This is the second part of a reply to a previous comment about counseling out disruptive students. In the first part I discussed how charter schools' greater freedom to get rid of problem students makes reliable public-to-charter school comparisons difficult, but as important as that question is, there's another that's even more fundamental when discussing these practices: what exactly do we want charter schools to do?
We have two basic choices:
The first is that charter are what all schools should eventually be. In this model, charters provide the template for the American education system. If this is what we're asking from them, then charters' problems dealing with disruptive and non-cooperative students is a serious failure;
If, however, we look at charter schools as niche programs designed to target specific areas and subpopulations, then counseling out student for academic or behavioral reasons may not be a problem at all. If the purpose of these schools is to allow room for experimentation, pump additional resources into under-served areas and provide a better match for certain kids who aren't getting what they should from the one-size-fits-all approach, then counseling out is a necessary part of the model.
Most champions of charter schools would probably pick the first model but most of the major criticisms that have been made recently about charters schools (data biasing issues, accusations of cherry-picking, questions about scalability) largely go away under the second model.
I have a feeling we'll be coming back to this one.
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