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The Conflict between Boston Charter Schools and School Districts Problem Solution Essay

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Updated: Jan 25th, 2020

Introduction: Where the Conflict Begins

Charter schools have been an integral part of an education system in a range of states for quite a while. However, with the evolution of pedagogy, the development of new learning theories and teaching approaches, the necessity for teachers to adopt new approaches has emerged.

As a result, charter schools are currently experiencing the necessity to grow and expand, yet this growth is halted by the lack of financial support from school districts.

It should be born in mind that the emergence of the so-called charter schools is by no means an accident. The establishment of the charter school system was a response to the flaws of the U.S. education system, and an introduction of the model, that could authorise and build capacity in the education system of the state.

A closer look at the way in which the Boston charter schools are organised will reveal that the existing system presuppose a complete independency in terms of defining the program and the teaching strategies required for addressing the needs of the target students (i.e., the necessity to assist ESL students and the students, who lack financial support from their families) (Peyser para. 1–6).

Conflict Analysis: History, Participants and Environment

The conflict between charter schools and school districts is not new; in fact, the history of confrontations between the local authorities and the people representing corresponding education establishments has been going on since the day that the two phenomena emerged.

However, charter schools being a rather recent and specific innovation in the history of education, the dilemma regarding the freedom, which schools should be provided with, has taken a new turn.

Among the key participants, Boston charter schools and the local school districts must be mentioned. Neither of the opponents is willing to compromise, the schools demanding that they should be given the right to expand, and the school district authorities refusing to provide financial support from the establishments that they have practically no control over.

The environment, in which the conflict has been brewing for several years, is quite specific. Boston is a unique city with a rather rich history; however, as far as its economic success is concerned, the number of people coming from a low income background is quite high.

Therefore, the school district does not consider investing into the development of the Boston charter schools a rational step and prefers to disregard the demands of the Boston charter school teachers.

Dispute Resolution: A “Portfolio” School System

The significance of the conflict specified above is tremendous. While the confrontation between the parties involved into it is not as severe as military conflicts are (Harvard Business Review 69), it still causes a lot of concern and leads to a variety of questions, including the possible changes to the financial support for Boston public schools, which may suffer as a result of budget cuts that may be made by the school district.

Therefore, it goes without saying that the method for addressing the situation must satisfy the needs and meet the demands of both charter and public schools, as well as the school district.

The “portfolio” system, which has been suggested in order to address the problem specified above, truly is an original solution customised uniquely for the benefit of both Boston charter schools and local school districts. The solution suggested by the people concerned about the issue seems perfect; it hurts neither of the parties and at the same time works for the benefit of charter schools.

The very title for the new type of schools represents a perfect solution to the problem and the satisfactory result for all the parties involved, since it presupposes that the control over the new type of charter schools will be split in equal proportions between school districts and heads of the charter schools.

As a result, it will be possible for school districts to track down the financial transactions, which charter schools make, and check what charter schools’ administration spends the finances provided by the school district on. This is the power divide strategy that will help all those involved benefit (Melamed 1).

From the conflict management perspective, the solution to the confrontation between charter schools and school districts is impeccable.

Though it does involve a compromise and demands it from each of the parties, it rewards a positive response with an opportunity for charter schools to expand and for school districts to control the financial transactions of the Boston schools, therefore, making the process of budget distribution much easier. This, however, raises the question whether BATNA could be developed in case the school district refuses to compromise.

Interpreted as the best alternative to a negotiated solution, BATNA actually does not require that a negotiation with the opponent should be carried out: “BATNAs are critical to negotiation because you cannot make a wise decision about whether to accept a negotiated agreement unless you know what your alternatives are” (Sprangler 1).

The incorporation of BATNA in the set of tools for addressing the problem, however, invites the question concerning the future communication between the school district and Boston charter schools.

Methods Implementation: The Negotiation Process

While the solution described above seems quite obvious and presupposes that reasonable compromises should be made by both opponents, it would be too optimistic to assume that the negotiation process is going to be carried out impeccably and that the discussion procedure is going to flow smoothly.

Instead, it can be expected that the participants of the negotiation will be unwilling to accept their part of the compromise and refuse to make the final step towards reconciliation and the improvement of their relationships. Therefore, the negotiation process must be thought through outstandingly well.

Recognizing their mistakes will be the first step towards improving the situation for the Boston school district and the local charter schools. The process is not going to be easy, though, According to what Dunning’s research has shown, people traditionally fail to come to terms due to the inability to recognise their own mistakes:

“Recent research we have conducted, however, suggests that people are not adept at spotting the limits of their knowledge and expertise” (Dunning, Johnson, Ehrlinger and Kruger 83). As a rule, the unwillingness to admit the obvious failure can be explained by the fear of being socially ostracised and labelled as incompetent.

Herein the key to solving the conflict lies; it is essential to help the parties involved realise that their ability to recognise their fault redeems them as people, who are capable of telling the right solution from the wrong one. As Dunning put it, “If

poor performers are given the skills necessary to distinguish correct from incorrect answers, then they would be in a position to recognise their own incompetence” (Dunning et al. 85). The negotiation process, therefore, must be steered towards the compromising approach.

In other words, the emphasis must be put onto developing a compromising strategy instead of focusing on the competitive one. It would also be a good idea to steer the discussion to a more comfortable analysis of the financial changes with the help of accommodative approach.

Mediation Process: In Search for a Compromise

Though it is desirable that the opponents in question, i.e., school district members and the people representing charter schools, should attempt at solving the issue on their own. Unless both sides of the conflict recognize the necessity to reconcile and find points of contact, there will be no point in addressing the situation.

However, it could be argued that with the introduction of a third party, which will represent and entirely objective point of view, the process of negotiation will take place faster and more smoothly.

Therefore, it will be reasonable to suggest that the mediation process should be facilitated by the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education. As a third party that is not interested in the outcomes of the negotiation, yet is a major authority in the field of education, it will be a perfect mediator for resolving the specified conflict.

It can be suggested that charter schools should provide additional opportunities for students; thus, it will be possible to provide the schools with the status that they need.

For instance, creating courses for the students, who are willing to study specific subjects in depth, could be a way to solve the problem In addition, it is desirable that the Massachusetts charter schools should design a flexible system of upgrade based on the concept of economic and financial sustainability.

Thus, the costs will be reduced impressively, and the school districts will see the potential that charter schools and their students have. Finally, it will be a good idea to arrange basketball and soccer facilities in several charter schools so that major school sport related events could be held there.

Attracting participants from other schools will help raise the money that will be used as the means to upgrade charter schools to the necessary level.

Key Stakeholders and Major Factors: Evaluating the Situation

When it comes to defining the major stakeholders involved into the conflict, one is most likely to mention teachers of Boston charter schools and the members of the Boston school districts. Indeed, these are the sides of the conflict that remain in the spotlight most of the time; they are the main participants, and they are involved in most of the discussions concerning the issue in question.

True, the Boston charter schools and the Boston school districts are obviously two essential stakeholders in the specified conflict. However, there are other stakeholders that deserve to be mentioned.

First and foremost, students of the Boston charter schools must be recognised as the key stakeholders, since their future academic life, as well as their career and success in the business world, hinges on the decision that the local authorities make in order to address the situation. Naturally, such a great dependence on the outcome of the conflict makes the Boston charter school students the key stakeholders.

However, it would be wrong to disregard the aforementioned opponents when listing the major stakeholders. The choice that the Boston school district will make will obviously affect the school staff as well, as the latter will have to alter the teaching approaches, as well as introduce new teaching strategies in order to meet new requirements.

Indeed, expansion of an education establishment presupposes that the diversity rates in charter schools are going to increase significantly, which will call for designing additional strategies for meeting the needs of children with various ethnic backgrounds, gifted children, children with disabilities, etc.

Moreover, the rise in the amount of students will also entail the necessity to hire more staff and, thus, to reconsider the school budget and the current schedule.

Needless to say, the school districts are also highly dependent on the solution that will be chosen in order to address the situation.

Using the budget funds for expanding charter schools means that the school district will have to cut costs for other issues concerning financial support of schools; therefore, it is in the interests of the school districts to address the issue in such a way that the costs should be minimised. Thus, the members of the school districts must also be viewed as the key stakeholders in the conflict in question.

As far as the factors are concerned, there are key financial, economic and social issues that may hinder the process of conflict resolution. The financial issues top the list of the key factors. Because of the need to re-establish the current principle of a charter school operation, the costs for the innovation are going to be impressive.

Carving the money out of the budget means that public schools will be left without the required support. The fact that charter schools are practically independent from school districts in terms of their education policy, in contrast to public ones, investing into the development of charter schools hardly seems reasonable for the Boston school districts.

More to the point, the fact that students from low income families, as well as students belonging to ethnic and national minorities, make most of the student population in charter schools in Boston, does not add any credibility to the plea of the heads of Boston charter schools.

Though the issue specified above seems to be financial, it, in fact, should be deemed as a social one, and related to the discrimination problems within the modern society.

Conclusion: Revisiting the Principles of the Education System

Though the solution, which requires responsibilities distribution and power divide between school districts and school authorities, requires that major concessions should be made by both parties, mutual compromise is the only way to settle the conflict. Moreover, the specified strategy seems the only rational approach to be taken in this situation.

Once both sides of the conflict are secure about their control over the issue, they will be able to come to terms. The mediation process, which is the key towards reaching a compromise, must be based on the principles of cooperation and presuppose that the charter schools should use their key assets to solve the conflict. At present, to reach a compromise, charter schools need to prove that they are worth investing in.

Works Cited

Dunning, David, Kerry Johnson, Joyce Ehrlinger and Justin Kruger. “Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 12.1 (2014), 83–87. Print.

Harvard Business Review. Extreme Negotiations. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review. 2010. 67–75. Print.

Melamed, James. Maximizing Mediation. 2014. Web. <>.

Peyser, James A. “Boston and the Charter School Cap.” Education Next 14.1 (2014), para. 1–6. Web. <>.

Sprangler, Brad. “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).” Beyond Intractability. 2012. Web. <>.

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