Charter schools excel – at PR

UPDATE: Matt Shafer Powell, chief content officer of WFYI Public Media, provided the following statement regarding this post and its reference to a letter supporting the Rooted School charter application:

As a journalistic enterprise, WFYI Public Media does not endorse nor support any particular argument or set of opinions within the charter school debate.  It’s important to us that the public recognizes WFYI as an independent voice, without editorial bias or influence. The letter in question is not representative of WFYI’s viewpoint.  It was written by a non-news employee who was unaware that the inclusion of WFYI’s name on the letter was an objectionable practice.

WFYI recently developed an ethics guide for each of its employees and will soon embark on an organization-wide training program to make sure everyone understands their role in our journalistic mission. Our hope is that such incidents as this are rare or non-existent in the future.

Kudos to WFYI for this thoughtful, ethical response.

Research has found that charter schools, overall, are no more effective than public schools at raising student achievement. But there’s one area where they seem to run circles around public schools:

Marketing and public relations.

How else can you explain the way individual charter schools generate so many favorable stories in the news media? It’s an impressive skill, one that public-school leaders might want to study.

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Touting school grades bolsters dubious policy

Those of us who advocate for public schools tend to blame outside forces when we lament the move to grading schools on an A-to-F scale. In Indiana, we may blame former Gov. Mitch Daniels, former state Superintendent Tony Bennett, state legislators, business groups and others.

MCCSC bannerBut public schools and school districts have helped validate this questionable policy. When they brag about their own grades, they’re endorsing the system as a measure of school quality.

Some of what they’re doing is old-fashioned public relations. At a time when public education is under attack, schools and districts can point to high grades to defend their reputation. “See?” they’re saying. “Our schools aren’t ‘failing’ like some of those public schools you hear about.”

And as public schools compete for students with charter schools and private schools, they are likely trumpet any endorsement they get. After all, charter schools are doing it – for example, here and here and here.

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