Teacher's Desk: Charter Blame Game

Two recent education pieces have me thinking, and the second with much concern, because I had not thought of our misguided youth in quite the way the author presented. The first article was published in last Sunday’s Denver Post’s Perspective section under My Turn by Spencer Weiler, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Northern Colorado. It was about the so-called disparity of special-education students and other "diverse populations" in Colorado’s charter schools. As for the second piece, for the life of me, I do not remember where I read it or who the author was -- but in essence, it recited the cold, hard facts about today's youth. They are dropping out of school and not earning diplomas, but the real clinker is that many, many have criminal records. These young people are not qualified to join the armed forces and the future security of our country is significantly impeded. What a chilling thought!

Spencer Weiler in his piece, spouts statistics about charter schools in Colorado: that charter schools’ populations statistically have less free and reduced lunch students, less Hispanic populations, less African American, and less special needs students. Let’s face it, if one pools the data in such a way as he has with statewide numbers instead of comparing charter populations with their own district populations, the demographics would be far closer statistically, so in essence, his theory is fraught with misguided comparisons.

I had to truly shake my head with his comparisons because the charter schools, as well as, the Denver public high school I’ve worked all had the same diverse populations. My own high school, a Denver charter school, has a 20% special needs population, about 75% Hispanic, 20% African American, and 5% white. This is close to the Denver Public Schools’ demographics as well.

I even know of more than one district high school that refused to admit special education students. Unfortunately the student in one case and the parent in another did not want to “rock the boat,” and file suit, but had every reason to do so.

The schools Mr. Weiler commended, DSST and West Denver Prep, have culturally diverse and economically challenged populations as well and are top performing schools with high expectations, structurally sound programs, and a consistent, positive, even uplifting, school culture. Parents flock there because they want their children to succeed and they want to be partners in their students’ work and ultimate success.

It is time to stop pointing fingers, blaming charters, and teach the students enrolled in your own district schools.

Kathleen Kullback is a licensed special educator at Colorado High School Charter with an MA in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and is a former candidate for the Colorado State Board of Education.