Education As Business: Advice on Starting a Charter School
The website, profitableventure.com, describes itself as a “project… made possible as the result of the committed input of some selfless entrepreneurs, investors, corporate leaders, and career minded individuals; who would rather remain anonymous.” However, the acknowledged leader behind the site is a “serial entrepreneur” from Nigeria, Ajaero Tony Martins, who has the goal of becoming a billionaire in his lifetime. Martins also offers a “kick-ass millionaire mentorship academy” (KAMMA) for $497 a year.
On his profitableventure.com site, Martins and his mystery writers offer lengthy advice on starting a charter school.
One piece of advice Martins et al. offer regards enrolling a certain kind of student– the motivated kind:
So if you are looking towards staying competitive in the industry, then you should try as much as possible to hire highly competent teachers that can impart knowledge, enroll students with the willingness to learn and ensure that you school as the facility, equipment and environment that can make it easier for pupils to learn and understand.
Martins et al. also hint at “retraining” teachers to “perform as expected,” which, taken to extreme, is a sure way to kill the creative, individual ownership of one’s teaching:
Lastly, ensure that you make provision for training and retraining of your teachers; with that, they will be able to perform as expected by them
Also, one must retain students in order to retain government dollars:
Aside from getting parents to enroll their wards in your school, your ability to retain students who are registered in your school is key factor that will guarantee that you continue to receive financial support from the government.
However, the end-all-be-all is student scores on the standardized tests– and outdoing the competition on those test scores:
Over and above, if you want to increase student retention in your school, then you must ensure that students in your school are well taught so that they can favorably compete with their counterparts in other schools whenever they have to write national or state based exams. Parents should be able to see improvement on their wards; that is basically what you need to do to stay afloat.
Moreover, if the test scores are high, Martins et al. suggest that the school can better choose its students:
Beyond every reasonable doubt, if students from your school are always coming top in national exams, you are definitely not going to struggle to get parents to enroll their wards in your school as a matter of fact, you would have to set – up a screening committee and introduce strict screening test in order to turn down some students because you will always get more students requesting to enroll in your school than your facility can accommodate.
Even though the choice to attend a school is supposedly up to the parent and is also supposedly decided (in many states and for many charter schools) by lottery, it is certainly possible for schools to “screen” students by making it difficult for the undesirable lottery winners to remain at the school by, say, singling them out using a “got to go” list.
Martins et al. continue by raising the topic of money in promoting the charter brand, including “leveraging social media”:
If your intention of starting a charter school is to grow the charter school beyond the location the school is located and to have a charter school brand that is recognized in the whole of the United States of America, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your charter school brand.
In promoting your charter school brand and corporate identity, you should leverage on both print and electronic media. As a matter of fact, it is cost effective to use the internet and social media platforms to promote your charter school brands, besides it is pretty much effective and wide reaching.
Interestingly, Martins et al. also assume that American charter schools in general value specialized certifications (as opposed to retrained indoctrination of The Way We Do Things Here), which also assumes that charter school teachers do not come and go like the steady movement of a turnstile as they are burned out, used up, and replaced:
Encourage your staff members to pursue certifications in their various area[s] of teaching specializations; it will help your organization’s profile and of course it will help the individuals. You can choose to sponsor some of the certifications or pay part of the fee. It will serve as encouragement to your staff members.
Martins et al. suggest that charter school founders invest in their teachers, which would certainly “serve as encouragement.” However, the obsessive focus on driving up test scores is at odds with investing in faculty. Simply put, the teachers become expendable, which is particularly the case in the intense, strict, micromanaged atmosphere of the “no excuses” charter world, as this 2015 research from Alfred Chris Torres of Montclair State University and Scholars Strategy Network shows:
Overall, I discovered that teacher perceptions of school disciplinary environments can affect their career choices in two important ways:
- School-wide behavioral rules are considered critical to “no-excuses” schools, and teachers in some of these institutions have little input into the creation or adaptation of strict behavioral expectations, and enjoy little discretion to influence exactly how rules are applied. Experienced teachers, especially, can find such strict sets of rules frustrating because they undermine their professional autonomy. Or teachers may end up in conflict with school leaders on issues of how best to discipline or shape the behavioral socialization of students. When teachers feel such frustrations, as many explained in interviews, they may choose to leave.
- Teacher burnout in “no-excuses” charters is often attributed to exhaustion from long working hours, but as psychologists understand, feelings of inefficacy can also lead to burnout. Some teachers I interviewed said they found it difficult to enforce detailed behavioral expectations throughout the day, leaving them feeling not very successful. For others, difficulties in enforcing school-wide rules and punishments led to increased student resistance and undermined student-teacher relationships. Since teachers value positive relationships with students, they may choose to leave if they feel good ties are undermined.
When schooling becomes a business, human dignity and creativity die.
The education-as-business focus that has found an outlet in America’s charter schools feeds competition, and marketing strategy, and the potential for replication, and test-centrism, but it fails at what matters:
Nurturing the joy of teaching and learning.