Letters on Charter Schools

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Two friends of AMPS, Gary Stout and Beth Swedeen in response to the recent Wisconsin State Journal editorial had good letters on charter schools in the Sunday edition.  Here they are:

Apples/oranges comparison

Charter Schools are successful for the same reasons some traditional public schools struggle.

Charters sometimes focus on one group of children; traditional schools accept children no matter what their needs are. Charters have more parental participation; traditional schools sometimes lack that support. Charters usually have more autonomy; traditional schools are sometimes run by disconnected “top down” management.

Charter schools can be a threat to some already marginalized children. Does Nuestro Mundo accept all disadvantaged students? How will it operate when the federal funding runs out?

Charter schools traditionally have a high level of parent participation. The Madison School District eliminated an effective parental involvement tool — the Ready Set Goal conferences — yet they try to think of alternative but less effective ways to involve parents to save money.

Charters are more successful because of their autonomy. The whole country is now suffering from years of economics based on top down management.

Madison schools suffer, too. A lot of the top down, mandatory administrative tasks we do in our schools are “bureaucratically significant (BS)” — they do things to the child instead of for the child.

Sometimes we seem to be comparing apples and oranges.

— Gary L. Stout, Madison

Seek innovations to benefit all students, not just charters

Your editorial pushing for more charter schools in Madison lacked two critical components: a break-down of the cost of Nuestro Mundo versus other schools in the district, and data on student performance in that school in relationship to other schools, disaggregated for income and other variables.

No one on the Madison School Board is, to my knowledge, against innovation in our schools. Their position has been that charters are an expensive, and so far not very data-driven, way of innovating.

Many parents would love to have their children go to a language immersion school, or an arts immersion school, or one with all the latest technology. But shouldn’t all of those components be our aim for every student, not just those who “win” the lottery into a charter?

Other strategies beyond charters exist for improving our students’ performance. Please spend some time examining other promising strategies that are elevating achievement in the district.

By the way, you completely ignored Madison’s other charter — Wright Middle School.

— Beth Swedeen, Madison

Thomas J. Mertz

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