Charter Schools and Discipline

Charter schools were conceived in large part as an alternative to underperforming public schools. Charter schools allow educators and entrepreneurs to create new teaching models. More flexibility will allow more successful approaches for dealing with not only instruction but also behavior and discipline problems that impinge on the effectiveness of schools.

The ability to experiment created enthusiasm nationwide for the charter school movement. Charter school enrollment has doubled since 2006. Today more than 2.2 million K-12 students are enrolled in the 6000 charters schools operated in 42 states and Washington, DC.

A main advantage that charter schools have over other public schools is that the tremendous amount of paperwork is significantly decreased. In fact, the reduction of paperwork and administrative fiats are some of the prime reasons that charter schools are becoming so popular.

Unfortunately, the creativity and lessoned paperwork of charter schools may be in danger. For instance, of the eight schools that applied for charters in Washington, D.C., all applications required more than 200 pages. The longest was more than 700 pages. Paperwork paralysis is one of the ways other public schools lost the ability to innovate.

New Orleans has the largest share of students enrolled in charter schools, but they are being pressured to adopt a standardized discipline system and a standardized enrollment procedure. Although administrators have been trying to bring about efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness, they are risking transforming charter schools into the very system that they are trying to improve.

As a district director of education for seven years and having worked in and with the nations two largest school districts (New York and Los Angeles), I have personally witnessed how bureaucracies have a natural tendency to grow. Hopefully, self-discipline and self-restraint will mitigate against this unnecessary stifling of the charter school movement.