Charter Pulse

Selected readings on US charter schools

New charter schools will offer hope to many students in MISSISSIPPI

Black Alliance for Educational OptionsAs a strong supporter of charter schools, the Black Alliance of Educational Options takes issue with Bill Minor’s opinion piece that suggests charter schools are schemes and that they can become segregated institutions.

Charter schools are public schools, subject to the same rules and accountability standards as traditional public schools. And, as is the case in traditional public schools, there are some adults who will try to use this opportunity for their own selfish purposes. Fortunately, Mississippi’s charter law includes a number of important provisions to mitigate the types of concerns raised in Mr. Minor’s piece, including an authorizer board with strong oversight responsibilities.

The real question that we believe should be asked is whether we will allow concerns about potential abuses to slow or hamper an initiative that holds great potential for children in our state.

Earlier this month, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University released a study entitled Charter School Performance in Louisiana, which found that on average, black students living in poverty who attended charter schools in Louisiana gain the equivalent of an additional 50 days of learning in reading each year over their traditional public school counterparts.

In math, the advantage for charter students is about 65 days. The results are even more profound in New Orleans, where charter students gain the equivalent of an additional 86 days of learning in reading and 101 days in math. With the current level of performance in our public schools, how can we ignore the potential for charter schools to make a significant difference in the lives of children?

We also know that parents want change and choice in Mississippi. That was proven in a study released by BAEO last month titled A Survey Report on Education Reform, Charter Schools, and the Desire for Parental Choice in the Black Community. In that study, an overwhelming majority of black parents (and voters) in Mississippi agreed that the government should provide parents with as many choices as possible to ensure their children receive a quality education. The survey also shows that when it comes to charter schools, seven out of ten of the voters polled support these new, innovate public schools.

We recognize that charter schools may not be the answer for everyone, and they certainly won’t solve every educational challenge in our state. However, the data from the CREDO study and the results from our survey prove what BAEO has known and been advocating for — charter schools, when implemented carefully and with fidelity, can deliver high-quality educational options for students, and families. We should not cling to the familiar simply because we fear something new.

As we move forward toward the creation of charter schools in Mississippi, BAEO will stand with parents and fight for students, and we will work to ensure that charter schools in Mississippi live up to their promise.

Source: Clarion-Ledger – by Dr. Kimberly Smith-Russ (State director of the Mississippi Black Alliance for Educational Options)

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