Is Charter School Teaching Similar To Or Different From Teaching in Regular Schools?

Since 1991 when Minnesota launched the first charter schools, the movement to create publicly funded charters freed from district rules where parents can choose to send their children has spread to 40 states (and the District of Columbia) enrolling 3.2 million students (nearly eight percent of all public school students) in nearly 8,000 schools (2020). Most charter schools are located in urban districts with one-quarter to one-third of all students enrolled in charters. In some cases such as New Orleans, the majority of children and youth attend charter schools.

The theory driving charter schools is that schools unchained from district policies (including union contracts) for three to five years  would have legal, budgetary, and organizational autonomy to steer its own course and, through innovative changes, increase the quality of schooling. Moreover,  charter schools would be held accountable to the market—parents and students choose to attend—and to stipulations in the charter itself to perform well academically and be fiscally responsible. If there were serious lapses, charter renewal would be forfeited ( WP-01).

A flexible curriculum, eager teachers, parental choice, accountability, and public funding would combine to create innovative schools where a new organization, hard-working teachers using different pedagogies, and satisfied parents would add up to higher student achievement than would have occurred in regular public schools. That is the theory.

After three decades, charter schools continue to grow albeit slowly. Parental demand for school choice remains. There is evidence that charter schools compared to regular ones differ in organizational practices (e.g., block scheduling, extended school day, teachers staying with same students two or more years; small group instruction).

Most school reformers view teaching practices as predictors of student achievement. So an obvious question to ask is: have teachers in charter school, freed from district rules and prescriptions, practiced their craft differently than their peers in public schools?

What evidence there is says that with even more autonomy and flexibility for teachers in charter schools there is little difference between their classroom practices and peers in public schools. Researchers who examined studies of pedagogy across charter and non-charter schools concluded that

“as charter schools implement innovations in governance, management, and other organizational practices, charter schools are embracing curricular and instructional approaches already in use (original italics) in other public schools that are considered as traditional ‘basic’ approaches to instruction” (Goldring-Cravens_2006).

Those findings surprised me.

Such findings leave holes in the theory embedded in charter schools. Like their counterparts in regular public schools, charter school teachers mainly use teacher-centered classroom practices such as lectures, scripted lessons, textbooks, worksheets, homework, question/answer/evaluation exchanges seasoned by certain student-centered practices such as small group work, student discussions, project-based learning, internships, and independent learning.

Keep in mind that when I use the phrase “teacher-centered” and “student-centered” instruction I do not infer that such teaching practices are either positive or negative, appropriate or inappropriate, effective or ineffective. I am reporting what many researchers, including myself, have documented in classrooms.

When one looks at Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) where all 255 elementary and secondary schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serving nearly 115,000 students (2020) are charters, teaching approaches are  unmistakably teacher-centered. KIPP is not, of course, representative of all charter schools in its teaching practices. Aspire, Green Dot, and other charter management organizations have schools in their networks where teaching practices vary considerably but still work within the tradition of teacher-centeredness. Note that these elementary and secondary school charters are geared to preparing children and youth for college. That is their unvarnished mission.

College prep begins early in these charter elementary and secondary schools; frontal teaching, direct instruction, extended day, and no-nonsense approaches to student behavior are the norm. So any variation among teachers in different networks of charter schools falls within a narrow band of teacher-centered practices—again when I use that phrase I imply neither acceptance nor rejection, appropriate nor inappropriate, nor effective or ineffective.

KIPP charter schools, then, to a large extent, duplicate the prevailing patterns of teaching in regular public schools. That is the answer to this post’s question.



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45 responses to “Is Charter School Teaching Similar To Or Different From Teaching in Regular Schools?

  1. the State Auditor in MA did a review of charter schools; the State board of education had never defined “innovation.” We have absolutely no operational measures of “innovation.” The innovations are in cooking the books as to create CEO salaries and a hand-picked board that raises the CEOsalary. We had a “SpecialSchool” in MA that siphoned off between 10 and 30. Million from taxpayer funds meant for handicapped students. The CEO used the “innovation” of entertaining his hand-picked board at the Kentucky Derby. He was also related to the Commissioner of Education and the former Governor (now deceased). The legislature tells me they have closed that loophole in MA but the U.S.D.E. has opened up a lot more paths for profits and privatizing of “hybrid/charters.” Jeb Bush and his brother the other one with Devos are marketing their “miracle” schools across the U.S. The republican governors like Baker in MA signed on with DeSantis to have no accountability on the funds because “you just can’t start a profit business if you have to meet standards and oversight.” You seem to have a picture of “Charters” that is narrow and doesn’t fit with my experience in MA (check the Boston Globe and the legal problems; only one guy went to jail in MA and one got a $5,000 fine)…

    • larrycuban

      Not an enviable story about charters in Massachusetts that you tell. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. your comment to me I view as “cavalier” in your approach. Your article posted only covers the superficial elements of the charter industry . You don’t talk about the fraud and corruption. Your response made it look like only MASSACHUSETTS had the problem but it is everywhere. “”Federal law has previously prohibited grants to for-profit charter schools; yet. in the report, Chartered for Profit, the Network for Public Education exposed that too many nonprofits have been turning over virtually all of their state and federal dollars to a for-profit management company without any oversight of the use of the money: “Despite strict regulations against the disbursement of funds from the federal Charter Schools Program to charter schools operated by for-profit entities, we identified over 440 charter schools operated for profit that received grants totaling approximately $158 million between 2006 and 2017, including Charter Schools Program grants to schools managed with for-profit sweeps contracts.” See new article today (Tuesday) by Jan Resseger.

  3. Joe Nathan

    Senator Paul Wellstone, mentioned immediately above, was a huge fan of chartering. He recognized that chartering could free up educators. He also recognized that all charters would not be equally effective, and that they would vary widely.
    It’s stunning that Larry Cuban, someone with so much experience, would attempt to discover (much less comment) a single approach that educators in charters choose to use. These schools vary enormously, as do their instructional approaches.

    • larrycuban

      Please re-read what I wrote about teaching in charter schools.

      There are three broad ways that teachers teach in U.S public schools including charter schools. Teacher-centered, student-centered and hybrids of both. From my research and that of others, most teachers (charter schools included) use hybrids of methods yet those hybrids tilt toward the teacher-centered side of the spectrum. So an observer of charter school lessons across the country would see a range of teaching practices within the three broad traditions of classroom teaching.

      If you disagree, please cite studies of teaching in charter schools (surveys of teaching practice, direct observational studies, etc.) that disagree with the above paragraph.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment,.

      • Joe Nathan

        I did read what you wrote. As I’ve written before, chartering is best explained by 1) civil rights hero Kenneth Clark, who urged creation of new public schools outside control of local boards.,-issue-1/herarticle/_1081 and 2) Ted Kolderie, who explained the value of state’s withdrawing the exclusive franchise given to local districts The idea was not just innovation and not just better test scores. Your description of the rationale for chartering is far too narrow.

      • larrycuban

        Your comment was initially about teaching practices in charter schools. Not the motivations behind those policymakers and academics who supported charter schools for the reasons you gave.

        If you want to continue about what you think I said about teaching practices in charter schools, please cite studies of classroom practices in those schools.

      • Joe Nathan

        As noted, teaching practices in some of the most innovative schools are ignored by people like you and others.

      • the article is vastly out of date concerning policy.  I was teaching in the public schools in the 1960s and 1970s and we were more interested in the Kettering Foundation and the IGE progressive education that was fostered through the country and made a much great impression on schools.  We had linkages with states and national conferences. The references from the 1960s only cover policy issues of that time… so there is a context for policy  that was more progressive.In the interim there has been more advanced progress and evaluation of Magnet Schools, and “community”schools with special consideration for  the Comer Model — these are different arrangements and are much more adequately evaluated than the so-called “Charter schools.” which are hyped in the policy context and sold from the “Governor’s office. Please check the dates on the references… the Executive Director of the Citizens League in the 1970’s and his quest to find new ways of delivering government services.  (reference from Larry Cuban is very old in comparison to policy today such as DeSantis and other republican governors and the MA republican governor) As early as 1968, Kenneth Clark……., And AT THAT TIME even Al Shanker was seeing possibilities — he did not live to see what thereactionary groups have done to destroy public schooling with such means as “charters” that are “hybrid’hedge funds.In 1988, education reformer and American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker proposed a new kind of public school…. These are the policy issues and the reactionary politics of today is pushing segregated “charter”schools with gated routes/paths and classical instruction as in parochial schools. Perhaps Professor cuban is not familiar with current reactionary politics.

        NOW IN REGARDS TO TEACHING. ——————– If you want to talk only about the teaching in the schools…one should look at the Audit by Suzanne Bump. evaluating charter schools in MA.They were sold to parents  as “innovative”; yet they use  the same type of approach, and strategies and “styles” … And, in the meantime the public colleges that had “Lab Schools” were all cut in funding so there was only one lab school left by the 2000.   At the same time the Ed Commissioner said for MA. “if you want the charter schools to be indicating what is innovative and the best activities or methods that the public schools should be using then you should not have set it up as  a competition for funding.”  (I am paraphrasing Reville).  At any. rate, both the Auditor and the Ed Commissioner Reville faulted the charter schools on  what they were supposed to be representing:  improvement in practice, in method, in strategy, in teaching practices and improvement of learning .  The only thing that charter schools show is “more time on task” is the best  test practice needed to pass MCAS or take NAEP tests…that is all. Today with. the separation of church and state brought into question by SCOTUS MA politics is pushing  “Vouchers”and “ESA”s and “Charters” as a means for maintaining white supremacy in our state with emphasis on classical republicanism  without recognition the benefits gained from  liberalism or Constitutionalism.   The parochial curriculum of “classical republicanism” leaves out anything from the Enlightenment on (and they purposely destroy the New Deal of FDR  in their prescribed curriculum    Both CA and CO have told DFER to stop using democrats in the title of Democrats for Education Reform because it is Harvard/Chicago SchoolFriedman approach.  And it is reactionary (not conservative.)

      • Joe Nathan

        For millions of Black, Hispanic and Asian American families, civil rights hero Kenneth Clark’s recommendation’s are very much out of date. That’s why they’ve moved their youngsters out of district schools.

      • Joe Nathan

        What Shanker proposed was NOT chartering (offering the opportunity to create new options outside the control of local boards). What he suggested was already happening in some districts – creation of new district options. As he accurately noted, people trying to create new options within districts were often “treated like traitors or outlaws for daring to move outside the lockstep….” If they somehow managed to create a new option, “they could look forward to insecurity, obscurity or outright hostility.” Shanker got enormous heat from some of the AFT members for criticizing districts.
        Interestingly, some of the most outstanding charters around the country have been created by frustrated district school educators.

      • larrycuban

        Thanks, Joe, for your comments on my post on charters.

        From: Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice Date: Saturday, August 6, 2022 at 4:20 PM To: Larry Cuban Subject: [Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice] Comment: “Is Charter School Teaching Similar To Or Different From Teaching in Regular Schools?”

      • Joe Nathan

        Since 3 of us spent part of the weekend debating innovation, I thought I’d add this story about work to help more low income and BIPOC students from district & chartered public schools succeed – by giving them access to programs allowing them to earn free college credit. Here’s a story from a Minnesota publication about a project we carried out that involves district & charter educators working with and learning from eachother – with hundreds of students gaining, in the process.

      • Joe Nathan

        Dual credit programs are pushing low performing students to complete high school — and college
        Research shows that impact of taking dual-credit courses is especially profound for students who are low performing or come from low-income backgrounds.

        By Beth Hawkins

        Success breeds success: Gordon Parks students Rojelio Castillo, Teresa Mota and Nathan Thompson say college-level classes are more engaging than regular high school.
        MinnPost photo by Beth Hawkins
        Jan. 16, 2015
        A year ago, 18-year-old Rojelio Castillo thought he’d be lucky to get a GED. Today, thanks to a novel collaboration by six St. Paul schools, Castillo is not only on track for a diploma, he has several college classes under his belt.

        There’s a mountain of evidence that exposing high school students to college-level rigors has a dramatic impact on achievement. Yet rarely are the students who most need such a boost the ones who are encouraged to take the challenge.

        Take Castillo. When he started high school at St. Paul’s Highland Park, he was placed in the school’s rigorous International Baccalaureate program. Assuming things were okay and preoccupied with life at home, he stayed in the program for two years.

        At the start of 11th grade, though, he saw that his schedule was composed of regular classes. So he went to talk to a counselor to figure out what happened. That’s when he was informed that he had failed both years of the IB program.
        Castillo was shocked. Sort of. The summer between eighth and ninth grades, his long-precarious living situation toppled all the way over. His father was incarcerated and his mother “just left,” pushing him into foster care.

        Castillo eventually got himself placed in the custody of his sister, a dramatic improvement, but one that also meant he had to rush home from school everyday to take care of her kids. “School was not the No. 1 thing on my mind,” he concedes. “My family always said, ‘You’re going to be the one to take us out of the ‘hood.’ [But] we live in this structure where things get beat out of us.”

        After a few months of trying and failing to catch up, Castillo enrolled himself at Gordon Parks High School, a St. Paul Public Schools program for teens and young adults struggling to finish. Upon hearing that Castillo loved to write, the school’s debate coach and speech teacher Thomas Zachary announced he was going to push the young man. “Now, if you want to learn to write essays,” Zachary told him, “we’ll teach you to write essays.”

        Castillo was enrolled in three English classes in College in the Schools, a program that pairs high school teachers with college instructors. Succeeding at college-level work and earning tuition-free credits made both diploma and degree seem like more than a fantasy. “The fire that was within me got reignited,” he says. “I’ve applied to St. Thomas and to Yale. Shoot for the stars; why not?”

        Wide-ranging benefits for students
        In the 2010-2011 school year, five Gordon Parks students were enrolled in dual-credit classes, which can take several forms. Sometimes the classes are co-taught by college and high school faculty and take place in the high school. In some, high school students attend classes on a college campus or virtually.

        Last year, the number of dual credit participants at Gordon Parks rose to 57, or one-fifth of the student body. And with the school developing new qualifying courses, participation should go even higher.

        Thomas Zachary
        MinnPost photo by Beth Hawkins
        Thomas Zachary
        The brainchild of the local nonprofit Center for School Change, the dual credit effort has boosted the number of students taking the advanced courses in six St. Paul schools — four mainline district and two charters — by at least triple digits in each program. In three of the schools, at least half of 11th– and 12th-graders are enrolled.

        There is extensive research showing that students who take dual-credit classes are more likely to complete both high school and college. The impact is especially profound for students who are low performing, who are low-income or who are the first in their family to go to college.

        Research underway at the University of Minnesota has produced preliminary findings that “students from low [socioeconomic status] households who took advanced courses did just as well in first term and first year GPAs as students from high [socioeconomic status] households who did not take advanced courses.” Participants also graduate faster.
        Participation in dual-credit courses also allows students to complete remedial work before enrolling full time in college, where they will have to pay for the classes, which do not earn credit. And dual-credit participation can save a family thousands of dollars — or more — making college much more affordable.

        Having a path is key
        The trick is getting students to try the classes, says Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change and one of the state’s chief advocates of expanding dual-credit programs. “The role of the adults is critical,” says Nathan. “When teachers say, ‘You should try this,’ it’s very important.”

        In Castillo’s case, the magic ingredient was having an adult point out he could both catch up and excel. For other students, having a deliberate pathway is a game changer.

        A few years back, Bonnie Boyd noticed a disconnect at the school she leads, St. Paul Public Schools’ program for pregnant and parenting girls. After watching one cohort after another scale mountains to graduate from AGAPE High School, Boyd and her colleagues believed their girls were off to college in the fall, followed by bright futures.

        But it turned out that for many, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MNSCU) placement test that determines whether a student needs remedial coursework was an impossible hurdle. Entrants typically take it in August, months after they leave high school. Confronted by a snare of red tape, students’ best-laid plans would whither.

        Before the St. Paul collaboration, Junior Pa Cha Vang might have been one of those August casualties. She took the placement test as a sophomore last year, and then, for free, the two remedial classes she needed at AGAPE in conjunction with Inver Hills Community College.

        Vang has a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old. If her need for remedial classes had been discovered after graduation, she could very well have lost her child care subsidy and the other benefits the county provides her family so she can work and go to school.

        Vang passed both of her remedial classes, so this year she is taking classes for credit, both at AGAPE and at St. Paul College. Next year she hopes to use another dual-credit program, Post Secondary Enrollment Options, to take classes at Metropolitan State University. After graduation, she plans to pursue a degree in business management and human resources there.

        AGAPE classmate Kenya Montes is a senior and the mother of a 2-year-old. Her family came here from Mexico when she was 2. She is currently protected by the DREAM Act’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provision.
        Montes’ faces two hurdles: The first is that if she interrupts her education her immigration status is threatened. The second is that even though she is enrolled in DACA her status prohibits her from filling out the federal student aid form.

        If she could fill out the form, she would qualify for The Power of You, a program that allows low- and moderate-income Minneapolis and St. Paul students to enroll in the Minneapolis Community and Technical College or St. Paul College for free.

        At AGAPE, Montes was able to complete both her remedial classes and several credit-bearing ones. She will use her remaining time in the program to earn a nursing assistant credential at St. Paul College so that she has a fighting chance to both care for her child and pay for higher ed after she graduates.

        When she gets to college, Montes will have 12 credits in Spanish she earned by testing out of it, as well as whatever she earns from her work at AGAPE.

        Collaboration among schools
        When Nathan conceived of the collaboration, he had several goals. One was to bring school leaders together to design the dual-credit programs that best meet their students’ needs.

        Boyd’s students’ needs can be so complicated she wanted multiple offerings. At Gordon Parks, classes had to be designed to run in three-week segments like the rest of the high school’s programming. (Because its students are continuously enrolling and have already lost valuable catch-up time, Gordon Parks divides its nine-week quarters into three segments worth a third as much credit.)

        Relying on funding from the Otto Bremer Foundation, St. Paul Foundation, Travelers Foundation and Frey Family Foundation, the Center for School Change wanted the effort to be a true collaboration. To that end, for each of the last three summers they have convened faculty from participating high schools and colleges to design courses together. Leaders of the schools are spending time in one another’s programs, taking note of what’s working.

        The high school teachers get a better idea of what college readiness looks like and the higher ed instructors have support learning how to work with younger students.

        The first year, the instructors created custom offerings for participating schools in reading, writing and math. Last year they worked on biology and American government.

        The other four high schools participating in the collaboration are Creative Arts, Open World Learning Community, Community of Peace Academy and Higher Ground Academy. All six schools serve large numbers of impoverished students of color.

        “Males, low-income, and low-achieving high school students all appear to benefit from participation in dual enrollment to a greater extent than their dual enrollment peers who enter college courses with more social, economic, and educational advantages,” a 2008 Columbia University Teachers College study suggested. “These findings indicate that dual enrollment can benefit a range of students, and may have the greatest positive impact on those students who are often excluded from participation.”

        Though the collaboration is grant-funded, Nathan designed the dual-credit programming to be self-sustaining. The state pays students’ tuition for eligible Minnesota ninth- through 12th-graders.

        One of the barriers to greater participation has been the reluctance of schools and districts, which often see the programs as a mechanism for siphoning off their per pupil aid, to push accurate and easy-to-understand information at students and families. Indeed, one of last year’s more cynical legislative back-room deals involved a failed bid to curtail the amount of information given out about the program.

        Because of this, another step Nathan and colleague Marisa Gustafson have taken is to create a series of videos. Student testimonials cover the benefits, and also depict how participants’ self-image changed as a result of mastering the work.

        A case in point is Castillo’s classmate, Teresa Mota. At Central High School, Mota heard the same frustration over and over from her teachers: “You’re here, you know your stuff, but you don’t do your homework.” At Gordon Parks, Mota is a debate star. “Coach [Zachary] really saw my potential,” she says.

        The advanced work is hard, she adds, but not that hard. And the confidence she’s gained makes her more interested in her future. “Basically, it’s knowing I have to be an adult and I have to take care of my business myself,” says Mota. “Like Coach says, don’t leave the house if you’re not ready to be No. 1.”

      • This is a quote from the Auditor’s Evaluation in MA.  This pretty much verifies that the teachers are using the same approach, method, style of teaching  and strategies that have always been used; yet, it was sold as INNOVATIVE — to the parents so that is the major issue.   Innovation has no operational definition — so what is “Different”?  what is to be praised and copied by the public schools?  pretty much nothing was found.

        “An audit survey of charter schools and their related traditional school districts illustrated a lack of clarity, little sharing of best practices, and in several cases, a difficult working relationship between charter schools and traditional school districts. In addition, the audit reported that of the 48 charter school renewals during the audit period, none were subject to adverse action for the lack of sharing of innovative programs and best practices.Further, with regard to charter renewals, the state auditors found a lack of consistency in the standards applied. It was unclear why certain deficiencies in one charter school might mean a school’s charter being conditionally renewed while similar deficiencies at another school did not result in conditions being applied to its renewal.“This process must be made much more transparent if the public and policy-makers are to have confidence in the quality of the charter schools and if the schools themselves are to know what is expected of them,” said Auditor Bump.

      • larrycuban

        What I said in my post on teaching practices in charter and regular public schools is clear enough. Your points on the political rationale for creating and sustaining charter schools to expand parental choice beyond the neighborhood school, I understand. In my post, I explored the tacit understanding among supporters of charters that creating such schools would also lead to innovations in classroom practice. Surely, such innovations have occurred in charter schools, as both of us know. Nonetheless, strong similarities in charter school and public school instruction are evident as I explained in the post and earlier comments to you.

        I would be open to altering that position if you would supply me with studies done of teaching practices across independent and chains of charter schools (either for- or non-profit). Either of us citing anecdotes or samples of one or two schools would be interesting but, for me, hardly persuasive. After all, there are nearly 8,000 charters serving over three million students.

        Please offer me some studies done of how charter school teachers teach (now or in the immediate past) that challenge what I said in my post about similarities between the two. Were I persuaded by the studies you send me, I would surely revise what I said in the earlier post. And by studies, I do not mean mentioning particular chains of charter schools. I mean studies where observers went into schools and documented how teachers taught then teach now.

        As it stands now, in my judgment based upon both research I and others have done (e.g., direct observations, surveys of charter school teaching practices) public school teachers engage in an array of classroom practices similar to what charter school teachers use in their lessons. That is teacher-centered, student-centered, and hybrids of both. I am not attacking how charter school teachers teach or the motivations behind the founders of the three-decade old movement.

      • Joe Nathan

        Larry are you familiar with the disconnect between indigenous people and the Dutch who thought they were buying land in Manhattan and the indigenous people who thought it impossible to sell land? The indigenous view was it was impossible to sell something unless you could pick it up and take it. I suggest you read the American Indian Mind in a Linear World, by Fixico (a Regents (read “distinguished”” Arizona State Univ faculty member.

        He points out that the classic (white European) academic tradition that a) disrespects information not gathered via peer reviewed studies published in obscure journals) He points out that learning takes place outside traditional arrangements although most university based academics ignore or disparage it. He also points out that knowledge and wisdom can be transmitted in ways other than peer-reviewed studies (including but not limited to oral history).

        Some of the most innovative learning in the country is happening in charters. If you visited some of these schools, you’d hear from faculty and students that the flexibility of chartering gives them opportunities they did not find in traditional district schools. 2 examples of books describing this are Hip Hop Genius 2 (about High School for Recording Arts) and Coolest School in America (also founded by frustrated former district educators)

        I also mentioned innovative practices at Friendship Academy in Mpls – no one has written a book about that (and the local colleges of education ignore it though US Dept of Ed named it a “Blue Ribbon” School and it’s founded and led by former frustrated district educators.

        Chartering provides opportunities, but doesn’t guarantee everyone will use them well (like free speech provides opportunities but not guarantees).

        Why don’t you go visit some of these schools and report on them?

      • Joe: that was not the intent of the article by Larry when discussing teaching practices. “Larry are you familiar with the disconnect between indigenous people and the Dutch who thought they were buying land in Manhattan and the indigenous people who thought it impossible to sell land?” In New England the English King was “lord of the forest and the soil ” and owned everything but that is different from the focus on teaching practices that was the point of Larry’s first article. So your comment is irrelevant here.

      • I will go back to my Professor Screen when he talked about evaluating teachers.  The Teacher’s vocabulary is the best predictive of the student’s learning (achievement.). Everything else is “style” , and the opinion of people from the graduate schools.   That would be true of “public schools” and the so-called “charter” schools.  A lot of “stye ” preferences.  The only new light is coming from the clinical settings where students with autism have been studied for 30 years with evaluation of strategies in the clinical setting and focus on things such ss “executive function.” As far as schools “public” or whatever — pretty much the same old “wine in new bottles”. with a euphemism tacked on. jean e.sandersmy work was IGE 1970s, research & evaluation 1970 – 2000; college teacher preparation in MA from 1990 on on ..state coordinator for civic education at the Bicentennial (after Kennedy died we lost some of those innovative programs in MA but the current republican governor is still boasting about the achievements from previous times which have been eroded by the constant attacks on public education )

        Teacher-centered, student-centered and hybrids of both. From my research and that of others, most teachers (charter schools included) use hybrids of methods yet those hybrids tilt toward the teacher-centered side of the spectrum. So an observer of charter school lessons across the country would see a range of teaching practices within the three broad traditions of classroom teaching.

      • Joe Nathan

        No where in the list of strategies is the possibility of students learning out in the community via internships, apprenticeships or work experiences, for example. There’s also independent study. Both of you have the traditional blinders. Fortunately, chartering has freed up people with a broader view of learning.

      • I was responding to the context at that time.The “Charter” was different meaning for shanker as it was meant at that time…… he would be rolling over in his grave if he could see what they mean by “charter ” today.  (I think Halliburton would roll over in his grave if he could see how the corporate changed) Magnet Schools were much more predominant as an “innovative ” way to address the issues and preceded the push for “Charter”…. Cities that had R&D department like Houston could do rigorous evaluation.  Boston today has only 50,000 students and that is not enough to have an R&D staff to do the work of proving the models. Comer’s model does not get the recognition that it should have. It is the corporate push for charters that takes all the political press and headlines. NCLB moved all the R&D funding;  there used to be funds for Title IV which were innovative programs in the states (some progress in teaching and program delivery but never brought to scale).  All of that got redirected to corporate such as Pearson and the Labs & centers that were supposedly doing the R&D for “innovations” were sold out to corporate technology giants.   George Mitchell and Ted Kennedy were furious that the ‘Bipartisan” NCLB did not come through with the promised funds.  after that we had the “race to the Top” with Duncan, King, Devos —  no innovative programs or models were attempted (only test and punish) None of these policy efforts did anything to alter the methods of instruction — so the article by Cuban merely states the obvious about classroom methods. .  There were some efforts such as “reading”  funding  but the politics around how the programs were funded and then evaluated ( I think ABT did the final evaluation ) were not well regarded.  Several states did make some headway but it “washed out” in the overall report nd the next batch of politicians said “that didn’t work”.

        the community via internships, apprenticeships or work experiences, for example. T

      • Joe Nathan

        Great examples of 1950’s thinking confusing learning and teaching. Youngsters can and do learn an enormous amount outside classrooms. They also can learn from independent study, and from activities such as drama, sports, and other activities.

    • about teaching practices; I mentioned the 35 years of R&D in autism. here is another Professor from Boston U. and Pittsburgh. “As far as improvement my history of research searching public school programs for students with LD for “intensive, relentless instruction” and not finding it anywhere but especially not in the contemporary models of inclusion bring endorsed so uncritically. When I retired I had a distinct impression that no one was listening , if they ever had. “ Naomi Zigmond Ph.D.

  4. Joe Nathan

    Furthermore, you cited a 16 year old study about teaching practices in district & charters. One of the many reasons American education is a mess is that university faculty such as the people who wrote the 16 year old study rarely visit or study some of the most innovative schools. Terrific examples of this are Friendship Academy ( a national Blue Ribbon School in Mpls, CIty Academy in St Paul (the nation’s operating charter in St Paul) or HIgh School for Recording Arts, also in St Paul. HSRA has won national acclaim for helping youngsters who were pushed, kicked out of or dropped out of traditional schools build on their love of music to produce you-tube videos that are of such professional quality that students have been hired by various organizations to produce videos for them. While most colleges of education ignore HSRA, a recent book has appeared documenting what they do. It’s far more nuanced and expansive than the 3 categories that you described
    Another great example is Minnesota New Country School, both innovative and ignored by most college of ed faculty (although other charter educators have adopted a number of its ideas).

    Let’s be clear – do you agree or disagree that schools can have a massive positive impact on students from challenging and low income families? I ask because I’ve seen this happen all over the country. Do you agree or disagree with the Effective School Research?

    • why are you on the attack , Joe? let it go; there aren’t that many people who read here anyway. There is nothing wrong with the studies that I cited. The fact is that very little is being done about teaching practices except “create avatars” and have teachers “take courses from home.” You did not accept the comment that I made about how the funding has been totally shifted to technology but you continue to blame the faculty and the people in academia who have attempted to study the important issues. It’s like the dentists they have to study “infection control” all the time and there is no educational provision for the dentistry except “buy technology” and proceed with regression analysis. Probably time to quit Joe… I’m done because you have a self-interest in promoting your own ideas and proclaiming that you are superior to everyone else. The faculty and teachers are not to blame for the reactionary proposals of those who want to destroy public education. They think teachers are “too expensive” and they don’t want to pay to educate black and brown kids. That is the essence of it. I saw you do this on Diane Ravitch blog and at some point “it gets old”. so I refuse to take the bait any more.

  5. Joe Nathan

    Sorry – I meant that Clark’s comments are very much up to date.

  6. Joe, you are over-generalizing. I don’t believe this is true in every state. Most of the charters are schemes to find profits for people (who don’t even live in your state) and the others are meant to fund parochial teachings of the classical republicanism or just out and out to bring white supremacists into the inner gated schools. ” Fortunately, chartering has freed up people with a broader view of learning.” where is this true? in a handful of cases? where are they?

  7. Joe , I watched you on Diane Ravitch blog. You are doing the same thing here. “Why don’t you go visit some of these schools and report on them?” the original article was about the teaching practices and I think we can conclude that as a general rule they are the same as always “old wine in new bottles”. and “more hours” on the same tasks… Practice makes perfect — that is the old grandma’s rule not an innovation. But if you are going to insult here with your attacks, then it is time to stop. I saw you do it on Diane Ravitch blog a few years back and it is not helpful in today’s conditions.

  8. Joe, are implying that none of these are done in the public schools? only in “Charter” schools. That is not true and I can verify in the Massachusetts schools in the counties and districts where I have worked an volunteered for 50 years. Just because I graduated in the 1960s doesn’t mean that I stopped learning .. You are very insulting with your comments. “They also can learn from independent study, and from activities such as drama, sports, and other activities.” We are doing civics education in the most diverse city in MA and it is in a public elementary school at fourth grade. Most of the programs are in high school level so it is innovative for elementary and we are under constant attack by the reactionary Pioneer Institute for their insistence that the Hillsdale Curriculum is the only framework that should be used. You have chosen to say that only places where good things are happening is in the charter business and that is an outright lie

    • Joe Nathan

      No where do I say that the only place good things are happening is in charters. IN fact, I’ve written many newspaper columns urging learning from the most effective schools, where district or charter. Our Center also has worked closely with and celebrated accomplishments of both district and charter educators.
      More information about past & current projects is found here:

  9. Joe has a distinct conflict of interest; but he doesn’t need to use insulting remarks…these non-profits ? in MA one siphoned of about 20 million dollars from special education families. Some are intentionally non-profit but they have found loopholes to transfer/siphon funds into the pockets of the “owners”. The Center for School Change (CSC) was founded by Joe Nathan in 1990 and was housed at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs until 2010, when the group moved to Macalaster College.[4] In 2012, the CSC became an affiliate of EdVisions Schools.[1] EdVisions is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Henderson, Minn., that aims to “create schools that will enhance relationships and build relevant learning environments that will empower students, parents and teachers to make choices.”

  10. so I see Humphrey rolling over in his grave like Halliburton and Al. Shanker

  11. you call names, Joe, but you have a serious conflict of interest . Gary Orfield has a well established reputation and he has worked with Chris Murphy from CT and there are many you have excluded while citing the benefits of your charter model… Gary Orfield, like James Comer, has worked on civil rights issues. You did not acknowledge any of their ideas or models but just your own “organization” that moved out of the Humphrey Institute into some other place.

    • Joe Nathan

      The district K-12 public school I helped start and worked at for 7 years was a part of the National Diffusion Network. I worked with educators all over the country who wanted to carry out many of the ideas of the St Paul Open School – such as an individual August goal setting conference, every year with every student, or graduating students on the basis of demonstrated skill and knowledge, rather than accumulation of credits.

      These educators experienced considerable frustration year after year – and many of the most innovative district schools such as Metro School in Chicago, Parkway in Philadelphia, Alternative Learning Program were closed or dramatically changed by system pressure.

      I agree there are some great district schools. But they are constantly fighting to survive district pressures to conform

      • the progress were offered after passing JDRP; then they were available for districts to choose to adopt; No one at the state level mandated the models . They were often booked as “alternative” programs not Charter Schools. The charter school mechanism came in as a way that profits could be drawn off the head count in the student body. The JDRP did not authorize that or work that way. My supervisor also had a JDRP project and he supervised a Lightouse Project and they were voluntary adoptions that could be chosen from among a variety of diverse options made available. It was only later that the scheme for “charter” was developed to facilitate the corporate model (some call the Soviet Harvard model) where groups could purposely form a segregated school to lock out the black and brown students. That is a whole different ballgame from what we supported as JDDRP and NDN. It is corrupt and fraudulent and does not improve teaching (even in the “mom & Pop” charters)… So basically, Cuban’s conclusion that the charters are not differing in teaching methods, strategies, approaches, still holds. also, NDN was instituted before the charters came along claiming to be “innovative” in their alternative methods so they can’t claim that either. Different strategy altogether and it has become a scheme for profits siphoned off … in the case of a special ed school in MA where the governor’s brother-in-law set up the
        “school” to capture funds withdrawn from the special ed budget in the local town. The legislature closed the loopholes after the funds were stolen but the charter scheme keeps opening up more and more loopholes. They had no concern for teaching methods; they would buy buildings, hire uncertified teachers and “save” money then pay the school director an exorbitant salary and “bonus” — we saved money on snow plowing this year so “mr. CEO you get a bonus.” That was there innovation. Nothing to do with the instructional programs.

      • larrycuban

        Thank you, Jean, for the string of comments prompted by Joe’s remarks.

        From: Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice Date: Sunday, August 7, 2022 at 10:51 AM To: Larry Cuban Subject: [Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice] Comment: “Is Charter School Teaching Similar To Or Different From Teaching in Regular Schools?”

  12. good things are happening in public education; teaching practices from SIOP were implemented in civics education for elementary grade 4

  13. ” In my post, I explored the tacit understanding among supporters of charters that creating such schools would also lead to innovations in classroom practice. Surely, such innovations have occurred in charter schools, as both of us know. ”

    According to the MA State Auditor this is not the case. There are no innovations; in fact MA didn’t even define innovation; and there is no operational definition of Innovation. This report was written by the State Auditor Suzanne Bump prior to the 2016 vote by the taxpayers/voters to keep a cap on charter schools.

    The only innovation ? (you can’t really call it that) is time on task to practice taking tests on the computer in reading and math so you can take the MCAS or NAEP. The original Lab Schools at the State Universities were supposed to be places where things could be tested out and tried as new methods but they were all defunded. Occasionally a State University will run a summer reading clinic or some program to show the approaches and strategies for this but one of these are able to achieve /arrive at scale.

    As I mentioned several times here, the “teacher effect” has been ignored by all the research because it is now the R&D spent to prove that computers are better and teaching skills and practices have been abandoned in the process. Every study is headlined with the “effect of the computer”…
    I can’t say it too many more times but I have watched it over 3 decades now with computer firms giving “free” computers to academics who will then become marketing for the technology. ….. Marketing and turning every family “Customers” instead of citizens.

  14. the precious R&D funding …
    where did all the funding go? JDRP was the last gasp and then technology/computers took the larger proportion of R&D funding The “teacher effect” was ignored (what the teacher does to improve learning) and every headline became COMPUTER INSTRUCTION Works… ignoring the fact that there was a teacher effect.

    the NDN national diffusion network and dissemination work and the “validation program”. Diffusion funds were available to assist from one state to another (if programs had been validated in a local school). There was also a National Practice File that only operated for a trial basis; it was separate from ERIC but the aim was to find programs with evidence/proven effectiveness and offer the descriptions and training across states. At some point there was a major turn in the road because the labs and centers were working on these issues and goals … It became so competitive and of course the corporate /business model preempted the “practice file” that was meant to share classroom programs and school practices/programs.

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