Education policy analyst Andrew Coulson travels to Michigan’s prestigious Cranbrook High School, one of the top ten private high schools in America, in “Push or Pull,” the second episode of School, Inc.
Cranbrook -- and other excellent private schools in America --typically don’t “scale-up” to replicate their excellence on a larger scale and serve more students. So, is there someplace else where scaling up excellence is happening? The answer is “yes” and it is in America’s charter schools. But when charter schools compete with public schools, there is often trouble ahead.
From those involved we hear how the Sabis School, tremendously successful in Springfield, Massachusetts, was prevented from operating in nearby Brockton, because a school superintendent decided such excellence was simply not in the best interest of his public school. For six years the American Indian Charter School, part of a small network of California charter schools, ranked among the top middle schools in California. But in the spring of 2013 the Oakland Public School District voted to shut down all three American Indian Schools, because the charter school had chosen to use its own special education services, and not those controlled by the state; that resulted in a loss of revenue to the public school system. Not every story has a negative outcome.
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the city’s vibrant charter schools came to the rescue, and provided the facilities and services which other schools needed to get back on their feet. Finally, Coulson travels to South America, for a comparison of how the success of Chile’s wine industry sets the scene for the growth of the country’s successful private school networks. Chile’s private schools consistently outperform schools in all other Latin American countries, but trouble is always on the horizon. Still the private school networks of Chile provide a note of optimism in Andrew Coulson’s journey to discover the secrets of School, Inc.