Getting Back to Anxiety, Paranoia, and Self Doubt

I’m going to try and take a break from New Orleans ten year education battles.

I think the aggressive push back led by John White, Pete Cook, Chris Stewart and others was necessary – and I tried to play my part.

But it’s not that fun.

It sacrifices a lot of nuance. It requires pretty aggressive attacks against well meaning people. And it surely is not about learning or getting better.

I felt myself getting dumber by the day.

So it’s time to get back to things that I think are fun, that lead to learning, and that involve our tribe getting better.

It’s time to tap back into the wonderful virtues of anxiety, paranoia, and self doubt.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the chance to pepper some great educators and policy wonks (a few of them quite skeptical of relinquishment type reforms). Here are the two most commonly names critiques / threats / etc.

1. Human capital limits for dominant CMO models: The best charters run off type A people in their twenties working 60-70 hour weeks. This will not scale. Moreover, it’s not just a matter of the top charters being more systematized, as their current systems are predicated on working people long hours – and these systems will crack under a different human capital model. Big picture: existing high-performing CMO models will never be able to scale.

2. Not serving the middle class: No national reform effort will ever get to scale unless it benefits the middle class. The politics will prove impossible. And scale can’t be achieved by only focusing on low-income families in cities. Currently, there are very few highly effective charters serving the middle class, and the political fights in the suburbs are a war that can’t really be won. Moderately well performing monopolies with generally satisfied parents will persist in perpetuity.

Both of these issues have been discussed on this blog before.

But I don’t think we have enough good solutions to consider these issues even moderately solved.

Our tribe needs to work hard on these issues. Myself included!

3 thoughts on “Getting Back to Anxiety, Paranoia, and Self Doubt

  1. Dan

    Yeah. Both comments are right on, but really it’s just a matter of time before significant progress is made on both issues.

  2. Joe Connor

    I agree these are two big issues facing the movement. However, while I agree there is not a readily available solution to the first issue, I do believe the second issue has been mainly solved. The issue is its distribution. Or to to quote a famous sci-fi author:

    “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”

    At present there are many CMOs that target and provide an education for the middle class. Off the top of my head I can list, Summit Public Schools (CA & WA), Success Academy (NY), Great Hearts (AZ & TX) and Basis Schools (AZ, TX & DC). That list does not include dozens of independent charter schools that focus on socio-economic diversity or use Waldorf or Montessori methods. Bricolage in New Orleans is an example. Many of these schools provide an education to middle class families that is superior to the local public schools. The issue is that they are not evenly distributed across the country. They exist as stand alone charters or operate in limited charter friendly areas.

    It seems to me what would be most useful to enable them to scale would be a shift in philanthropic support from primarily supporting “No Excuses” charters to supporting charters of varying educational methods. This would provide a real actual system of “choice” for parents and would (eventually) enable a broader base to rally support for more charter and voucher friendly policies.


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