It Takes a Village (by Lori VanRavenhorst)

LoripicTOPIC: How can access to more Public Charter schools help the state of Oregon education system?

INTRODUCTION:

I decided to take my experience volunteering at the Portland Village School, a public Waldorf environment and use it to research the ever-growing Public Charter School debate in Oregon. My process entailed really seeking to educate myself on the Charter legislation and situation here in the state of Oregon. My very narrow, and admittedly quite sweet, experience volunteering in the public charter Waldorf inspired school in North Portland inspired my actions but, I admit I didn’t know very much about the issues from a Governmental/economic perspective. I sought to get a broad sense of this subject in my research.

A bit of background on Public Charter Schools: Charter schools were created to help improve our nation’s public school system and offer parents another public school option to better meet their child’s specific needs. The core of the charter school model is the belief that public schools should be held accountable for student learning. In exchange for this accountability, school leaders should be given freedom to do whatever it takes to help students achieve and should share what works with the broader public school system so that all students benefit.

Research Collection:

Ash, Katie. “Charter-Space Seekers Run Into Hurdles On Several Fronts.” Education Week 32.37 (2013): 16-17. Professional Development Collection. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

I found this article particularly helpful in my research because it catalogs the immense difficulty start-up Charter Schools currently face getting funding or even started in the state of Oregon. The article follows Le Monde Public French Immersion School and it’s daunting battle to successfully start-up in the city of Portland. Bogged down by miles of red tape for not only being a smaller Charter School but also being a new school, loan financing from banks (they lack the taxpayer-backed bonds for school construction that public schools can seek) is nearly impossible. Code requirements for building locations also proves nearly impossible to find a venue for these brave, new schools. This article really highlights the political battle ensuing in the state of Oregon compared with what other states across the country are doing to help Charters finance their start-up capital, location zoning, and altogether achievement of fair funding.

Easton, Freda. “Educating The Whole Child,`Head, Heart And Hands’: Learning From The Waldrof Experience.” Theory Into Practice36.2 (1997): 87. Professional Development Collection. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

I feel that this article is highly effective in not only summarizing the Waldorf education method and its history but, it also depicts the effectiveness of such theory in practice. This article provides an in depth look at what can be learned from the Waldorf System and how its application to our deteriorating public school system could be monumental in narrowing the gap for our education standards. The article also examines the implementation of a Waldorf school in Cleveland, the first public Waldorf-inspired school in the United States, and its resulting success compared to other struggling inner-city schools. Freda Easton not only chronicles the many benefits of this education model but, also how public schools can adopt some of the core beliefs from this education model as inspiration for how we can continue to respond more creatively to the particular needs of children from diverse backgrounds in our pluralistic society.

“What’s Working.” Curriculum Review 54.3 (2014): 6-9. Professional Development Collection. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

This article, though brief, I find strengthens the argument for what is proving effective in primary through secondary education in the state currently, as of November 2014. The first order of agenda follows Wilson High School, the first school in the nation to introduce a for-credit mindfulness and meditation class. In the midst of growing school violence, suicide, and deterioration academically, classes like this one are proving to be very effective in releasing negativity and reestablishing productivity among students. I found this article applicable because this is the exact type of self-awareness and inner-connectedness programs like Waldorf instill from early age. If we were to implement more practice like this in the Public School system, I believe the results would be triple fold: a decrease in school violence/suicides, increase in academic productivity and maintained overall wellness for the students.

 The Public Writing

Mr. Rob Saxton

Deputy Superintendent

Department of Oregon Education

255 Capitol Street NE

Salem, OR 97310-0203

Dear Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton:

I am writing to urge your support and continued support for public charter schools in our state of Oregon. Public charter schools are the fastest growing sector of America’s public education system, and Oregon’s current education standings, along with increased racial and cultural diversity, merit some serious reconsideration to changes in our system. After volunteering for the past nine weeks in a local Public Waldorf Elementary school in NE Portland, I have been witness to some revolutionary methods of educational instruction and socialization in the classroom.

As you well know, Charter schools give parents options within the public school system and bring new ideas to education. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are tuition-free, receive federal, state and local funding, and are subject to the same educational accountability requirements as traditional public schools. Many proposals exist to strengthen and increase the number, accessibility and survival of Public Charter schools in Oregon, I feel our communities need to align with these proposals for several reasons.

The racial and cultural diversity in Oregon has increased dramatically over the past ten years, and continues to grow, with Oregon being the number one destination state people have moved to for the past two years, with no signs of slowing. An influx of diversity has not only contributed to a great cultural richness to our classrooms and communities, but also posed new challenges for our schools as they attempt to meet the needs of an increasingly culturally, racially and linguistically varied student population.

The Academic Achievement Gap describes the gap in achievement that often exists between low income or minority students and their peers. Oregon’s African American, Hispanic, and Native American students have higher dropout rates and lower graduation rates than their White or Asian peers. We need to keep focused on our goal of preparing ALL students for high school and beyond. For students today, a high school diploma is not enough anymore. Our students need to leave high school with the knowledge and skills to go on to career training, college, or living wage jobs, thereby And the only way that we will be able to get there is if teachers from kindergarten to high school are committed to helping each and every student to achieve at high levels. It will take all of us getting creative and working together at every level.

Studies conducted by nationally prominent research institutions show that public charter schools are successfully closing achievement gaps for students of color, English language learners, and students in poverty.

Charter schools are public schools that have the flexibility to try innovative ways of learning, and are held accountable for improved student achievement. In fact, research since 2010 shows that public charters are out performing traditional public schools. Studies by Stanford and Harvard have found that English language learners and low-income students perform better in public charter schools than in traditional public schools

Our state’s capacity to develop a skilled, prepared workforce is inextricably linked to the quality of our education system.  Innovations, such as charter schools, play a critical role in efforts to improve our education system and help more of our communities’ children access the educational opportunities they deserve.

Today, there are nearly 6,500 public charter schools serving more than 2.5 million students. Our Public Charter school movement ranks 26th in the country currently, and I would like to recommend that the state change its law to provide additional authorizing options, strengthen accountability, and ensure equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities. In addition, parental demand continues to far outpace supply of public charter schools, with hundreds of thousands of children currently on charter schools waiting lists nationwide. 365,000 students are on waiting lists to attend a charter public school. Several of the parents I have talked with at the Portland Village School were on waiting lists for anywhere from several months to a year. It’s time for Oregon evolve with the changes of the times and give our states children they education they demand and deserve.

According the educational publication Education Week, Oregon ranks 43rd for its education policies and results. Education Week found that fourth-graders in every state made more progress in math than those in Oregon. Every other state also outperformed Oregon when it came to getting more eighth-graders to score at the advanced level in math. Oregon ranked No. 45 when it came to boosting fourth-graders’ reading skills from 2003 to 2011, and it was No. 48 at getting minority students to catch up to white students in fourth-grade reading. These statistics are simply unacceptable. It is time we focus on viable and achievable solutions to these growing challenges if we are to stand any chance in the future. Public charter schools provide our state with real results and deem to be a safe investment in our children, and our state.

Again, I am in writing to ask for your support for public charter schools.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Lori Van Ravenhorst

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2 comments

  1. Micah Sharp

    Your introduction very effectively sets the stage the rest of the project. Stating your limit in knowledge and your intent to discover this knowledge through research adds a lot of credibility to your work. I have read most of your writings throughout the course so i have a pretty good idea about charter schools and the Waldorf style of education, but many have not so I thought it was good that prefaced these two ideas. However I think further discussion into the differences between standard and Waldorf education would further the effect of this piece.
    For the most part you did a good job of filling in your gaps in knowledge in your research collection, but I think an article looking into the economic side of things (beyond just establishing a school) would enhance your goal of a holistic view. I also really liked what you did with your letter since I read it last.
    Good Job!

  2. Taylor Reynolds

    Lori-

    Way to take initiative and learn about the different aspects of charter schools. I don’t know much about charter schools, and what I do know about them, I just learned from YOUR research. 🙂 It’s very in-depth and concise. Your sources are spot-on and really bring out the point you are trying to make. Your research is very informative, almost to the point that I get a little lost. (But that’s just me.) This is probably the best research I have seen on a paper. Your writing and research make your argument very strong, and you are very persuasive in your letter to the Department of Oregon Education!

    Your letter is my favorite part. You are very clear and have a strong tone throughout the whole passage. You drop a lot of knowledge bombs, almost to the point where they might not be able to refute anything you say. Your extensive knowledge and research answer your research question as well as provide a convincing argument as to why there should be more charter schools available to the public. I learned a lot reading your research and letter! Great job Lori.

    -Taylor

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