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Charter Schools: The Importance of Imagination in Critical Thinking

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In most cases, critical thinking and problem solving are effective if students think outside the box.  A traditional classroom often keeps students thinking narrowly, because they are not given the tools they need to think critically or develop problem-solving skills. Traditional schools offer limited opportunities for students to think outside of the box, and often students are not getting the successful outcomes they need.

Charter schools offer freedom of thought to students and opportunities to use their imagination to generate new ideas.  Da Vinci Design, a charter school located in Los Angeles, opened its doors in 2009 and serves kindergarten through twelfth grade students. Da Vinci prepares students for college and a career in design through project-based learning (PBL)—a learn-by-doing approach that integrates core subjects with real-life problems to be solved. Emily, a former student says, “The best thing about Da Vinci is the project-based learning. I’m a hands-on person and enjoy putting my time and effort into projects.” Examples of such projects include designing and building Medieval-style catapults to demonstrate mastery of quadratic equations or by analyzing advertisements in order to refine persuasive media techniques. Another example, Orange Charter School, located in Hillsborough, NC uses a workshop model for teaching Math, Reading, & Writing in order to instill independence in students. Many other charter schools think outside the box to tailor curriculum that fits the specific needs of students.

Also, the Academy for Science & Design (ASD), a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math  (STEM) School located in Merrimack New Hampshire, prides itself on challenging students through rigorous academic assignments. In addition to homework designed to challenge students, ASD offers six to eight week seminars in specific focus areas such as art and music ensemble. Parents, teachers, and community members may teach these seminars, bringing their diverse backgrounds

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Honoring Independence

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Reflecting on the ensuing American Revolution, British political thinker Edmund Burke had this to say:

“We also reason and feel as you do on the invasion of your charters. Because the charters comprehend the essential forms by which you enjoy your liberties, we regard them as most sacred, and by no means to be taken away or altered without process, without examination, and without hearing, as they have lately been.”

Although stopping short of endorsing American independence, Burke believed that George III was unjustly suppressing the colonial forms of governance that had been created in response to the longstanding British tradition of ‘salutary neglect.’

Needless to say, Burke was referring to charters in a purely legal sense, but ‘charter’ has since obtained a unique connotation when discussing education in America today.

Stripped of its context, the above quotation applies perfectly to charter schools, and how their approved ‘charters’ are indeed, “the essential forms by which” school educators, parents and students, “enjoy their liberties.”

It is for this reason that lawmakers and education officials should “regard them as most sacred, and by no means to be taken away or altered without process, without examination, and without hearing, as they lately have been.”

To be sure, the connection is not perfect, and since it’s being examined devoid of context, this is not to say that those who seek to quash charter autonomy are British monarchy sympathizers (the official teacher union position on sugar taxes and throwing tea into Boston Harbor is best left undetermined.)

But the principle of independence endures, and it presents an opportunity to highlight that charter school educators consider their freedom to innovate and deliver a quality education to be “most sacred.”

238 years ago, 56 brave men signed a document that extended freedom into every sphere of American society. It is this freedom

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The Perfect Location

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The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, CO opened its doors in 1892, and is renowned by a wide range of travel publications for its luxurious suites and spa offerings.

In its 120-year history, the Brown Palace has played host to famous figures such as U.S. Presidents and the Beatles, giving it a well-respected reputation within the Denver tourism industry.

Judging from the “fun facts”, the Brown Palace is a historical relic that offers extravagant conditions and features for guests, making it a perfect location for a teacher’s union conference.

In a brilliant display of self-awareness, the National Caucus of Urban Education Associations, an influential arm within the larger National Educational Association (NEA), selected the four star hotel as the location for a three-day Summer Meeting that ended on June 29.

Union officials were able to properly decompress in a relaxing environment after a tough few weeks following the Vergara v. California ruling, when in one fell swoop the American public and media questioned why on Earth the NEA still chooses to defend absurd and antiquated policies that undercut student interests.

What’s more, the only president since 1905 to not stay at the Brown Palace was union foe Calvin Coolidge during the 1920s — if that’s not kismet then we don’t know what is.

So here’s hoping the NCUEA enjoyed their Summer Meeting, they couldn’t have found a better location if they tried.

*Editor’s Note: The NEA’s wider Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly will in large part take place at the cutting edge Colorado Convention Center, hardly an appropriate venue for such an event.

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