Saturday, June 9, 2012

Charter Schools, SOKA - Comment on Clive's Column

Charter school performances get a free pass
Clive McFarlane

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My comment:

One of the dreams that drives (or is used by) the Charter School movement is to set up a school for the children of regular folk that will produce the outcomes you get from an elite private school like Worcester Academy. And one of its core beliefs is that if people with enough understanding and insight - superior minds with strong wills and daring visions - could just get full control of a school and get everyone working together under their direction at realizing their vision, that dream could be realized. 

The failure of the Spirit of Knowledge Academy (SOKA) is very telling. I have not been watching from the inside, but I met and talked with Julia Sigalovsky before the school was founded, several times. She has a brilliant mind and a deep understanding of science. She had obviously thought deeply about education and about the lessons from her previous experiences as an educator. And she brought to the project the strength of will, the vision and determination that should have made it a success - if indeed the success of such a project was really in the cards. 

SOKA was a great experiment, a test of the Great Leader model of school reform. The fact that SOKA has been such a miserable failure as measured by test results of student achievements should be seriously sobering to all supporters of the Charter School movement. 
I don't know what else went on at SOKA, how this game played out, whether the details can be interpreted as the working out of the failure of this model. But all across the country charter schools are failing, and with Sigalovsky, SOKA had a better chance than most. 

What should we do with this failed experiment? The proverbial camel's nose is already in the tent. Vested interests - who never saw this as an experiment but as an investment opportunity and a chance to advance an ideological position or political agenda - are no doubt intent on preserving and expanding it. 

Time to pull the plug, now. No good money after bad. Shut it down and move on. 
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