in 2008. Elementary: 22,870, Secondary: 2,930, Combined: 9,260 and the teacher student ratio is even closer in this type of school. Private School student to teacher ratio is 11.1:1 here is a break down of the different Private schools ratios Elementary: 12.1:1, Secondary: 11.9:1, Combined: 9.6:1. This still seems like a large number, however is far better than the other numbers that some of the other schools have to deal with. The last school that I am going to bring to your attention is Catholic Schools.

Catholic School is a parochial school maintained by the Catholic Church. In the United States there are 7,740 Catholic Schools registered today. 6,360 of which are Elementary, 1,080 Secondary, and 300 combined. The teacher student ratios in these schools are closer to Public than Private. They are 14.7:1 in Elementary: 15.3:1, Secondary: 14.0:1, Combined: 11.3:1. Looking at these numbers it seems that so far things are pretty much equal. So why such a Gap in Achievement levels between the different school types?

Achievement gaps have been linked to many reasons and one is race and another is schools the NAEP has showed the difference in both categories. There is a large gap between whites and blacks and private and public schools. The NAEP records that there is a sizeable achievement gap between black and white fourth-graders in both public and private schools. The private-sector achievement gap is narrower in the 12th grade than the fourth grade for all of the core NAEP subjects. Public schools have seen a larger gap in both writing and mathematics at the 12th-grade level than at the fourth. Averaged across subjects, the public school racial achievement gap is virtually unchanged between fourth and 12th grades. The gap in private schools is an average of 27.5 percentage points smaller in the 12th grade than the fourth.

According to some of the pros and cons are Private School Pros: Private schools focus on specific topics, smaller class sizes, private schools have better books and supplies, more access to up-to-date computers, curriculum is more challenging, and most private schools are religious based schools. Private School Cons: Cost, teachers are not required to have a teaching degree, just knowledge of the subject they will be teaching, less diverse choices in subjects, no special education classes available, students must pass an entrance exam to be admitted, most private schools are religious based schools. Public School Pros: more choice in curriculum, builds community relationships for parent and student, access to sports programs, access to arts and music programs, teachers are certified educational instructors, low cost. Public School Cons: larger class sizes, exposure to unacceptable lifestyles at public schools, classes are taught at a mid-learning level, which may cause advanced learners to become bored, limited access to learning materials, more school days-off from school, outdated textbooks.

Given all of the information and data that I have presented to you choice school programs may not be the solution to the achievement gaps. The teacher, student ratios are very similar and the achievement gaps are closing. I think that one way to help this in all areas would be a national curriculum. But using a national curriculum every student would receive the same education as well as cut down on the student, teacher ratio since everything in the schools would be the same. If a student is excelled then give them some lessons to challenge them if behind then give them more options to help.