On more than one occasion I've had the following conversation.
Big Fan: So what do you do?
Me: I'm the IT Director for a non-profit charter management organization (CMO).
BF: What's a CMO?
Me: We're a non-profit organization that helps lead and manage charter schools.
BF: Oh, I'm not sure how I feel about you guys.
Me: What do you mean?
BF: Well, charter schools take my tax money and do the minimum with it in order to keep as much of that money as possible. You're not as responsible for the growth of your kids and you don't have any proof that your model works any better than the local school districts.
Me: Well, actually I have some information here on this digital publication that I can share that shows our growth, our story and from that you can see how we're using tax dollars. BF: I'm really not interested in that. You can put your iPad away.
While I know this may seem like an overdramatization it's an honest to God conversation I've had on more than one occasion. There seems to be a stigma around charter schools but it seems to be more of a mis-judgement. While there are some charter schools that aren't doing the best job they can, that shouldn't speak for the entire group. There are also local school districts that have failing schools and aren't providing the expected educational outcome with their students but they shouldn't get a pass just because local districts are the norm. This is pure ignorance due to a lack of knowledge and a lot of heresay.
Charter schools provide healthy competition within the education sector. We're all fighting for the same dollars and cents by providing the best education possible to the children we serve. This puts the power into the hands of parents. If a parent wants the best education program available for their child (and what parent doesn't) then the schools that provide this will receive more of those funds with a fuller enrollment.
The idea of competition is seen as a positive in other sectors, why should education be excluded? Our children deserve to be competed over more than our decision for who's smartphone we'll carry. Technology is a huge driver in the levelling of the playing field for this competition to occur. With technology we can craft different models for how we deliver, analyze and continuously perfect curricula and if it's not working we can pivot much faster to something that provides the expected outcome. No singular model is yet to stand out as the best way to teach and provide the best results in the 21st century; and how could it? Schools don't serve the same demographic of students. Each community has it's own set of needs and so the model has to be meticulously crafted to serve it's students. This may be the missing piece of traditional education. Let the competition begin.