Charter, Shmarter

Michael Winerip in today’s New York Times
channels Diane Ravitch:
There is a quiet but fierce battle going on in education today, between the unions that represent the public school teachers and the hedge-fund managers who finance the big charter chains, between those who trust teachers to assess a child’s progress and those who trust standardized tests, and occasionally it flares out into the open over something as seemingly minor as the location of a school.
Ooh, those greedy hedge fund managers.

There are plenty of fierce battles in education today, some not so quiet, but I’m not sure the assignation of space in this Washington Heights neighborhood is one of them. Winerip describes two candidates for the space in question, one a traditional public school to be called Castle Bridge, which defines its mission as a non-reliance on standardized testing to gauge student learning, and the other a KIPP academy, with a well-proven track record of excellence.

(Here’s an example of a KIPP: Team Academy Charter School in Newark
, a KIPP school, has stellar test scores, a 9 and ½ hour day and extended school year, and 4,000 kids on the waiting list.)

So NYC decided to go with a sure thing rather than an interesting experiment. Sure, it sucks for the advocates for Castle Bridge and, as Winerip describes, they feel treated unfairly, like, he says, David and Goliath. “Everyone knows the D.O.E. favors charters,” says one of the interviewees. A DOE staffer explains, “KIPP has run some of the best schools in New York City for 15 years, and we think this school is going to be an excellent option for Upper Manhattan families.”

Suggestion to Mr. Winerip: get past the artificial dichotomy of public vs. charter. That’s not the “quiet but fierce battle” (more on that in a bit). Public schools are public schools, though some are autonomous and some are tied more closely to the gaping maw of NYC’s bureaucracy.

His piece twists the heartstrings over the disappointed adults advocating for Castle Bridge (who will get permanent space a year later, for the 2012 school year). As far as the children of Washington Heights, it’s hard to condemn a decision that provides them with a public school known for rigor, adequate resources, and a proven track record of success.