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School Choice

Here’s Why Charter Schools Can Better Serve Vulnerable Kids

My passion to fight for quality education for underserved children can be traced to my experience as a young immigrant. I came to the United States as a child, part of the wave of immigrants escaping the political unrest of Vietnam. My mother and I were separated during this tumultuous time and we did not reunite until I was 15 years old. My father, a special forces lieutenant for the South Vietnamese army, was killed in action. I came to this country without my parents and had to learn a new language and culture. Fortunately, I did spend my childhood with a loving extended family in south Florida, but I know what it’s like to be an English language learner adjusting to a new home. I was drawn to the charter school movement because I felt that I could have different experiences than I would at a traditional public school. I attended traditional public schools as a child and started my teaching career at one. What made me excited about getting involved in a charter school was site-level control, the ability to experience leading other teachers and the ability to act swiftly.

Opening New Career Paths

With site-level control, teachers and administrators are able to make decisions about issues such as curriculum, parental engagement and school policies. Additionally, this site-level control offered me some career path choices that traditional public schools could not. While I enjoyed being in the classroom, I also wanted to lead other teachers and I felt that a career path in charter schools would more readily allow me to impact other teachers and students than I had experienced in traditional public schools. I was given an opportunity to prove my teaching effectiveness and to be recognized for my expertise quickly. It’s not often that you see a second- or third-year teacher become a teacher-leader, a department chair or someone who oversees curriculum, but those are the opportunities I saw at my charter school. My goal is to make sure that there are excellent teachers in the classroom . And for those teachers who aren’t, I want to get them the coaching that they need to improve their teaching, so students have the best opportunity to succeed and instructors feel supported in delivering their lessons.

Ensuring Effective Teachers

The ability to move swiftly is another reason why I was drawn to charter schools. Not only can teachers and administrators respond to the needs of students quickly, we can also determine if someone is right for a job without letting an ineffective teacher linger in the classroom for years. For children whose homes are chaotic, a good teacher can be one of the most stable and consistent influences on their lives. A good teacher can bring out the best skills and talent in their students . The ability of charter schools to reach underrepresented children spoke to me back then and still does now. I am motivated to give back to communities with substantial immigrant populations. I’m driven by a need to give back to the most needy students because of the opportunities that I have been afforded in this country. I found that the mission of the charter school movement to serve low-income communities in Los Angeles spoke to my desire to serve.  
Harris Luu is the vice president of educator effectiveness at the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools in Los Angeles, California.
Photo courtesy of Harris Luu.
Harris Luu is the vice president of educator effectiveness at the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools in Los Angeles, California.

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