Can traditional schools learn to play well with charters?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NJ Spotlight just reported that next year one out of four Newark public school students will opt to attend a charter school. Trenton Public Schools recently confirmed that a similar percentage of parents will decline placements in traditional districts and enroll their children in these independent public schools. Camden Public Schools officials predict that 25 percent of their 15,000 students will do the same, as some of the most highly regarded charter organizations -- KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Mastery -- prepare to open schools that offer promising educational alternatives.

Certainly, these past few weeks have been challenging to defenders of the old-school monopolistic model. After decades of adhering to a top-down bureaucratic paradigm, New Jersey is one of many states that is starting to develop a diversified model of education delivery. Instead of a one-size-fits-all system, we’re evolving toward a portfolio of options for students that includes both traditional schools and independent public charters.

This shift presents a challenge to the New Jersey educational establishment. Can those invested in the old-school model find a way to embrace this upgraded network of public education that best serves the needs of children? Or will they get bogged down in the negative politics of resentment often ignited by institutional change and, not incidentally, the refiguring of balance sheets?

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