Charter schools need a shout-out in Madison action plans

Scott Milfred:

Yet try to find any mention of charter schools in the Madison School District’s new strategic plan and you’ll feel like you’re reading a “Where’s Waldo?” book. You almost need a magnifying lens to find the one fleeting reference in the entire 85-page document. And the words “charter school” are completely absent from the strategic plan’s lengthy and important calls for action.
It’s more evidence that much of liberal Madison clings to an outdated phobia of charter schools. And that attitude needs to change.
Nearly 10 percent of Wisconsin’s public schools are charters. That ranks Wisconsin among the top five states. Yet Madison is below the national average of 5 percent.
Charter schools are public schools free from many regulations to try new things. Parents also tend to have more say.
Yet charters are held accountable for achievement and can easily be shut down by sponsoring districts if they don’t produce results within a handful of years.
One well-known Madison charter school is Nuestro Mundo, meaning “Our World” in Spanish. It immerses kindergartners, no matter their native language, in Spanish. English is slowly added until, by fifth grade, all students are bilingual. My daughter attends Nuestro Mundo.
It was a battle to get this charter school approved. But Nuestro Mundo’s popularity and success have led the district to replicate its dual-language curriculum at a second school without a charter.
The School Board has shot down at least two charter school proposals in recent years, including one for a “Studio School” emphasizing arts and technology.
Madison School Board President Arlene Silveira told me Friday she supports adding charter schools to the district’s action plans in at least two places: under a call for more “innovative school structures,” and as part of a similar goal seeking heightened attention to “diverse learning styles.”

I agree. I believe that diffused governance, in other words a substantive move away from the current top down, largely “one size fits all” governance model within the Madison public schools is essential.