In the US, charter schools for the most part are a side show to the local district. A relatively few schools that siphon away public money to run largely autonomous educational programs.

But what if all or nearly all schools were charters?

As I noted in an entry from two weeks ago, the new UK Education Secretary wants to allow all schools in that country to apply to be Academies, essentially charter schools which their Department for Education describe this way:

Academies are publicly funded independent schools, free from local authority control. Other freedoms include setting their own pay and conditions for staff, freedom from following the National Curriculum, and the ability to change the lengths of their terms and school days.

So, is this a concept we should import? Solve our education problems by simply letting every K12 school be independent and “free from local authority control”?

Before anyone embraces a go-all-the-way charter plan in the US, read this post* noting some primary reasons why teachers in England oppose Academies, from a document written before the Secretary’s new proposal.

While some of their objections are unique to that country’s education system, many have great validity on this side of the Atlantic.

Academies hand over state schools to sponsors: Creating Academies in place of community or foundation schools involves the transfer of publicly funded assets to unaccountable sponsoring bodies.

Many sponsors are unsuitable: Sponsors are not required to have educational expertise or experience.

Academies have a damaging impact on other neighbouring schools and on local authorities: The entitlement of Academies to select ten per cent of their pupils means that they are able to choose more academically successful pupils.

Academies do not offer pupils a better education than other local schools: Academies are based on a flawed premise that standards will be raised simply through designating a school as an Academy and by transferring it to a sponsor.

Substitute “charters” for “academies” and this list not only explains why charters have done nothing to improve the American education system, but also why current plans to expand the concept will not work any better.


*Thanks to Stephen Downes for the link.