This is an important issue, and I'm glad Pondiscio and Joanne Jacobs have put it out there. Many, even most, of the charter (and private) schools offer the same "all fuzzery, all the time" curricula and instruction as your neighbourhood Everyday Math Academy. They can and do get better results (in some cases, but not in most) by creating an achievement-focused school climate, hiring young people with loads of energy (who rarely stay for long), having a certain selection bias -- not necessarily the accused "creaming" of high performers, but simply the ability to select students whose families support the "mission" of the school -- and the ability to remove students who are clearly dysfunctional or misplaced.In a follow-up, my email correspondent suggested I point out that not all charter schools are fuzzy:
Nevertheless, schools like KIPP and HSA* (who are firmly committed to fuzzery) could and should do much, much better and probably would do so with a better-constructed curriculum. They need to start out with an intensive compensatory model (DI or DI-like) that gradually morphs into more student-led investigative and project-based work. Morningside does this (Catherine, you may not see that so much at the summer session, because the summer school is not organized like the full-time school) with empirical evidence of success. The students need to develop the critical foundation skills early and fluently and then there can be more balance between teacher-directed instruction and student investigation (still pretty teacher-directed).
All the hoopla about teacher accountability, incentive schemes etc. is missing the mark. It's like saying we're going to hire the top doctors and forbid them to use antibiotics, effective surgical techniques or diagnostics and simply command them to "heal the sick."
What I see is few to NO "bad teachers" in the last 15 years -- the demands of the job are such that those who can't, quit or are pushed out. Not publicly "fired" but counseled out. There are incredibly talented and hard-working (and smart and well-educated) people in the ranks now, but weak curricula and demands for "all fuzzery all the time" seriously handicap them -- and the students.
The Charter Day School has a significant precision teaching component.
The Arthur Academy has strong Direct Instruction and Core Knowledge elements.
* Harlem Success Academy