Selected readings on US charter schools
High crime and poverty rates usually breed more of the same. KIPP Delta Charter School is breaking that cycle and setting a new academic standard much of the state fails to meet.
“I used to stay in a mostly black neighborhood with a lot of killings and stuff,” said Arnez Orr, a junior at KIPP Delta Collegiate High School.
Orr is one of thousands of children living in Helena-West Helena with confident answers to the age old question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
“I might be an architect and build my own firm,” said Orr.
Those dreams are often crushed under sobering numbers. Forty percent of the city’s population lives under the poverty line. The only high marks are staggering crime rates higher than the state and even country’s average. But despite those alarming statistics KIPP Delta Charter School is offering what most thought was impossible–a way out.
“Our kids know as early as kindergarten and first grade and second grade over at our elementary school can tell you what college they want to go to,” said Amy Charpentier, KIPP through College Director.
KIPP Delta is a K-12 charter school located in Helena-West Helena. Its enrollment, over 900 students, almost all African-American. Eighty-eight percent of them qualify for free or reduced lunch, 100 percent of this year’s graduating class was accepted into college.
“Until that first class went to college in such a large number, I don’t think people believed that our kids were capable of doing that,” said Charpentier.
Orr’s younger and older siblings also attend KIPP Delta, his older sister will be the first in his immediate family to attend a university. His mom has high hopes for them.
“She always says she wants us to be not like she was when she was young,” said Orr. “Because she had the opportunity but she didn’t take the opportunities.”
Opportunities he’s working hard for. Orr gets up at 5:45 in the morning. The school day is from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. And after band practice he gets home around 6 p.m. only to get started on roughly two hours of homework for advanced placement courses like calculus, physics and history.
“I never know I could push myself so far,” he said. “This school has pushed me to expand my fields of knowledge.”
Knowledge he hopes will land him in one of the country’s top schools like Columbia, Stanford and Morehouse. With a 3.7 GPA, it’s possible.
“That’s what I’m going to do when I get older. Yes, it’s like already set in stone,” he said confidently.
The high school students are taught in trailers with fewer resources than most schools. So, how is it possible that a demographic known for under performing is, by far, exceeding the state’s academic benchmark?
“We don’t use that language here, “these kids” language,” said Hal Harris, Orr’s teacher. “They’re our kids. Every student with the right system and appropriately trained teacher can do well.”
Harris says there’s no excuse for the widening achievement gap between the rich and poor and Whites and minorities.
“It really just bothers me to a core,” he said. “Arnez proves the possible.”
What’s possible when our children are given a little hope and a chance.
“If you just give us the opportunity and the time, we can do as well as the others,” said Orr.
This year KIPP Delta Collegiate High School was recently ranked fourth academically in the state by the US News and World Report and named one of the five exemplary schools by the Arkansas Department of Education.
Source: KATV – by Jeannette Reyes