Achievement Gap

Charter School Networks Deserve Applause for Advancing Urban Education

The Hechinger Report has a smart and balanced article by Richard Whitmire highlighting the growth and impact of charter school networks. The author of “On the Rocketship: How Top Charter Schools are Pushing the Envelope,” Whitmire points out that in the two decades since charter schools became a common part of the education landscape they have matured and are now proving children living in poverty can learn at high levels. He argues:
By 2020, KIPP plans to serve 120,000 students in multiple states. Texas-based IDEA charter schools are on track to serve 40,000 students by then. In that same year, Houston-based YES Prep anticipates serving over 20,000 students in Texas and other states. Others include Uplift, Mastery, Uncommon Schools, Achievement First and Noble. Thankfully, only the best charter networks were allowed to grow to this size. These are all operators able to open schools that catch kids up with roughly a year-and-a-half of learning for every year spent in the classroom—an achievement required for the mostly low-income and minority students they serve.
Even though charters are very popular with the American public, critics will say individual charter schools are unremarkable. They will say these publicly funded independent schools are no better on average than traditional public schools. But parents do not send their kids to schools on average. They send their children to actual schools. On that accord charter school networks are providing attractive options, and they are realizing outsized learning gains with kids who haven’t been successful in traditional public schools. According to our recent Education Post poll, black parents have high expectations for the schools they choose. Some 88 percent support higher standards and a more challenging curriculum; 93 percent want more accountability for teachers and principals. And, they support a focus on college-going, something of an idée fixe for charter schools. I agree with Whitmire. Rather than drawing invective, these gap-closing schools should be celebrated for improving lives.
Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of brightbeam. He was named CEO in April 2019, after formerly serving as chief executive of Wayfinder Foundation. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes. In the past, Stewart has served as the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, ...

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