School Inc. – A Personal Journey with Andrew Coulson

Episode Two Description

Air date: 04/04/2017

School Inc. – A Personal Journey with Andrew Coulson

Episode Two: Push or Pull

 

Short Episode Description

The late Andrew Coulson, education policy analyst, travels to Michigan’s prestigious Cranbrook Schools, 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 stage and serve more students.  So, is there some place else where scaling up excellence is happening?  The answer is “yes” and it is in America’s Charter schools, but when charter schools are seen to compete with public schools, there can be 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 competition was simply not in the best interest of his public school district.

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.  However, 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, which 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 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 Coulson’s journey to discover the secrets of School Inc.

 

Long Episode Description

In Push or Pull, the second episode of School Inc., the late Andrew Coulson, senior fellow of education policy at Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, travels to Michigan’s prestigious Cranbrook Schools one of the top ten private high schools in America.  There is no question that the education provided at Cranbrook is of the highest quality, attested to by students, faculty, and administrators alike.  Why, Coulson asks, have schools like Cranbrook and other excellent private schools in America not “scaled up” to replicate their excellence on a larger scale and serve more students?

If private schools like Cranbrook have a mission that prevents growth, is there some place else where scaling up excellence is happening?  The answer is “yes” and it is in America’s Charter schools. Even here, success is not universal.  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 competition was simply not in the best interest of his public school district.

The program goes to the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) school in Austin, Texas, part of the highly successful KIPP network of schools, to learn from students and administrators just why KIPP is universally successful in getting its students into college.

When charter schools are seen to compete with public schools, there can be trouble ahead. One of the most striking cases of a district voting to shut down high performing charter schools played out in Oakland, California. 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.  However, in the spring of 2013 the Oakland Public School District voted to shut down all three American Indian Schools.  The reason was not unlike that in Massachusetts, in this case 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 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. In Chile growth and quality go hand in hand, which is the connection between winemaking and education.  Chile’s Private schools consistently outperform schools in all other Latin American countries, but trouble is always on the horizon.  When the government suggests that it may have to curtail its private schools to protect its public schools, investors shy away and school networks fail to grow or even exist.

Still the private school networks of Chile provide a note of optimism in Andrew Coulson’s journey to discover the secrets of School Inc.