An education partnership in Spring Branch ISD near Houston puts some charter school students in public schools. On Thursday, we heard from teachers and administrators on how the plan is working. Today, we hear from teacher groups that are leery of the experiment.
Assistant Principal Tracey Reap happily talks about the partnership that brought charter kids to her Northbrook Middle School in the Spring Branch district.
“We were excited because of all the things we could learn from YES Prep and all their success,” Reap says. “And giving us their great ideas and all the experiences they were going to give us and the new things we could learn to make our school better.”
Craig Adams does not share Reap’s excitement. For years he was a classroom teacher. Now he’s president of the district’s largest teacher group, the Spring Branch American Federation of Teachers.
“I know for a fact there are teachers that could do just as good a job if not better than any charter school,” Adams says. “I’m not picking on KIPP or YES. I’m just saying we already had those resources, so what was the reason we had to bring in charter schools? I don’t understand why we went outside of the district, nor do I see the need for it.”
Spring Branch Superintendent Duncan Klussman said he likes the charter’s techniques for teaching character, values and motivations for success. He also wanted to give parents more school choice. But Adams says the charter partnership was about higher test scores.
“I know that we were told it was to bring the scores up," Adams says. "But why were the scores low?”
Instead of investing time and resources into the charter partnership, Adams says school leaders should improve academics, starting with the reduction of high teacher turnover rates. He says at some Spring Branch schools, as many as half the teachers left last year.
“I find that troubling and inexcusable that half the faculty are not returning to that campus or that 30 percent are not returning to some of the campuses," Adams says. I actually talked to someone at a coffee shop who’s an area manager who said if we had a turnover rate of 50 percent, I would put in new management and get rid of the old.”
Rena Honea, President of Dallas ISD’s largest teacher organization, the Alliance/AFT, is also leery of public-charter school partnerships.
“The research on charters shows that the charters, in large, are not as effective as our public schools," Honea says.
Honea says charters compete for valuable public resources, another reason she’d be suspicious of a partnership.
“If we’re going to have a public neighborhood school system, which is a bedrock of communities and families, then those dollars need to be there," Honea said. "If they want a charter district or school, let outside funders fund those and be accountable to them.”
Dallas’ superintendent and trustees aren’t openly talking about a partnership that would put charter schools under the same roof as public campuses. But board members and administrators across the state may be watching what’s underway in Spring Branch ISD.