So you want to open a charter school? Take my advice….

I recently received a very sincere email by an acquaintance who was interested in my recommendations for a math program that would be used in a charter school that was to be opened by a friend of said correspondent. My response is below:

Dear  _____,

I have many opinions, especially concerning your friend who is going to open a charter school. Before I offer any math advice, I will offer some advice on opening a “fair” charter school.

First, opening a charter school involves being socially responsible: that means, if you are taking my tax money to open a school that is going to compete with a public school, then it must feature the following in order to be “responsible.”

• Will it be nondiscriminatory? That is, will it admit English Language Learners and students with Learning Disabilities in the same proportion as public schools? If not, then I don’t want to be part of it.

• Will it use space that is being underutilized or vacant? If you’re going to displace students and teachers from an already operating public school, I don’t want to be part of it.

• If the school co-locates in the same location as a pre-existing school, will it make efforts to bring students from all programs together? If your goal is to run a school that segregates kids and puts some “above” others, then I don’t want anything to do with it.

• Will the school truly be focused on teaching and learning? If this is a school which is going to be centered solely on raising test scores by hiring an “educational coordinator” to crunch the numbers, well, you guessed it, I want no part of it.

• Will the school be excessively obsessed with “discipline” and “structure?” If this is going to be one of those military type schools with kids marching around in uniforms and getting suspended for whispering in class, then yes, I want nothing to do with it.

• Will the school hire teachers who are experienced and will the school abide by union rules? If you’re going to go out and get a bunch of Teach for America scabs to work in this school for 2 years, then I want nothing to do with it. In fact, I will go to the hearing where this school is proposed and argue that it be stopped in its tracks.

• Will the school employ administrators who have a deep background in teaching and learning? If you’re going to appoint some twenty-something with little classroom experience to run this school (and that includes your friend), then I think it’s a terrible, horrible idea. If your friend’s only background is in business, I can assure you that I will do everything I can to stop this school from opening.

• Will the school pledge to service all students for their entire term in the school? If the school is going to “counsel out” underperforming students just to keep its test scores looking good, then I can assure you, I will not offer any support in my lifetime or any future ones.

Otherwise, I’m in!

best regards,


About rmberkman

This blog is the sole musings of one Robert M. Berkman, an educator who has taught math, science and technology for the past 30 years in New York. You can react to all his posts by emailing him at
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One Response to So you want to open a charter school? Take my advice….

  1. Pingback: Thought Experiment: Is there such a thing as an “Ethical” Charter School? |

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