CHARTER GRADS GET A LEG UP IN COLLEGE

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative article on Charter Schools written by Richard Whitmire. Whitmire is a veteran newspaper reporter, author and former editorial writer at USA Today. His first book after leaving USA Today was Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Education System that’s Leaving Them Behind. He spent a year as a fellow with the Emerson Collective, allowing him to visit many of the top charter schools in the country, resulting in his latest book, The Founders, in which he shared untold anecdotes about the leaders, advocates, philanthropists and partners who helped spark an education revolution across the country.  His focus is on the potential of Charter Schools and how they collaborate with traditional districts and what their next-generation school models tell about where all schools are headed. Whitmire is a member of the Journalism Advisory Board of The 74. The 74 is a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America. Our public education system is in crisis. In the United States, less than half of our students can read or do math at grade-level, yet the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin. The 74 interviews the top thinkers, policymakers and leaders in American education.

CHARTER GRADS GET A LEG UP IN COLLEGE

The NAACP on Wednesday reported findings from its nationwide “listening tour” on charter schools, and there were no surprises: Charters must be stopped. The National Education Association, even less surprisingly, said the same thing earlier this month in Boston.

The nation’s oldest civil-rights organization and the largest teachers union worry about charters for similar reasons. Independently run charters generally don’t employ unionized teachers, and they pull students from traditional district schools to which the NAACP is deeply committed. In short, charters disrupt the status quo—for adults.

The timing of the intertwined anticharter campaigns, however, may prove awkward because of new data just released by The 74. The data comes from the first cohort of charter students, who are beginning to graduate from college. Here’s what we know now that the NEA and NAACP didn’t know when they adopted their anticharter positions: Graduates from the top charter networks—those with enough high school alumni to measure college success accurately—earn four-year degrees at rates that range up to five times as high as their counterparts in traditional public schools. These are low-income, minority students from cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Newark, N.J. Their college success is going to make bashing charter schools far more challenging for the NEA and the NAACP.

Before this revelation, charter-school gains were largely measured by upticks in student test scores. Critics often wrote them off as meaningless, suggesting that charters abandoned educating kids in favor of “teaching to the test.” But now we see that charter school gains in the K-12 years have real-world consequences. Higher test scores, along with a swarm of strategies charter networks employ to make their students more successful after they graduate, lead to actual four-year college degrees.

Roughly half the graduates of Uncommon, YES Prep and the KIPP New York schools—among the biggest and best known charter networks in the country—earn bachelor’s degrees within six years. About a quarter of the graduates of the lower-performing charter networks earn degrees within six years. That may not strike wealthy parents as something to brag about. Eighty percent of children from America’s wealthiest families earn four-year degrees within six years. But charters primarily serve low-income families, where only 9% of students earn such degrees. Charters make a difference for poor families.

Charter networks are doing something traditional school districts have never considered: taking responsibility, at least in part, for the success of their students after they receive their diplomas. Low-income and traditionally low-opportunity students, nearly all of whom are the first in their families to attend college, need special help: Which courses to sign up for? How many credits to juggle in a semester? How to be the only minority in an all-white class?

There are ways to address all those issues, as charter networks such as KIPP and Uncommon are discovering. And they are more than willing-even eager-to share what they have learned with traditional district schools. That, sharing needs to starts soon, but the aggressive anti-charter stances taken by both the NAACP and the NEA will only make that process harder.

It’s difficult to identify and anti-poverty program that has been as successful as charter schools, but don’t expect the NAACP or the NEA to acknowledge that. The teachers unions especially are more concerned with the needs of adults employed by school districts than the welfare of the students passing through them. But the charter movement’s success will make defending that position more difficult, especially for governors, legislatures and urban school officials under pressure from parents to open more of these high-performing schools.

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com