Selected readings on US charter schools
After seeing that funding for charter schools continues to be an issue, I thought it might be helpful to add the perspective of a student who went to a charter middle and high school before attending a four-year college.
I attended a charter middle school in New Haven for four years and I was a part of the founding class for the charter high school I attended. I am currently a junior in college, about to study abroad in Japan this April. In addition to going to Japan soon to study, come senior year I will be the club head of two clubs (this semester I was the co-head since I will be gone to study abroad half the year), and I’ll be writing a 50-60 page thesis.
Over the years, I’ve heard some people refer to charter schools as “money grabs” and I want to clarify that is not true. Based on my experience in charter schools this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Over the years, my teachers ensured I received as much after school help I needed. This ranged from receiving extra help in calculus, going out to eat with a teacher to celebrate getting academic rewards (either for grades, or performing well in other aspects of school, like reading the most books in my grade), going to the Peabody Museum, or even going out with my advisory group to have dinner together. What I’ve come to realize more and more as I’ve grown older is that my teachers genuinely care about me, and all their students; now when I return home from college I visit my old teachers all of whom are excited to see me. Every one of my teachers that I visit, including my 5th Grade teacher from 11 years ago, feels like a member of my family.
I can see the skeptical reader responding to this letter with comments like: “See they go out and have fun, what about actually working and studying, like school is supposed to be?” I’d argue that even though I listed the fun, casual things my teachers did for me out of school, we still worked hard. The point being that a positive, encouraging environment best boosts academic success. There are plenty of statistics published that demonstrate how well charter schools perform, especially when compared to traditional schools in Connecticut, but my sense is that the facts have not sunk in for some readers. My hope is to add something to this conversation. Sure I occasionally got in trouble in high school, but I was the top performing male student in my graduating class. I’m writing this letter today a year away from graduating college. I graduated from my high school fully prepared for college level curriculum. Every year members of the Amistad senior class, beginning with mine, has graduated and gone onto college. The statistics speak for themselves: over the past four years, 100 percent of the students graduating from my high school for have been accepted to college. Those numbers are not complicated, they are simple and remarkable.
Our state’s school system is consistently one of the lowest performing public education systems in this country for years now. On the whole, charters seem to be gradually reversing this trend, much more rapidly than traditional schools. With these results in mind, what reason do we have to not give charter schools a fair chance? They have been making this great progress with a fraction of the funding of district schools. If they were provided equitable funding, this progression and improvement would accelerate. Fewer students would be turned away because from well-performing charter schools because there are not enough seats for every family that wants their child to attend the school. We will be able to celebrate the achievements of those doing well, instead of cycling through new tragedies taking place.
Source: New Haven Register – by Julius Bennett