The missing word…

Superintendent Michael Bennet discussing school choice in Monday’s Rocky Mountain News:

“The strategy going forward is making sure many more of our schools, whether they’re neighborhood schools or magnet schools or elementary or secondary schools, are places people would rather send their kids than other choices,” Bennet said. “We may not be the only choice, but we can be the best choice.”

In a discussion of school choice in Denver, the missing word here, after “neighborhood”, “magnet”, etc., is “charter.” Why? Because Charters are public schools which currently serve roughly 10% of DPS schoolchildren, are open to all students, and which feature several of the highest-ranked schools in Denver according to DPS’s own School Performance Framework, including the only two non-elementary schools on the DPS “Distinguished” list. In fact, the only non-elementary schools with open enrollment to exceed DPS standards on either growth or status were charter schools.

It is about 18 months since the Rocky’s bellweather Leaving to Learn series (sadly gone from their website) on school choice, an achievement for which author Nancy Mitchell received a personal Editor’s Award from Rocky editor John Temple. The vocabulary has turned, and everyone is now suddenly “for choice.” But what are the choices worthy of public discussion, particularly for low-income parents and students who are already behind grade level by middle school?

Charter schools seem to be always absent from mention in DPS. Despite often being oversubscribed and lacking facilities, charters were not directly included in the DPS bond. Despite some of the best student achievement data in the city, charter teachers are not able to participate in ProComp. As I have written before, charters are too often viewed as an adjunct to “real” public schools (which, on election eve, echoes the way one of our political parties currently claims to represent the “real’ America).

A few isolated incidences of omission from DPS could be easily explained, but we have an ongoing pattern. Charter schools are doing some of the best educational work with our public school children in Denver. And yet it seems DPS shall dare not speak their name.

I am hoping at some point some will explain this to me so I can understand why.

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