It's obvious that with the second round of RttT awards looming, New York is going to try to burnish its application a bit. The initial response from Klein was predictable: the unions cost us the money. Today, we got the news that at least some of the blame needs to go to the state itself, because they filled their application with a bunch of outlandish suggestions on how they would spend the money, such as buying desks for bureacrats that cost $3000 each, or exactly what 20 teachers currently receive in Teacher's Choice money. Nevertheless, the media will forget about that faux pas quickly and refocus on unions.
It's being said that we hindered the application on two main counts: The charter school cap and using test scores to evaluate teachers for tenure. Considering what a fiasco the recent Teacher Data Reports were, I think that should be off the table. But perhaps the union should reconsider its opposition to lifting the charter school cap--on one condition.
As things now stand, charters generally cream the top students from a neighborhood which automatically gives them a leg up. In addition, parents who apply to charters tend to be the most engaged parents in some of the worst schools--that's why they try to get their kids into one of the Cadillac charters run by Eva Moskowitz rather than leave them in a public school that will be robbed of many of its top students. And even with all these advantages, charters haven't performed as well as traditional public schools overall.
Still, I'm willing to compromise. Moskowitz and her ilk claim that charters are the way to go. If that's so, here's my challenge: Instead of creaming the top students from neighborhoods, charters should agree to take on a different population. I mean the lowest performing students, the special ed students, the ESL kids, and the most disruptive behavior problems. After all, if charters are so great, they should be able to turn around the very same kids they say the public schools are failing. Without that pesky union, they can hire whomever they please, choose their own curriculum, lengthen the school day and year, etc.
So let's issue them that challenge. Let them take on the most difficult kids--you know, the ones they currently reject--and prove that they can do a better job than public schools. If they can, the UFT should remove their objections to lifting the charter school cap. If, as I suspect, they fall flat on their faces, perhaps we can all go back to the business of making the NYC public schools the best they can be.
What do you say, Eva? Are you up to the challenge?