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Practicing educators are surprisingly ill informed about the practical problems charter schools and voucher policies face in implementation. Nor have they been schooled to ask the many questions these policies raise. As a consequence, important questions are not being asked. Unless charter school and voucher policies undergo close scrutiny and the issues become clear, we will have no basis for judging the validity of outcomes and their explanations. That is an old story in the history of reform.
Seymour Sarason, a luminary in the field of public education and long considered the voice of reason, is no opponent of charter schools and vouchers. But his long and vast experience forces him to predict that we will end up unable to explain why one charter school succeeds while another fails and that we will have no secure basis for learning from success or failure. Creating and sustaining a charter school is a complex and demanding task, but that issue has been scandalously ignored, as if it were a narrow engineering process for which good intentions are all that matters. And vouchers may introduce more problems than they solve, including under-funded schools, inexperienced teachers, and a lack of long-term planning.
Sarason is no dyspeptic critic, either. He speaks not from an armchair, but from his personal experience in creating new settings and studying what others have attempted. His book addresses the issues of the predictable problems of creating a new setting for educating our nation's children.
Why We Should Suspend Judgment
Lessons from Past Reforms
Charter Schools: An Alternative Rationale for Implementation
Charter Schools: Initial Observations
Charter Schools, Marriages, and Mergers
Vouchers and School Choice
Contexts of Productive and Unproductive Learning