Selected readings on US charter schools
Last week, Newark Mayor Cory Booker won the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s passing in June. Booker’s replacement in City Hall faces significant challenges on a number of issues, but the people of Newark have made one thing clear: They overwhelmingly support expanding the public charter school sector.
The winner of next May’s mayoral election should continue Booker’s legacy of supporting a comprehensive, portfolio approach to education that includes strong backing for high-quality public charter schools.
Newark’s schools face continued challenges, from improved but still-too-low graduation rates to a $57 million budget shortfall. Residents will have a chance to hear from four mayoral candidates during this evening’s education-focused forum at Science Park High School, sponsored by the Newark Trust for Education.
The forum presents an opportunity for residents to hear where candidates stand on issues confronting the school system, including ending performance-blind dismissal policies; closing failing or underperforming schools so resources can be allocated to schools that are performing well; and combining schools in shared facilities.
Chief among the next mayor’s educational priorities, however, should be continuing to strengthen the spirit of cooperation that Booker worked hard to foster between the district and public charters.
During his seven years as mayor, Booker was an advocate for education reform and worked hard to give Newark families more access to high-quality public school options. As a result of his support and the cooperation he helped create among district leaders, charter administrators, teachers and parents, Newark’s charter schools are leading the way. According to the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, students in Newark charter schools are experiencing the kind of progress we want for all kids in the city.
And parents are responding to public charters’ performance. This year, Newark’s charter schools saw an influx of 2,200 students, with 10,000 on wait lists. According to recent polls, more than 70 percent of Newark residents support expanding charters. City leaders, including the next mayor, need to embrace the public charter sector and support its quality growth, not rob kids of their access to a high-quality education by handcuffing it.
Too often, children are left behind because adults can’t get past our differences and unify around a common goal of ensuring that every child has access to a great school — whether it’s a public charter school or a traditional public school. All around the country, educational improvement is stalled by bickering among elected officials, bureaucrats, administrators, educators and reformers who refuse to get along. Newark is fortunate to have had leaders who embrace a portfolio approach to education and understand that all stakeholders have something to offer to improve the system.
There is still work to be done in strengthening collaboration between the district and the public charter sector and ensuring the Newark school system is working as well as it can. Superintendent Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” plan is an important step toward system-wide accountability, universal enrollment and equity and access for all students. It recognizes the vital role public charters have in expanding options and access for students, and seeks to ensure the charter sector and the district are working together.
Newark’s kids deserve a great education to prepare them for the future, and the only way they’ll get it is if adults work together. Parents should join this collaboration and support policies that expand access to high-quality public education. They can start by attending this evening’s 6 o’clock forum at Science Park High School, and insisting that Newark’s next mayor make education reform a continued priority.
Source: NJ.com – by Mashea Ashton (CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund)