While he's got significant hurdles to overcome (start up money, zoning clearance, etc.), let's assume this thing goes forward for argument's sake. What's this mean for Akron?
He wants to pay teachers $32,000 (plus $3,000 bonus) to work longer hours and more days. He said he'd want them to be part of the Akron Education Association. The school would use the so-called "No Excuses" model of Charter School, which the Beacon Journal spent space explaining here. The model has received recognition lately of being the only Charter Model that appears to boost student achievement, which was repeated in the Beacon Journal story.
Others suggest that the most successful part of the "No Excuses" model is the increased time spent in the classroom. And it is that which matters most for these schools' success. Of course, applying that to traditional public schools would involve significant investment, unless teachers would be willing to get their pay cut in half to take on more work. Not likely.
KIPP schools are the most famous utilizers of the so-called "No Excuses" approach to education. However, the KIPP school in Columbus (from which Tarle has tapped his principal) has struggled, initially only rating a C on the state report card, which improved to a B this year (though it would drop back to a C under the state's proposed new report card). The school's performance index score of 80 places it almost square in the middle of the pack of all Charter Schools, and is worse than more than 86% of all school buildings in the state.
KIPP officials in Ohio complained mightily about not being able to use Teach for America personnel, which they have done throughout the rest of the country (the TFA and KIPP founders are married to each other). As the Washington Post's Jay Matthews put it in 2008:
KIPP schools without TFA"are making good progress, but they have made clear to me it is much harder for them to find the kind of teachers who can adjust to the KIPP system when they do not have TFA teachers in their cities."
Teach for America has received a special carve out from the Ohio General Assembly and Governor, which means that their instructors won't have to adhere to the same state teacher certification requirements that all other teachers do. Expect many to be placed in KIPP.
It was encouraging to see that Tarle is approaching the right Charter School folks here, especially Marshall Emerson III, who started e-Prep in Cleveland -- one of the best Charters in the state.
Unfortunately, Mr. Tarle received his sponsorship from the Ohio Council of Community Schools in Toledo, whose track record of performance is quite spotty, having sponsored many of David Brennan's schools (like Life Skills) and the Ohio Virtual Academy (run by K-12, Inc.) and Brennan's online school, OHDELA. In other words, the OCCS is comfortable having for-profit operators run its schools, regardless of the success those schools have (Life Skills' graduation rates are 10.8%, OHVA and OHDELA's graduation rates are about 40%).
Let's hope that Tarle listens more closely to Mr. Emerson and not OCCS. For as Emerson himself put it in the Beacon story:
“A lot of people have the right intentions in Ohio when they start charter schools, but let’s be honest, most of them are crap ... So I think that he’s doing the right thing. He’s doing his diligence. He’s visiting the right programs, and I believe he has his heart in the right place.”According to the Beacon Journal story, Tarle is going to approach the Akron school board about this. It is a dubious proposition to seek a seal of approval from a district that loses $7.5 million per year because Charter Schools cut their per pupil state aid so much. It is tough to square Tarle's statement here:
“Helping inner-city kids to get the education and a real chance in life is the best thing I can think to do and that’s why I’m here.”with the fact that, because of how the state funds Charters, Tarle's Charter School would effectively diminish the educational opportunities for "inner-city kids to get the education and a real chance in life" who remain in the Akron Public Schools.
Perhaps Tarle has an opportunity here to help change the perception of Charter Schools in this state. If he goes to the Board and says, "I want to start a Charter School, but don't want to hurt the kids who remain in the district, so I will return any state revenue I receive that would cut the per pupil amount Akron Public receives."
My guess is he won't, though given what I know of Tarle (I got to know him a little bit during the campaigns of the last couple years), I wouldn't be stunned if he did something like that. He is quite the free spirit.
If he did, wouldn't that be fascinating? A Charter School operator who doesn't want to hurt the Public Schools, but assist them?
Tarle has a chance to do some real good here. Let's hope he does.