Back in the 1970s, Powers Catholic High School in Flint experimented with a new educational concept called Student-Teacher Assessment periods or STAs. The idea was to treat teenagers as adults and let them have one or two “open” periods per class every week where they could meet with the teacher or go to the library on their own to explore educational opportunities.
Right. Of course it had the best of intentions and no doubt there must have been some successes, but without structure and oversight STAs mostly devolved into non-educational goofing off at best and decidedly non-Catholic shenanigans at worst. By the time I was a freshman, STAs were largely scrapped. We did have one STA per week for Religion class (where I learned how to play Spades and drink grape soda, and Paul Harchick taught me some dirty words in Polish), but by the next year they were gone.
I did, however, learn two very valuable lessons: First, don’t be surprised when baby boomers ruin things for the rest of us. Second, even the best ideas need some sort of oversight.
In case you don’t know the backstory on the cartoon, here’s a brief summary: Detroit Public Schools are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. The state can either step in and invest to make things better or let it go bankrupt then have to step in and invest a whole lot more. Governor Snyder and the Senate have agreed to a plan that has some hope of working. The House has come up with a plan that is much more convoluted, including removing any real oversight of charter schools. Part of the reason for that is the massive amounts of money Dick and Betsy DeVos (big time advocates of for-profit charters) have “donated” to many Representatives.
Charter schools can certainly be part of the solution for bringing real, effective educational opportunity to the children of Detroit. But they are not a magic cure-all. State House Republicans need to stop chugging the charter school serum directly from the bottle, accept that charters — especially for-profit charters — need to be accountable for taking public money, and get back to some serious work. (It’s like they still have STAs!)