Tuesday | December 3, 2013
The following is an editorial from The Dallas Morning News published November 27, 2013 about Great Hearts Charter Academy. I support this Charter because it emphasizes a classical liberal arts curriculum, focusing on the Great Books and the Socratic teaching method.
Limiting School Options
North Texans lose out on choice of charters
Call us confused.
One year ago, the State Board of Education approved an application for Great Hearts Academies of Arizona to open a charter school in San Antonio. But last week that same panel denied the same charter organization the right to open campuses in North Texas.
What was that flip-flop about? And did the nine dissenting board members consider that their flip-flop might give pause to other out-of-state charter operators who might have something to offer Texas?
On Friday, the elected education panel denied Great Hearts an opportunity to open four North Texas schools. The organization’s liberal arts curriculum emphasizes the classics, character education and the arts.
Great Hearts also has a proven academic record in Arizona, its home state. The network of public but autonomous schools wanted to bring its rigorous model to Irving, Oak Cliff/West Dallas and Old East Dallas.
Irving’s mayor even invited Great Hearts to locate in her city. Two hundred people turned up for an informational meeting. And some Irving supporters went to Austin to tell board members of their interest. (Similarly, San Antonio leaders and families asked Great Hearts to open a campus last year.)
Irving supports has reason to hope for victory. Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams already had approved Great Hearts’ expansion into North Texas. Plus, a State Board of Education committee last week approved Great Hearts’ North Texas application.
The groundwork was laid, or so it seemed. Great Hearts than lost 6-9 at the full board level.
Opponents cited the organization’s predominance of white students in Arizona as a concern. Great Hearts has 33 percent minority student population across its network.
That may not seem representative of the Dallas situation, but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Great Hearts’ minority population has increased as the network has grown.
For example, 75 percent of the students at Maryvale Prep in west Phoenix are either African-American or Latino. Sixty-seven percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Yet, their academic performance has been superb. The school earned an A- grade from the state, plus some of the highest standardized test scores within the network of schools.
Great Hearts was planning to open its first North Texas charters in diverse neighborhoods in Irving and Oak Cliff. Those moves would have followed the San Antonio model, where Great Hearts is opening its first Texas campus. Keep in mind that the operator would have to abide by state rules and have an open admission policy. A lottery would have determined admission.
Some families may not prefer a liberal arts curriculum. But clearly the state will benefit from a broad range of proven charter school operators. That way, parents and students will have a menu from which to select.
Unfortunately, the State Board of Education just took a potentially attractive set of schools off the North Texas menu.
Review the numbers
What is the Great Hearts Academies?
The charter school network was founded in Arizona, where it manages a dozen schools with more than 5,000 students in grades K-12.
The schools emphasize liberal arts curriculum, focusing on the Great Books and the Socratic teaching method.
What results have the academies produced?
Great Hearts’ schools rank in the top 1 percent of all Arizona public schools.
Students in the network’s six high schools outpaced Arizona peers on the state’s 10th grade reading, writing, math and science tests by as much as 13 percent to 37 percent.
95 percent of graduates attend a four-year college
Votes as recorded at Texas Education Agency
SBOE, Member Dist. 12