Selected readings on US charter schools
What the new charter school law means to education
By working with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), Mississippi’s charter school advocates received insider information on how to make the state’s charter school law strong, thus ensuring only high performing charter schools will open in Mississippi.
According to Erika Berry, executive director of the newly formed NAPSC partner Mississippi Charter Schools Association, too many children in the Delta and elsewhere in the state are stuck in schools that are persistently failing, and there is no collective sense of urgency in the traditional system to make the dramatic transformations necessary to turn around these schools.
“A high performing charter school can do so much more than provide their students with a high quality education,” Berry says. “It can inspire their communities and remind the status quo what a strong public school looks like, especially when it puts their low-income kids on a track toward academic success. Too many families in the Delta have never witnessed such incredible public schools and therefore their expectation of excellence is just too low. They need a better alternative to show them what is possible.”
Not everyone can start a charter school. Berry says it requires strong leadership at all levels. But because Mississippi’s charter school sector is brand new, Berry says the state has an opportunity to not only research and learn from the high-performing schools nationally, but recruit their talent.
Charter schools welcome community involvement with open arms.
“Business leaders should know that charter school leaders have a very creative and innovative problem-solving mindset,” Barry says. “Don’t be surprised if you are asked one day to share your talents in a way that no traditional public school has ever asked you before.”
Sanford Johnson, deputy director of Mississippi First, says charter schools certainly have the potential to improve education in the Delta.
“The establishment of high-quality charter schools will give Mississippi children access to an education that will prepare them for college and the workforce,” he says. “This is especially important in several Delta communities where access to high-quality schools is limited at best.”
Johnson says experience has shown some states are much better than others when it comes to their charter school policies. States with rigorous authorization, monitoring, and accountability policies are far more likely to produce charter schools that will have a significant positive impact on student performance.
“Mississippi has benefited from being one of the last states to pass a viable charter school law in that we’ve been able to learn from the successes and failures of other states,” Johnson says. “Our new law is rigorous, so opening a charter school will not be an easy endeavor in the Magnolia State. We believe that Mississippi’s law puts us on the right track for success.”
Johnson explains the charter school effort has the potential to have a tremendous economic impact.
“Better-educated children grow up to become the successful adults who can support our businesses, and even start their own,” he says. “Charter schools can and will likely play an important part of our efforts in boosting the academic achievement of our kids.”
As the state grows a charter school sector, Mississippi First will be looking for innovative practices in teaching and school governance.
“From there, we will recommend ways those practices can be replicated in every public school in the state, whether charter or traditional,” he says.
Delta businessman and attorney Bill Luckett also is hopeful that charter schools will help lead the way to a better public education system.
“I wish we would adopt the charter school concept throughout the entire public school system in the state of Mississippi,” Luckett says. “I would like to see the entire state adopt the standard operation procedures of the KIPP Delta College Preparatory charter school in Helena, Ark. If it works so well there, it will work here and why don’t we do it across the whole state? It takes things like longer hours in the school day, Saturday schools, shorter summer vacations, and more parental involvement. It is going to take a mindset change both on behalf of school administration and the teachers, as well, because it is going to require more of everybody.”
Source: Delta Business Journal – by Becky Gillette