Charter Schools: Lessons in School Reform

Charter Schools: Lessons in School Reform

Charter Schools: Lessons in School Reform

Charter Schools: Lessons in School Reform

Synopsis

This book takes the reader inside the charter school movement, answering such questions as: *What is a charter school? *How are charter schools different from other public schools? *What does it take to create a charter school? *What motivates the people who initiate such schools? *What lessons can be learned from the experiences of those who have founded charter schools? *What does the growth of the charter school movement mean for society at large? Using detailed case studies of seven schools in three states, this book explores the challenges faced by the founders of these schools and develops guidelines for creating a successful school. Seymour Sarason's work on the creation of settings is used as a basis for examining the complex human interactions that contributed to formation of a unique culture at each school, as well as to establish guidelines for setting up a successful school. Introductory and concluding chapters place the charter school movement within a broader social and historical context. Tensions between the American tradition of local control of schools and the centralized tradition of schooling imported from Europe in the late 19th century are discussed. The gradual bureaucratization of U.S. public schools during the 20th century is described, along with problems that have been associated with the increasingly hierarchical and impersonal nature of educational institutions.

Excerpt

Few things are more satisfying to an author than when somebody takes his ideas seriously and tests them by careful observation and recording. When I learned that Dr. Brouillette was doing just that, I was both delighted and a mite anxious. However much I would like it to be true, I knew I had no corner on the truth; I had not said the last word on the problematics in the creation of a new setting. What if Dr. Brouillette concluded that my conceptualization was very incomplete or egregiously wrong in some of its detail? So, when I read her manuscript I was relieved that in the main she found my argument to be helpful and valid. So much about my relief and satisfaction!

My enthusiasm for this book goes beyond the status of my ideas. For one thing, the reader is treated to what careful observation and recording entails. It is not easy. Relatively speaking, a charter school is small but it nevertheless is socially and psychologically a very complex affair; it is to Dr. Brouillette's credit that her ethnographies demonstrate that complexity. Like the best of the ethnographies in anthropology, the reader gets the feeling of “having been there, ” even though the story is like a very large mural whose details initially strike you as many and diverse but very quickly reveal an organizing focus or center.

The reader who is unfamiliar with charter schools or their literature would do well to read this book as a basis for judging what else you decide to read. Dr. Brouillette does an analysis that permits her to point out that it is “a difference that makes a difference” whether a charter school was created primarily by parents, or by educators, or by some other group.

Another important contribution is the very interesting way Dr. Brouillette embeds charter schools in the history of education, going back a long time. This is not in her hands dry history, a token gesture to the scholarly standards, but done with broad brush strokes that I found instructive and stimulating. The author is a thinker, a cautious but creative one who has made a seminal contribution to how we should understand what too few charter school advocates understand and say: Conceptually, in terms of action, methodology, process, and outcomes, charter schools had best be seen as in their infancy. It is to her credit that she does this in a fair, balanced, nonpartisan way. The reader may even wonder if she is for or against charter schools.

Whatever her personal opinion, it did not influence what she observed and reported. Although her book will not be a source of satisfaction to charter school advocates, what should be encouraging to them is that she underlined those factors . . .

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