It’s time to learn from success and stop a silly argument. Thatís my reaction to attending a recent meeting in Nashville, where researchers compared charter and district public schools.
Professors tried to answer the question: which are better: charter or district public schools? As has happened in dozens of other studies, the results, as one researcher explained, ìare mixed.î
So how’s this for a stunning simple statement: There are some excellent, adequate and mediocre charter public schools. The same is true of district run public schools.
Instead of spending thousands, even millions of dollars trying to figure out whether district or charters are better, why not identify the most effective ones, and learn from them?
Former U.S. Congressman, and former Minnesota Governor Al Quie had a wonderful idea in the early 1970s. He applied the Agricultural Extension model to education. In agriculture, extension agents have been used to share research-based strategies with farmers. This allowed the spread of what educators now call “best practices” and helped American farmers be among the most productive in the world.
Quie helped write legislation that did the same general thing in education. Congress created a group to evaluate different approaches to teaching reading, math, and other subjects. Those approaches were then shared with educators in various states, along with funding to help educators learn from, adapt and adopt what had worked well elsewhere.
The “National Diffusion Network” worked well for many years (Full disclosure requires me to note that I worked at a Minnesota k-12 public school selected as a “carefully evaluated, proven innovation.” We helped educators adopt ideas we used, such as holding August individual family/student/teacher conferences, developing an advisor/advisee system so each student would be known well, and creating internships for high school students. Many researchers recommend these strategies now, more than 30 years we began