Of all the articles PAW has published this year, none sparked a more divided reaction than our March 2 cover story about alumni working in education reform. Some readers applauded the article for its focus on reformers who were starting charter schools and emphasizing teacher accountability, student discipline and assessment, longer school hours, and additional student support. Others heartily disapproved.
We heard from readers who felt that the changes implemented in these schools could not — and in some cases, should not — be duplicated in traditional public school classrooms, where the vast majority of American children are educated. Critics said some charter-school programs, which often receive private funding in addition to tax dollars, are too expensive to replicate on a large scale. Others argued that a common focus on merit pay and testing devalues legions of teachers who work successfully and valiantly under difficult and financially unrewarding conditions, and suggested that the wave of reforms focuses on test scores instead of actual learning. Reader comments have been published in recent issues and at PAW Online.
One of our critics was kindergarten teacher Janet Lee ’06. Before accepting her job at an independent school in California, Lee worked in a New York City charter school that was much like those described in our article, and she had misgivings about the rules-based education her students received. Lee agreed to write about the lessons of that teaching experience — and her dreams for American schoolchildren — in the essay on page 43. One day, she says, she hopes to bring the creative instruction offered by the private school where she works today to public-school students in poor communities, too.
— Marilyn H. Marks *86