Sharing “best practices” in education isn’t exactly a new idea, but a recent symposium in Oakland, Calif., gave it an unusual twist: Charter school and regular public school officials sat down together to share ideas.
The brainchild of Leadership Public Schools, a nonprofit charter-development group, the Oct. 15 conference explored issues from special education and curriculum to finance and labor relations.
“It’s not just about our kids, it’s about all public school students,” Mark Kushner, the founder of the San Francisco-based Leadership Public Schools, said in explaining the impetus for the conference. “This was designed to be a modest start to have charter school folks, district school folks, and county folks and others, such as school board members ... talking on these issues.”
The symposium drew about 100 people, Mr. Kushner said. Co-sponsors included the Alameda County, Calif., office of education, the Charter Schools Development Center, the California Charter Schools Association, and the Emery, Calif., school district.
One invited speaker was Eric E. Rofes, an education professor at Humboldt State University who has studied relations between charter schools and school districts.
“This day is a beginning, it is the seed, of what many of us hope will be a new era for relations between charters and district schools,” he told the gathering in prepared remarks.
“Even the staunchest charter opponent has to admit that charters are not a flash-in-the-pan fad,” he said. “Even the most vociferous charter advocate has to acknowledge today that 10 years from now, most of America’s children will continue to receive their education in district schools.”
Mr. Rofes argued that charters and districts are entering the “second stage” of their relationship, in which they will begin to acknowledge a shared educational mission and unite “to fight common enemies, especially those who do not believe that we underfund education in America.”
Sheila Jordan, the Alameda County superintendent, also spoke at the conference. Ms. Jordan and Mr. Rofes collaborated on a task force that issued a report in June titled “How Can We Reduce Conflict Between Charter Schools and School Districts?”
A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2005 edition of Education Week