Selected readings on US charter schools
Wisconsin can be proud of its education history. We have some of the highest ACT scores in the nation, and, 20 years ago, Milwaukee was the epicenter of the national reform movement. Despite this legacy, there are many parents and kids in Wisconsin who still do not have the opportunity to choose a quality school that meets their needs.
Expanding quality charter schools in our state ensures that no matter a child’s race, gender, religion or ZIP code, educational success in our state is available to all.
Independent charter schools are public schools that operate outside many of the bureaucratic restraints that exist in traditional districts. While these schools are publicly funded and publicly accountable – they administer all the same tests and report all the same data as traditional public schools – charters have the freedom to recruit and retain the best teachers and school leaders and develop curricula and a school culture that respond to the specific needs of the students and committees they serve. Most important, this freedom allows them to set high expectations that every child can and will learn and then do whatever it takes to help their students meet these goals.
Clearly, independent charters have made a positive impact on Milwaukee and Racine students. In 2011, state test scores showed that 60% of independent charter students were at or above grade level in math and 81% were at or above grade level in reading. This is significantly higher than their traditional public school peers. There is no reason for Wisconsin to deny this opportunity to students and parents in other communities any longer.
The proposed expansion of independent charter schools in Assembly Bill 40 to communities such as Green Bay and Madison has the potential to throw open the doors of opportunity for children trapped in struggling schools. In addition, the proposed Charter School Oversight Board will allow local organizations with roots in local communities to authorize schools that meet specific student needs and respond to local education challenges. This structure maximizes local control while maintaining quality and accountability in the classroom.
As a parent, educator and a community leader, I believe independent charter schools can transform the lives of children. As we know, when you transform a child you transform a family. When you transform families, you transform communities. And ultimately, when you transform communities, you transform the state.
Wisconsin should embrace the opportunity to expand the role independent charter schools play in our education landscape. Our kids, our communities and our state will be better for it.
Source: Journal-Sentinel Online – by Jarett Fields (State director of DFER Wisconsin)