Here is a good example of what I would call double standards relating to traditional public schools and charter schools–more specifically the High Tech High K-12 Schools.
High Tech High Charter Schools, computer/project driven schools, dot the landscape in California. They started out as one charter in 2000, run by San Diego business leaders and educators. Now there are four K-5 schools, four middle schools, and five high schools, many in the San Diego area. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has generously supported these schools. Mr. Gates loves them. Here is a video of Mr. and Mrs. Gates visiting one of the HTH high schools with Oprah in 2014.
What’s interesting is that the words Common Core are not found on the HTH school websites! Common Core is required by the State of California, so HTH schools will have to teach to the Core. And you can find information about their using the Common Core and even Smarter Balance testing on the internet–mostly starting with sixth grade. But they do not seem to be advertising it. If Common Core State Standards are so wonderful, why don’t these exclusive schools brag about them?
What do they advertise? Browse around the websites of the different schools HERE. Below I will share some statements from the various schools.
- Individualized attention. We are committed to providing an environment that emphasizes learning as an interactive process focusing on individual needs of students. Explorer Elem. Charter School.
- Teachers allowed to teach. Explorer teachers are reflective practitioners who create their own curriculum, weave together social, emotional, and intellectual learning. Explorer Elem. Charter School.
- Teaching to the Whole Child. This is mentioned here and there.
- Recess! On the elementary school websites they show elaborate playgrounds.
- The Arts. HTeCV students also take exploratory classes in Performing Arts, Engineering, and Visual Arts throughout the school year. High Tech Elem. Chula Vista.
- Less Testing. Students…are given traditional exams and tests sparingly. At High Tech elementary North County, the measure of accomplishment lies primarily in the students’ ability to explain or demonstrate his/her learning from the beginning of the project to the end.
- Nice furniture. All classroom furniture is specifically selected to meet the physical and social-emotional needs of our children. High Tech Elem. North County.
- Class size limit. Class sizes are kept at 25 students or fewer to support each student’s unique personality, interests, and needs. High Tech Elem. North County. Remember when Bill Gates said class sizes in traditional public schools don’t matter? HERE.
- No student uniforms. They do have dress codes. But students can choose their attire.
- Team teaching. The floor plan is intentionally designed for teams of three teachers at each grade level, who plan collaboratively on projects. High Tech Elem. North County.
- Beautiful buildings. The HTH buildings are uniquely architecturally designed.
- Projects, projects, projects! This is what these schools are all about. And technology drives the projects.
- Deeper Learning. Doing=Learning=Fun.
Many of the above variables do not exist in public schools today, because people like Bill Gates and various politicians have advocated a harsher, no excuses learning environment. But is it fair that he, and others, praise and support the HTH schools, while contrarily dishing up stale bread and draconian standards and curriculum for public schools?
In addition, while many of the variables above are good and decent and should be included in how traditional public schools are run, all that glitters is not gold. These schools are not perfect.
In the video, Oprah emphasizes there are no books (disputed on the HTH Explorer Elem. website), football teams, cheerleaders, or marching bands in these schools. Mr. Gates thinks that’s a good thing, and he claims these schools could be a “model” for the future.
He definitely needs to visit a Midwestern or Texas high school on a Friday night next fall! The activities Mr. Gates doesn’t seem to think matter do, in fact, matter very much. They are a part of the culture of schooling that help young people socialize and build self-confidence. They bind a school together with its community. By eliminating these activities, and even throwing away books, a sacred part of public schooling is destroyed.
Should the high tech schools be a model for all schools? Perhaps they could be a part of a school district that embraces all students. But they should be regulated. Today, HTH schools demonstrate clearly the existence of schools for the haves, even if students are chosen by a lottery, and schools for the have nots. It is difficult to comprehend how public schools in general could maintain the cost of such extravagance.
If you watch the video you observe students working on projects that look elaborate and costly. If these schools were funded by Mr. Gates and his business friends that would be one thing. The point is, and has always been, that while Mr. Gates and company experiment with high-priced showy schools, for only a few, everyone else pays for them too. We become unwilling accomplices in unproven schools that may have many problems behind the scenes. At the same time, we are blighting a whole generation of students out of their future REAL WORLD potential in traditional public schools.
It isn’t fair for a handful of kids to get options within their schools, when sometimes even the barest of necessities are denied other students in their traditional public schools. And it isn’t right that real public schools should be destroyed in this so-called sacred “disruptive” process to privatize public schools.
This isn’t the kind of country that should support that kind of set-up. And even with flashy programs and money spent, there is no research to indicate these students are really succeeding in their schools. They are rogue schools.
Americans need to decide if they want Mr. Gates, and the wealthy few, to run America’s schools lopsidedly, giving a few kids fancy unproven pleasures, or if they want to continue to own those schools and do the best for them, smartly and compassionately. Will we collectively choose to care for America’s children—all of them? I’m afraid that remains to be seen.