Monday, June 25, 2012

The Idiocy of Closing Emily Fisher Charter School

Although I’ve written on this subject before, it bears repeating that the decision to close Emily Fisher Charter School is a reckless, short sighted and wrongheaded decision that is symptomatic of a process that is close minded and overly tied to the current obsession with data that seems to guide decision making among our politicians and educational leaders.
By tying decisions on the closing of charter schools simply to progress on test scores neglects the need to look at our teenagers holistically. There seemed to be absolutely no consideration to the enormous growth that many of Emily Fisher’s students demonstrated at becoming mature, caring, motivated, and forward thinking young men and women.
By talking to students who presently or previously attended Emily Fisher (which I’m sure was never done by the decision makers), and reading stories in the local papers, it was clear that Emily Fisher provided a safe, nurturing, and supportive environment that instilled a strong sense of the importance that education plays in breaking the cycle of poverty that many Fisher students are otherwise trapped in. These lifelong lessons may not pay immediate dividends in test scores, and though I accept the fact that the data were disappointing, there is a good chance that many of these students may one day reconnect with school, whether it be at a community college or trade school. The seed has been planted, and its importance cannot be overstated.
The case of Emily Fisher makes it abundantly clear that our State officials need to redesign the metrics they use to make decisions on the success of charter schools, their continuation, and their closing. It is my hope that Dallas Dixon, his “investors,” and others involved in the creation of Emily Fisher will try again. I personally knew the former student, affectionately known as “Lips,” that recently met with a tragic death. In the short time I knew him it became clear that the school had a profound effect on his sense of optimism towards the future. In the inner city, this is an important thing.  I would have loved an opportunity to share my belief on creating a culture of learning based on a “culture of entrepreneurism;” it would have worked beautifully in a school such as Emily Fisher that placed a high value on student empowerment and self-advocacy. My heart goes out to the students, teachers, and administrators at the school. They deserved a second chance.

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