Here’s the problem, Madam Secretary: The nature of teacher union contracts — rigid and prescriptive — is what typically precludes wider adoption of successful charter school innovations. While Clinton’s recitation of teacher union scripture may win her endorsements, it won’t win any votes from parents of New York City’s 95,000 charter school students, most of whom are Latino and black, nor will it win her the votes of the parents of another 50,000 city students who sit on charter school waiting lists, nor the the support of the parents of three million students who attend charter schools nationwide.
Can we blame them? The most recent CREDO study out of Stanford notes that New York City’s charter schools “stand out for providing positive gains for their students in both math and reading and serving a student body with achievement equal or higher than the average achievement within the state,” including black and Hispanic students, those from high-poverty backgrounds and those with disabilities.
Let’s take one simple example of the way in which teacher contracts forestall realistic implementation of innovative approaches to learning. While typical New York City school students attend school for a contractually-prescribed 178 days, 6 hours and 20 minutes per day, public charter schools are free to extend both the length of the school day and the length of the school year. Many N.Y.C. charter school students attend school for between 190 to 200 days per year, and about eight hours a day.