School Talk

Former Hasbro CEO calls it Insanity to Block the Expansion of Charter Schools in Rhode Island

Alan G. Hassenfeld, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hasbro Toys, is chairman of Hassenfeld Family Initiatives has come out publicly in the Providence Journal on the side of Rhode Island’s charter schools, condemning anti-charter bills before the legislature and praising Governor Raimondo for her promise to veto them if they reach her desk.

Too often in Rhode Island our government does not do enough to promote changes that will have the potential to expand opportunity and improve services for our citizens because those changes go against the status quo. As a former business leader, I’ve always thought it necessary to stick my neck out to speak out when this happens. It is happening. In January, the House of Representatives passed a bill by an overwhelming margin that would effectively end the expansion of charter schools. This bill sends the wrong message to businesses and families looking for change and opportunity. Why would we seek to prevent more students from attending schools that are doing such great work?

Hassenfeld, rightly, hones in on the stubbornness of the all too powerful status quo protectors. He questions their insistence on clinging to an educational monopoly while ignoring the incontrovertible evidence that kids (especially low income children of color) are being well served in these schools.

I’ve always struggled to comprehend the stubborn will of many who stand in the way of positive innovations in education. Charters, and the dedicated public school teachers who work within and lead them, have been able to adapt and continuously improve their work. It’s time we move on from rejecting change wholesale, embrace the expansion of charters, and encourage the use of their successful practices in our traditional public schools.

Insanity. That is the word Hassenfeld uses to describe Rhode Island’s long history in education of doing the same thing and expecting different results.  He couldn’t be more right.

What do you think?

One thought on “Former Hasbro CEO calls it Insanity to Block the Expansion of Charter Schools in Rhode Island

  1. Erika –

    Name 5 innovations that have come out of RI charter schools other than the no kidding longer hours helps, more parental involvement helps, or smaller classes help. Innovations that can be done within the framework of traditional public schools. I have talked with many (of course that’s not all I admit) teachers from probably a dozen different communities and NONE have ever said “yeah, we learned this from the charter experiment and it’s something we can use in our local school.”

    Check out RIDE’s website on charters — see anything that list actual innovation? I at least give credit to MASS that their charter website at least picks one thing (even if some are suspect) for each charter.

    Name 5 waivers charter schools have been given that have proven effective and thus been implemented statewide (note on the second part, I grant you the charter schools have no control over what RIDE or the General Assembly do, but they could promote what those items are).

    RIDE keeps preaching charters get “waivers” to get better results; okay, what are those waivers (other than unionized faculty) and WHY hasn’t RIDE pushed to get the ones that are under the Commissioner’s power waived for every student?

    We’ve had a “virtual” charter now for 3 years – what have we learned about hybrid instruction? (have you seen the test scores from that school – the only thing that’s high in that school is the profits margin made by the owners of the school).

    You have two charters that are among the lowest (in fact, one is the LEAST diverse school in the state) in terms of taking low-income/minority kids..yet they underperform many of the main local schools they draw from in the sending communities. Seriously, what is the point of that school except to hurt the kids from the sending LEAs because you just on net hurt the resourcing of those LEAs and made them have a higher proportion of harder to educate (don’t know the correct term, but it’s well documented that lower income/minority correlates with lower educational outcomes and thus the need for MORE resourcing, not less).

    let’s also be honest – charters are a mixed bag, just like traditional schools. Some are doing great things with the most disadvantaged kids. Some are simply pseudo-private schools, operating under very loose supervision (question to you – Have you actually read the standards for RI charter schools and then seen the final report from RIDE on some, especially the ones with low outcomes or the ones that operate without any real accountability/transparency?).

    Honestly, it’s the fault of state leadership, including Gov, GA members, RIDE/Board of Ed, Mayors, Town Councils, School name it who didn’t have the guts to close failing schools and also don’t have the guts to close ineffective/unnecessary charters as well as the lack of insight to come up with a proper budgeting/funding.

    I’ll also blame the charter school community – you know the ones that give you a bad name..police yourself – demand and show MORE accountability and transparency show your bright stars shine and the ones that do give you a bad name — and thus the push to impact ALL of you –get exposed so they’ll fix or get out the way.

    The problem – too many see this as one side or the other..the truth is in between but the ones who see the good don’t want to acknowledge the failures/low performers and the ones who see the bad don’t want to acknowledge the good outcomes being shown in at least a few charters.

    It would surely help though if RIDE took some leadership and instead of serving as the protector of charters, served as the leader for ALL students – close the bad, do no harm to the good, and educate the community on what good things are coming out of charters.

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