School Choice in the Real World: Lessons from Arizona Charter Schools

By Robert Maranto; Scott Milliman et al. | Go to book overview

15
Whose Idea Was This Anyway? The Challenging Metamorphosis from Private to Charter

JIM SPENCER

In January 1988, my wife and I began operating a private Montessori preschool in Flagstaff, Arizona. Before that time, we had intended to do other things in our personal lives and in our careers, but our community's demand for quality child care was so strong that by 1994 we were serving over 200 children ages 2-9 in a three-site elementary program. 1

Our program was very small, for three related reasons. First, the expense of starting a completely equipped and staffed Montessori elementary program is quite high. Second, Flagstaff lacks the wage base that would allow us to charge the private school tuition necessary to support a new high caliber program. Third, being "poor but proud," we couldn't bring ourselves to offer and advertise a second-rate program. Consequently, the elementary students we had were limited to those children who had been with us for several years.


Lexus: The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection

The relentless pursuit of perfection that characterizes the Lexus luxury sedan somewhat imperfectly parallels our own experience. When it first hit the marketplace in 1989, the Lexus was immediately crowned by Consumer Reports as the best car on the road. I'd like to say it was the same with us, but it would be more accurate to say that we started out as a rusted Yugo. However, even our critics would have to say that we have

-222-

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School Choice in the Real World: Lessons from Arizona Charter Schools
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1: Real World School Choice: Arizona Charter Schools 1
  • Notes 15
  • References 15
  • PART ONE Theoretical and National Perspectives 17
  • 2: And This Parent Went to Market: Education as Public Versus Private Good 19
  • Notes 35
  • Notes 36
  • 3: The Death of One Best Way: Charter Schools as Reinventing Government 39
  • Notes 55
  • References 55
  • 4: Congress and Charter Schools 58
  • Notes 65
  • Notes 67
  • 5: Charter Schools: A National Innovation, an Arizona Revolution 68
  • Notes 92
  • References 92
  • PART TWO Social Scientists Look at Arizona Charter Schools 97
  • 6: The Wild West of Education Reform: Arizona Charter Schools 99
  • References 114
  • 7: Why Arizona Embarked on School Reform (and Nevada Did Not) 115
  • References 127
  • 8: Do Charter Schools Improve District Schools? Three Approaches to the Question 129
  • Notes 139
  • Notes 140
  • 9: Closing Charters: How a Good Theory Failed in Practice 142
  • Conclusion and Recommendations for Policy Makers 156
  • Notes 158
  • References 158
  • 10: Nothing New: Curricula in Arizona Charter Schools 159
  • References 172
  • 11: How Arizona Teachers View School Reform 173
  • Notes 184
  • References 184
  • PART THREE Practitioners Look at Arizona Charter Schools 187
  • 12: The Empowerment of Market-Based School Reform 189
  • Notes 197
  • References 197
  • 13: A Voice from the State Legislature: Don'T Do What Arizona Did! 198
  • Notes 210
  • References 210
  • 14: Public Schools and the Charter Movement: An Emerging Relationship 212
  • Notes 220
  • References 220
  • 15: Whose Idea Was This Anyway? The Challenging Metamorphosis from Private to Charter 222
  • Notes 233
  • References 233
  • PART FOUR Lessons 235
  • 16: In Lieu of Conclusions: Tentative Lessons from a Contested Frontier 237
  • References 247
  • About the Editors and Contributors 249
  • Index 253
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