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Posted at 8:25 PM ET, 10/27/2010

The freedom of a charter school

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Shoshana Rosenbaum
Washington

I read with interest Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog post [Metro, Oct. 25] on the textbook review process that led to an inaccurate history book being approved while Joy Hakim’s well-regarded “History of U.S.” had a hard time making the list of books that Virginia schools were allowed to buy.

Ms. Strauss harks back to Jay Mathews’s 1995 suggestion to allow teachers to choose their own books, which to Ms. Strauss now seems like “part of a fairy tale” given what she perceives as “traditionally trained public school teachers” now “under attack” who “must teach from scripts and work under evaluation systems that pay according to how well their students do on standardized tests.”

I received my master’s degree from a traditional teacher preparation program and have since taught in both traditional public and public charter schools in several states and the District. I’m a part-time contract worker for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

As a public charter school teacher, I had vastly more freedom to choose materials than I had when I taught in traditional public schools. While I never felt under attack in either arena, I was frustrated as a middle-school humanities teacher in a blue-ribbon-winning traditional school when I was forced to give up shelf space for literature “textbooks.” We never opened the textbooks. I chose instead to teach my students un-excerpted literature from actual books. But of course I had to procure those at my own expense.
In contrast, when I taught in charter schools, there was no bureaucracy to fight. I could discuss with the principal what I wanted to teach and why, and then simply order the books.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | October 27, 2010; 8:25 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, schools  
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