Are Our Schools Putting the Needs of Adults Before the Needs of Children?: Reflections on Charter Schools and *The Lottery* (by Guest Student Blogger Emily Jasperson)

Note: In the Summer Youth Enrichment Capstone, Emily Jasperson volunteered this term through the James John SUN summer program and worked with elementary school students. She has a background in childcare and is thinking about becoming a teacher. She is the third student blogger in this series.

With all of the obvious issues with public education in the United States today, it is clear that something needs to be done to close achievement gaps and find new and better ways to educate our future. Charter schools attempt to accomplish these goals, and actually appear to do it quite nicely. After watching The Lottery, I think of these institutions in an entirely new way and find myself really agreeing with their practices. Before, I had heard mostly negative things about them. Like they were only for the rich and privileged, and while some are, a majority are located in poor communities, transforming struggling children’s lives for the better.

            One of the things that impressed me most about Harlem Success, the charter school featured in the film, was the high level of teacher support and encouragement. Most everyone can agree that a teacher has a great deal to do with the success of his or her students. The teachers at Harlem Success are routinely observed and evaluated, then given suggestions and guidance based on these observations. This does not happen in public schools. Here, teachers are spread too thin and do not feel supported, or so I’ve heard. With 100% of its students passing tests, it’s quite clear that they are doing something right.

            Another aspect of this charter school, and many others, is the emphasis placed on graduation. Even in kindergarten classrooms the graduation year of the students is prominently displayed. The goal for students at Harlem Success is graduating and going on to college, not test scores. And it actually works! Children at these schools are told, and it is expected, that they will graduate. In public schools in similar areas one is almost expected not to graduate. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have no expectations set out for your life, well no positive ones at least. It’s sad that this is a reality for many children today.

            With all of the positive outcomes of charter schools, there is still opposition. Watching the parents opposing Harlem Success was confusing to me. Don’t they realize that kids just like their own are receiving an education far better than they get at public school? Perhaps they just fear change, or maybe they are misguided about what charter schools actually are and do. In the film, there was talk about the teacher’s union and how charter schools are in direct conflict with their views. It does seem like charter schools are threatening the institution and bureaucracy of public schooling. The founder of Harlem Success made a great point when she said that we needed to stop “putting the interests of adults above the interests of children.” Why is this so hard for so many people to see? Does everything have to be about big business in this country, even when it comes to kids? Clearly, charter schools are doing something right, but when will the public school system start adopting their effective practices and actually educate our children for their futures?


19 thoughts on “Are Our Schools Putting the Needs of Adults Before the Needs of Children?: Reflections on Charter Schools and *The Lottery* (by Guest Student Blogger Emily Jasperson)

  1. Emily-
    You really have made some great points, and I think after all of the information we have read this week it is easy to see why this topic is so heated. Certainly there are a lot of Charter schools that provide an amazing education, as well as many public schools that simply do not. However, I think part of the reason our public education has gotten to this point is the idea of blanket uniformity, which clearly does not work. I think why Charter schools can be so great is because they have to ability to cater to their students, without the restrictions on public schools. I don’t Charter schools as being the end all solution, but rather a vehicle to a solution. I think that public schools need to have more freedom in their curriculums, and have small enough class sizes that they can actually help kids that are falling behind. If we can look at the good things Charter schools are doing and mimic them in our public schools, I think we would have a real chance at nation-wide reform. Part of that means that we need to make our schools as equally funded as possible, only then will the children of our country have a real shot at a quality, equal education. Thanks for the post!

    • Kaitlyn,

      I agree with your statement, “…part of the reason our public education has gotten to this point is the idea of blanket uniformity…” It is so true! That’s why standardized tests don’t work, just look at that word, “standardized”. What is standard about a child and the way that they learn? The ability of charter schools to teach to both the strengths and weaknesses of any particular child is really comendable and it’s unfortunate that not every child can experience this level of education.

  2. Emily,

    I wonder the same thing, when will public schools start to adopt the practices of charter schools? I didn’t realize how many charter school we have in Portland, I know its still not enough to give every child the opportunity to go, but there are more than I imagined. I think charter schools are just no become a popular topic, where as in the past they were not talked about or noticed as much. I think people are starting the see the significant difference they are making, making more and more people interested in them. As more families are becoming interested in the charter school, we are starting to realize we do not have enough of them to supply every child this better education. I think as the years continue to show popularity in these charter school, we are bound to impress the public school system. They would be foolish not to implement some of the effective practices into their our educational system. I think it will just take time for charter school to continue to show there improvements and how they are turning around some of our most uneducated commented of children. Once we have seen this for consecutive years, I can only imagine that the public school would want to follow these foot steps.

    • Kim,

      Great points, but I feel that charter schools have had success with students and it’s been documented already. What do you think it will take for the department of education to wake up and take real notice? It’s great that Obama has been heard backing charter schools, but do you think his administration has even thought of implementing some of their practices into our public education, or do they just acknowledge that these institutions are doing good things? There are so many questions to be asked!

  3. I agree that with Kaitlyn, we should take the things that work in Charter schools and implement them in our public schools, namely smaller class sizes and a curriculum that caters to the student’s needs. If public schools quit seeing Charter schools as a threat and were encouraged to implement the things that they are doing right, that actually help students we could see positive changes in our public schools.

    • I know public schools are trying really hard to improve and get students to graduate. I went to a public school and i did fine. I graduated high school with a diploma and my cna licence. I think those public (not all) that are not doing well need their teachers and administrative staff shuffled around. I also agree with Kaitlyn’s idea that some of charter school’s ideas do need to be implemented into public schools. What is the worst that could happen? Public schools also see charter schools as a threat because they know charter schools are doing much better then them.

  4. Charter schools have a lot to prove with the success of their schools still riding on student improvements over public schools. We have to remember that 17% percent of charter schools in this country are doing worse than public schools. Due to looser regulations there are still things that can go wrong with the curriculum. We need to be able to use the lessons from the excelling charter schools to open new ones, or have them be models for existing ones that are not doing as well.

    • I believe that since the charter school idea is fairly new, we expect way too much in very little time. Although some charter schools are not doing so well, I bet 17% is probably not as bad as the percentage of public schools that are not doing well. Like I shared in our capstone class: “if I knew that my child was going to do EVEN 1-5% better in a charter school, I would send them there.” Some of the regulations are looser because of bureaucracy, politics, and money but if more parents and community leaders/business would be involved, I bet there would be better reviews, regulations, and a better success rate.

  5. I have watched The Lottery as well and I can contest to how I had a slightly negative outlook about charter schools, but when I saw how successful these schools can be for those students who need a little extra help, my opinion changed quickly. I was hesitant of how “successful” these charter schools can be, and the people at the Harlem Success Academy seem to show off their true colors, in regards to how successful they are – with higher test scores than any other non-charter schools within the area.

    Echoing off what you have mentioned with the, “high level of teacher support and encouragement” at the Harlem Success Academy, if this could be done at the other public schools in the area, I feel like this can improve their chances for success – in theory. But I think if we stretch further off of that, which I mean have the parents and the community members reach out to help these schools with as much enthusiasm can make all the difference. I firmly believe that the schools in the Harlem area are not receiving the proper support that it should, and the students are paying the price. If we have people from the community, similar to what I and many other students have done, it can impact the schools in a useful way that may show a significant change.

    One other problem that may be a conflict is the lack of teachers, or educators, in the public schools. For the Harlem Success Academy, they talk about how they have a limited number of enrollments – possibly due to the number of teachers that are available. With other public schools in the area, they have an open enrollment status, which could mean that the student to teacher ratio can be enormously high, while the Harlem Success Academy remains consistent and low. So, if we have students or other people of the community volunteer some more time to help out these students at neighboring schools, there could be a positive change coming their way.

    To your last question – the sooner the better. The sooner we can adopt the changes that the Harlem Success Academy has done, and then we can hopefully see some positive changes. If there really aren’t any successful changes, at least we had tried to improve the schools and become proactive.

  6. It is hard for people to see improvement in education as a positive thing because of the price tag on it. Society has changed to believe that money is more important a good education not realizing that without a good education, there will be no money. DUH! We complaint so much about third world countries having worse health care coverage, worse education scores, and etc. but we cant even take care of our own local children?

    Public schools will change when our economy improves, and when realize that our school systems hit rock bottom. Its a shame that it may have to be this way because in the end, the only people who loose in this game is “the future of our children.”

    • Yes agree, the quicker we as a community adopt serious changes that for example the Harlem Success Academy has established and done, and then we as a community can hopefully change the reality of how poor our educational system is…and hopefully create positive changes to education by forming Charter schools in all urban areas. We need to think of the children before our-self’s to have a future generations running this nation with educated minds. My mama once said, “if you teach a mother, they will teach their children”, very true statement. If we as a community bond together and agree on the foundation of success is a great education and we must fight for what is needed for are children’s future.

    • I have to agree that we need to help students and children in our own backyard before we help kids in another country. That’s not to say that students in other countries don’t need help, but it’s worth considering helping a local school first. But, I also have to say, offering any help anywhere is worth it. The school has to accept the help first.

  7. I feel like this documentary did show just how much adults are putting their own needs before a child’s needs. The section of film that highlighted the constant intervention of the teacher’s union really struck a chord with me. Because there was constant talk of negotiating a contract which would better serve the adult and structure the day so the kids were basically put on an assembly line of “education”. This process makes think about when unions were first created. (Correct me if i’m wrong). But unions as far as I know were created to provide factory workers with a guaranteed wage and benefits for showing up to work and providing a service that then produced a physical product. Here in the school system if a union is in place then that means teachers are allowed to say they’re working just by walking into the classroom. After that it’s easy to say that the product is either sufficient or insufficient and base it on test scores. But there is never anything wrong with the worker, the union says so. So in effect these workers are allowed to stay in their place of work because of said union. I thought the one statistic portrayed in the video was that it cost $250,000 of tax payer money to get rid of a proven unproductive educator. This again only goes to turn that vicious cycle that in the end is better serving the adults as opposed to the needs of the children involved.

    • I also felt that the union argument was extremely weak. I felt it was just an excuse to not have to do anything personally to help or to improve the situation/ problems with the school systems and teachers. “I don’t have to help, because it’s the union’s problem”.

    • Jeremy,

      You are correct for the reasoning for why unions were created in the first place! I feel that it is not wrong for teachers to have a union protecting them against wage loses and job security. However, I do think it is wrong to protect them against not doing their job. I feel like that is kind of what goes a long with unions. You can’t just protect the good you are protecting the bad too. Even though a lot of people don’t agree, some times the good working or employees do truly need that protection. I feel that another part of the problem is dealing with the way they evaluate how kids are learning. Majority of the evaluations are due based on a standardized test. Doing it this way is not something that I agree with at all! because a standard test can only be used on standard students and that doesn’t benefit people with learning disabilities or people that just get nervous when taking test overall.

  8. I really enjoyed “The Lottery”. the film was well done and interesting. It was also very disturbing in a few ways and also inspiring. One scene in particular that was of concern is the moment in which Eva was speaking at the public hearing, at both sites of the school and the hearing. There was a lot of support, but also extremely strong criticism. It was bizarre and sad how quick people are to attack when they don’t understand something. I wish that people would understand exactly what the other side’s point and opinions are. I understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but it seemed to me that most people who opposed the charter schools were under informed exactly what they were fighting against.

    • Alicia I couldn’t agree more with you. When I was watching the public hearing I was so sad to see how angry people were about having a charter school in their neighborhood. It was hard for me to watch all of those families get so angry and have to watch the people in support of the charter school being so upset that everyone was against it. I also agree with you that most people seemed to be under educated and some people that were actually on the board were rude in the way they approached their defense against the charter schools.

  9. After watching the Lottery, I felt like it kind of gave me a reality check for my own life. I remember complaining about my educational experience when I was in high school and looking back, I had great teachers and a wonderful very supportive education. So, After watching this film, I felt incredibly sad. I understand why they must have the lottery for choosing spots to the charter schools, but it doesn’t make it right. There should be a better solution for the education in our country then privatizing everything. It is unfortunate that that is the only thing that we have been able to come up with. Before seeing this documentary, the only things I had heard about charter schools is negative things. Even, in a lot of the educational classes I was in they still put a negative spin on they way they approached explaining how charter schools worked. So It was nice getting to hear both sides of the story for once. I also come for a family a teachers and a very pro union background, but when it comes to education. It is hard to except a teacher being able to do a poor job and get to keep his or her job. Most of my family members agree that they don’t think it is right. So improving the public school system should be the top priority.

  10. I believe charter schools such as Harlem Success are a great way to motivate the teacher and produce outstanding students. The documentary did a great job showing both sides view on whether or not they supported the school. The only thing that left me disappointed were the children who were not accepted after being pumped up by their parents. The anticipation and then let down had to be a little traumatic for them.

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