To the Editor:
Diane Ravitch’s recent Princeton speeches let down Princeton residents seeking thoughtful remarks on the state of education, who instead got inflammatory rhetoric.
Ms. Ravitch misrepresented the state of charters in New Jersey, and by implication Princeton Charter School (PCS). Unfortunately she declined our invitation to visit PCS before she spoke. Had she visited PCS, here is what she would have learned:
NJ Charters are Nonprofit Public Entities, Not Profit-Seeking Private Corporations: PCS and all New Jersey charters are school districts under state law and thus public entities. All are run by non-profit boards. Of the 87 schools chartered in New Jersey, only four are managed by for-profit charter management organizations. Our charters are subject to even more requirements than traditional districts. When New Jersey charters don’t perform, the state closes them.
PCS Does Not “Keep Out” minority and special education students: PCS and all New Jersey charters must and do accept all applications to enroll, and PCS admissions are determined by random lottery because of the overwhelming demand. Ms. Ravitch’s suggestion that we “push out” children who are more difficult or expensive to educate is unfounded.
PCS recruits for diversity and supports students: PCS students are incredibly diverse, representing many nationalities, races, and ethnicities from families with native speakers of 16 different languages. PCS has redoubled efforts to reach out to minority and lower income residents. Our parents and teachers go door to door and hold open houses in these communities to attract the broadest possible representation of students. Once enrolled, we provide support programs for every student in academic need, and free after-school facilities for families in financial need.
PCS fully supports special needs students: PCS has enhanced its special education services and classification policies. While other districts are busy declassifying students, PCS encourages the evaluation and support of all students with special education needs.
Rigor, assessment and accountability are good: Ms. Ravitch attacked President Obama’s efforts to instill in all public schools a well-defined, rigorous curriculum, testing to understand what students are learning, and more objectivity in teacher evaluation. PCS was founded by progressive Princeton parents and teachers who embraced these reforms, and makes no apologies for expecting the very best of our students and teachers.
Master teachers, not amateurs: Most outrageous was Ms. Ravitch’s blanket claim that charter teachers are “amateurs.” PCS recruits only highly experienced, fully certified teachers with a demonstrated record of excellence. Our teachers relish the challenge of helping all students succeed, and embrace testing to benchmark both student and teacher achievement.
The real ‘reign of error’ is Ms. Ravitch’s disingenuous attack on charters and teacher accountability on behalf of unions that oppose progressive reforms.
Even Ms. Ravitch concedes there are ‘good’ charters, and PCS is one of the very best anywhere. It is a shame she chose to electioneer on public property on the eve of gubernatorial and school elections instead of recognizing PCS as a model charter offering academic excellence for all, regardless of family resources.
Hardy Drive, President,
Princeton Charter School Board of Trustees