We got a few new students this year from the charter schools. We get new students every year, but some of these children stand out. We have a transfer student who was 15 years old in the sixth grade, half a dozen students who transferred with academic abilities at least 3 years below grade level, and several students who had their special education status revoked by the charter school and now we have to start the process all over again to get the children the services they need and deserve.
There are many articles and commentaries about the failures of charter schools, but there are very few that focus on what happens to the students after the disillusionment of the charter experience. When children come back to the regular public schools they struggle as they try to catch up on the missed work and instruction. Parents who think they are giving their children the best opportunity, discover that their loved ones are now 2 or 3 grade levels behind and will need remedial work to catch up. The schools that these students re-enter are judged not on the progress that they make with the returning students, but with the results of them still being below grade level, and even more ironic is that the charter school now has a higher academic average because the failing students have left.
At team meetings teachers discuss what they can do to help the students and the families affected by the charter schools and they are constantly redesigning their classroom management to accommodate the challenges of the new students. Teachers have always had these discussions; however, the amount of time and intensity spent on correcting the charter school failures is increasing every year. Extra time is being spent on the fundamentals and classes are being reworked so students who are behind have a chance to catch up. Teachers are also working with declassified special education students who have emotional or behavioral disorders and are no longer receiving the services they need. Public school teachers have to go through the process all over again to get the children these services. While the district works on this process the students and the classroom struggle.
As we talk about charter schools and the ways they are failing throughout the country, we should always remember to think about the students who are the victims of the failing charter school laws and policies. When we talk about charter school accountability, we should remember to hold them accountable to the students and families that they serve. We should also remember to hold them accountable when the students return to the regular public school.