From Competition to Collaboration

Much has already been written on Davis Guggenheim’s thought-provoking documentary, Waiting for Superman – some good, some bad.  While the more controversial points of the movie will continue to be debated for some time, most would agree that the movie has sparked a strong and lively discussion on the current and future state of public education in America.  That, at least, is good news.  That debate may be the first step in encouraging cooperation and collaboration between organizations that have historically been in tension – if not outright opposition – with one another.

One of the more contentious educational issues, as amplified by Waiting for Superman, is the role of charter schools in the U.S. educational system.  But as Education Week reports:

Collaborations popping up across the country between charter and traditional public schools show promise that charter schools could fulfill their original purpose of becoming research-and-development hothouses for public education, champions of charters say.

While some have argued that the differences between traditional public schools and charter schools are minimal and not all that significant, others have pointed out that some individual differences are quite marked and worth exploring:

But others, such as the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, believe charter schools do have some distinctive practices that should be shared with traditional public schools. The alliance hosted a conference in September that featured 26 “promising cooperative practices” between the two kinds of schools. Examples included a Minnesota Spanish-immersion charter school working with a local district to create a Spanish-language-maintenance program, and California charter school and districts teaming up on a teacher-induction program.

“We were trying to move past the whole charter-war debates and move to a more productive place,” said Stephanie Klupinski, the alliance’s vice president of government and public affairs.

That’s good to hear.  At a minimum, these sorts of conferences further the discourse on the benefits of increased instructional time.  At best, promising avenues of collaboration draw the focus to where it should be – effective practices that improve educational attainment for all students.

Read the whole thing for more on how many public and charter organizations are collaborating to identify best practices.

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