The teacher’s role in community schools with business partnerships seems murky. This raises concerns about a teacher’s purpose in those schools. If Americans are going to embrace community schools, teachers must be recognized as professionals in their own right.
Community schools rely on business partners, so will teachers be replaced with online (personalized) instruction, the kind of schooling parents hated during the pandemic that collects nonstop data about their children?
A 2021 Urban Education report claims:
. . .the literature has given scant attention to how teachers help fulfill these schools’ promises (Sanders, Galindo, & Allen).
Yet schools across the country are converting to community schools, many are charter schools, including in wealthier school districts.
Should Teachers Trust Business Partners?
Business partners are community school stakeholders but let’s face it, they’ve never been the teacher’s best friends.
For thirty years, corporations and businesses, including the Chamber of Commerce (remember their Leaders and Laggards Report Card?), have bullied teachers and worked to destroy public education with:
- high-stakes standardized tests,
- praise for alternative teachers with little preparation like Teach for America,
- Common Core State Standards,
- online learning,
- a collection of a student and their family’s personal information (data),
- pushing developmentally inappropriate curriculum down to the youngest learners,
- funding charter buildings while ignoring pitiful school buildings,
- a focus on charter schools and vouchers,
- unjustified blame for teachers and their unions for not turning out career and college-ready students.
So how do teachers trust them now when it comes to community schools? Are they suddenly on their side?
Online Rocketship Charter School Is Considered a Community School in California
California is pouring $645 million into community schools, including many charter schools like Rocketship, a controversial online non-profit with few real teachers. They’ll get $15 million.
A Rethinking Schools 2014 report Rocketship to Profits described Rocketship charter schools.
Few areas have as concentrated and active a group of wealthy reformers as California’s Silicon Valley. One of the country’s fastest-growing charter school operators, Rocketship Education, started here. A big reason for its stellar ascent is the support it gets from high tech’s deep pockets, and the political influence that money can buy.
So Rocketship becomes both a community and public school. Will they be the prototype for more charter schools and traditional public school conversions to replace teachers?
What Does Deeper Learning Mean, When Everyone’s a Teacher?
Deeper Learning is associated with community schools. It refers to online learning, without teachers, that will supposedly lead students to future workforce jobs, whatever they might be.
Deep learning is a type of machine learning that uses algorithms meant to function in a manner similar to the human brain.
In Teaching in Community Schools: Creating Conditions for Deeper Learning, the authors describe the teacher’s role as changed. Parents develop into teachers (Daniel, Hunter, & Oakes). So what happens to degreed teachers?
Community school teachers also often take on roles like social work, blurring the line of what they have traditionally done as classroom teachers.
There’s talk that teachers must have credentials, but what are they? Online badges? Will this adequately academically prepare children for their futures?
As Community Schools Take Over, Will Technology Rule?
For years, corporations have relied upon learning gap and poverty talk to reference schools simultaneously ridiculing and defunding them. They’ve worked to paint teachers as failures.
If community schools are what they claim, teachers should be front and center, with better wages, able to step into schools that treasure them as professionals. There should be no confusion about their role, and what it means to the education of children.
Instead, the research about teachers in these schools seems purposely thin, to redefine it, to make teachers look unprepared like they must prove themselves worthy of taking on new challenges.
Pair this with the teacher shortage and the historical treatment of teachers; it looks like screens may win in the end. Yet, no research shows children learn better with online learning.
So, are community schools a way for big businesses to take control of America’s schools? Will they end the teaching profession and public education, by creating more Rocketship cyber charters?
Everyone wants children to receive the wraparound services they need, but they deserve public education and real teachers too. They should not have to lose those critical services in the process.
Sanders, M., Galindo, C., Allen, K. M. (2021). Professional Capital and Responses to Student Diversity A Qualitative Exploration of the Role of Teachers in Full-Service Community Schools. Urban Education. 56(10), p. 1782-1814.
Daniel, J., Hunter Q. K., Oakes, J. (2019) Teaching in Community Schools: Creating Conditions for Deeper Learning. Review of Research in Education. 43. pp. 453-480.