A Plea For Charter Schools

Several witnesses from varying charter agencies, including Literacy First Charter Schools, spoke at a hearing with the Education and the Workforce Committee on June 1, 2011. Watch hearing. The testimonies from the witnesses offer more than what is expressed in this post. However, I have included some takeaways from the hearing particular to how charter schools affect parental and community involvement.

I have provided a briefing from the witnesses as a combined whole.

Parental Involvement

To date, 39 states have charter legislation that provides options for families in poor areas.

Problem

Parents feel removed from their child’s education. The purpose of the charter movement is to give parents the choice of where their children can attend school, regardless of geographic boundaries and socio-economic background.

Charters provide a way for parents to remove their children out of underperforming schools. This is not to say that public schools are bad or wrong, but by developing charter schools, opportunities for high performing schools increase across the board. While there are some high performing public schools, efficient education reform is not happening fast enough. To be realistic, we are not seeking the elimination of public schools, but rather paving the way for a paradigm shift that does not offer the ‘one-size-fits all’ option, but creates a buffet of opportunities. The charters were developed based around collective agreement that parents and communities don’t want an unresponsive system. Legislative attentions to charters are just beginning of this change.

Benefits of Charter School Programs

  • Competitiveness: should be hailed as a good thing. The results of this pilot program demonstrate that when competition increases, student achievement levels improved.
  • Merit Pay System: not just for teachers, but for executive directives, etc.
  • Above and Beyond Program: Provides incentives for entrepreneurial professionals. It also incentivizes professionals for ideas and commitment to innovation, and makes the staff more invested in their futures as well as students’ futures.
  • School Calendar: Research has shown that longer school days provide for lost time where teachers can be more innovative in their teaching style.

Results

There are research-proven methods that hone learning of children by initiating parent choice. Communities have embraced the idea of choice because charters include diverse populations, including students with special needs, refugee, Latino and underserved populations. Waiting for Superman is not an urban legend. Communities actually feel empowered when they see the results because they see real, tangible ways these issues are being addressed.

This pilot test program through Literacy First Charter Schools has demonstrated higher test scores, and demonstrable improvement in the creation of long-lasting partnerships with families during difficult times, and has made sure parents know that they matter. Research demonstrates that schools are the most effective when meeting the needs of the communities.

Ending Comment: Charter schools are public schools that serve all constituents.

Recommended Needs

  • Funding: better funding structures for children with disabilities or disadvantaged students.
  • Transparency: parents require information to make informed decisions. When parents are informed about what they could do if they have a low performing school, they can make better informed decisions.
  • Legislative support: support the use of charter schools, regardless of child’s skills/needs.