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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Surprise Fayettevile school leader wrote for Ark. Times on hot topic — charter schools

Posted By on Thu, May 1, 2014 at 1:12 PM

click to enlarge PAUL HEWITT: To lead Fayetteville schools.
  • PAUL HEWITT: To lead Fayetteville schools.
A belated welcome to Paul Hewitt, chosen this week as next superintendent of the Fayetteville School District. He'd not been an original applicant for the job, but in the course of advising the school board developed into the choice.

Hewitt, 68, after a long school career in California, joined the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions as associate professor of education leadership, curriculum and instruction. Hewitt will resign that job to become superintendent July 1.

Interesting sidelight to me: The division in which Hewitt works at UA is not to be confused with the Walton-financed education "reform" unit that promotes charter schools, school vouchers and alternatives to traditional public school districts. He wrote a 2010 guest article for the Times on the question of how open "open enrollment" charter schools really are. For example:

In Arkansas we call privately operated charter schools “open enrollment schools.” In reality, are these schools truly open enrollment? Does every child have an equal opportunity to enroll? The first ingredient is that the child must have a parent who truly cares and monitors his or her education. It is far less likely that children from an impoverished single-parent home will have a parent who is aware of the enrollment hoops they must jump through to enter a charter school. How about the child whose parents are drug addicted or don't have the capability to enroll them in the charter school? From the very beginning, a charter school limits its enrollment to only the children of parents who are actively involved in their child's education. Any teacher can tell you that these are the children who will also be the most successful in a regular school setting. This produces a very subtle form of discrimination. In some cases the discrimination may not be so subtle.
His article noted that a high-achieving charter school in Little Rock had a much smaller percentage of impoverished students than the Little Rock school district. Elsewhere, another highly touted charter school group had a higher student loss than neighboring public school districts, a sign perhaps of less motivated students being forced out. Loss of poorer students lifts the success rate of the remaining students.

The reformers didn't like the article much, I learned later, and quibbled with some of Hewitt's numbers. But I don't quibble with his broad conclusion:

The lesson to be learned is that policy makers must be very watchful of what is occurring as a result of school choice. Do we as a society want to see our school system divided into two distinct social classes based on race, economics, family structure, or other factors that create one system for the “best kids” and another system for all “the others?” Although charter proponents tout school choice, in reality it may not be the student's right to choose a school, but a school's right to choose the students.

So now Hewitt goes to work for a conventional public school district that must keep and work with all comers. Fayetteville has a pretty good record on that. 

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