Selected readings on US charter schools
Charter schools are poised to gain a much larger foothold in Virginia thanks to a plan under consideration by the Norfolk school board to transform 10 traditional public schools into charter schools over the next year.
Norfolk Superintendent Samuel King proposed his “Transformation Initiative” this spring as part of a broader plan to reform the schools district wide. His proposal would triple the number of charter schools currently operating in the state. (Virginia is home to five charter schools now, including one scheduled to open in the fall.)
The city’s school board has given King the green light to keep developing the concept. In October, it will vote on official applications for each of the schools.
The Richmond school board also approved a new charter school this week. The Richmond Career Education and Employment Charter School will teach basic life and job skills to students who might struggle to live independently after graduation.
The new embrace of charter schools has not reached Northern Virginia. The Loudoun school board turned down a charter application this spring, and another proposal in Fairfax County was not approved last year.
The Norfolk plan targets 10 high-poverty schools that have been struggling to meet state standards, including two schools that had been identified for a state takeover. Each charter will have a specialized theme, such as Montessori, International Baccalaureate, or science and technology, as well as a more flexible year-round schedule and a lottery system so students from across the city can apply.
Norfolk’s charter schools will continue to be overseen by the local school board — a departure from the typical charter model, in which schools are operated by an outside group.
Norfolk school officials are calling them “public conversion charters,” said Elizabeth Thiel Mather, spokesman for Norfolk Public Schools.
“We know there are different definitions of charters. We wanted to be clear about what we meant,” she said. “A public conversion charter is a school that will have some elements of charter school but will remain under the oversight and policy of the school board in the City of Norfolk. This is not a circumstance where an outside entity has said we’d like to take over your schools.”
The transformation plan also includes a new open-campus high school for students at risk of dropping out that will also be managed as a charter school but with the help of an outside operator.
Source: The Washington Post – by Michael Alison Chandler