BRUNSWICK – Two recent articles on charter schools have appeared in your newspaper. I would like to present a different picture of charter schools.

The subject is covered very well in a review of the movie “Waiting for Superman” by Diane Ravitch, a well-respected professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. The review appeared in the Nov. 11, 2010, issue of The New York Review of Books. Here are 10 points from this review.

l. The director of the film, Davis Guggenheim, is a well-known supporter of charter schools. Add the famous names of Bill Gates and President Obama to Guggenheim’s. All are products of private schools.

2. Not one successful public school teacher, principal, superintendent of schools or public school district appears or is mentioned in the film.

3. The film quietly acknowledges that only one in five charter schools is able to get “amazing results.” This statistic is drawn from a national study of charter schools by a Stanford University economist, Margaret Raymond. The study also concludes that 37 percent of charter schools were worse than the public schools studied, and the remaining 46 percent had academic gains no different from similar public schools.

4. Geoffrey Canada, head of the Harlem Children’s Zone, and featured prominently and positively in the film, makes $400,000 a year and uses assets provided by wealthy New Yorkers of $200 million to provide a wide array of social services for pupils in his two schools, including medical and social services to overcome the effects of poverty.

5. When Canada’s entire first class of middle school students didn’t get good enough test grades, he kicked out the entire class.

6. The director of the film, Davis Guggenheim, appears to demand that public schools start firing “bad” teachers. but he also feels, like other charter school advocates, that you can recruit and train principals who have little or no educational experience or teacher training. This goes against common sense. Do we really want untrained and inexperienced doctors and lawyers?

7. The schools of Finland are highly praised in the film. Their improvements in educational performance stem from increased expenditures on teacher preparation, support and retention, not on charter schools and frequent, high-stakes student testing. Also, Finland, like Japan, has a poverty rate of 5 percent, as compared to our 20 percent.

8. To mount a campaign to support the adoption of charter schools, organizations like the Gates Foundation, the Dell Foundation and the Broad Foundation have given generous amounts of money.

9. Maine is now participating in a struggle of ideas between those who see public education as not only a fundamental right but a vital public service, like the public provision of police and fire protection, and those who believe that the private sector is always superior to the public sector.

10. Like many other public school educators, I believe, as does professor Ravitch, that public education is one of the cornerstones of American democracy. The public schools must accept everyone, no matter their race, language, economic status, or disability.

– Special to The Press Herald