Selected readings on US charter schools
Top officials with RIT, including President Bill Destler, and Uncommon Schools, True North’s national umbrella organization, announced the plan Wednesday morning.
The new high school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014, said Josh Phillips of Uncommon Schools, and will serve students graduating from True North’s middle school classes. Its location has not been determined.
“This is something families both want and, quite frankly, deserve,” Phillips said during a news conference at True North’s Brooks Avenue campus.
The unprecedented partnership could be the closest connection between a local college and city high school — and a show of support by RIT for the controversial charter school movement.
“The days in which colleges can sit by and hope K-12 problems fix themselves? Those days are over,” Destler said. “We envision RIT professors will come to high school, students will go to RIT and participate in college programs.”
Charter schools are funded with public dollars earmarked for education, but run independent of local school boards. If a student decides to attend a charter school, money slated for that child gets redirected from the school district to the charter school.
“We need to support schools that are already showing results with low-income students,” Destler said. Despite demographics similar to most City School District schools, True North has posted consistently higher scores on state tests. Destler said RIT will continue to support city school programs, too.
Supporters say that charter schools offer options to parents of children in school districts that are failing to reach them. That also creates competition that theoretically will challenge traditional school districts to do better.
But opponents say that charter schools pull public funding and resources from traditional public school districts, often attracting the top students.
True North now has two schools that serve about 1,000 students in kindergarten to eighth grade, and Uncommon Schools has an ambitious plan to expand its offerings to serve more students. The plan will ultimately allow it to serve about 2,600 students — the equivalent of roughly 10 percent of the City School District — and giving it an enrollment larger than some suburban districts.
The True North schools have consistently been some of the city’s best performing. Although its standardized test results fell this year under new tougher state standards, True North’s performance matched that of the City School District’s top performing schools.
True North’s performance is also notable because its student demographics are similar to the overall City School District, with comparable numbers of students considered to be living in poverty. About 83 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, compared to about 90 in the City School District. About 95 percent are black or Hispanic.
The high school that it is partnering with RIT on will open next fall.
The partnership comes at a time the number of charter schools in Rochester has been steadily climbing. The surge in the next five years is projected to mean a loss of roughly 3,000 students for the City School District, which is already grappling with dramatic enrollment declines. When the first charter schools opened in 2001, roughly 4 percent of city students attended them. By 2018, that percentage is expected to inflate to 18 percent. The loss of students will put the district’s enrollment at the lowest level it has been in five decades.
Source: Democrat and Chronicle – by Tiffany Lankes