Published In: Need to Know, PBS, January 5, 2012
Summary: One charter school is evading the spotlight, but has a 20-year history of stunning educational success with the most economically disadvantaged children in one of the lowest performing school districts in the country.
Why We’re Highlighting This Story: “Feel-good stories about the success of certain charter school models like the Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy, The Uncommon Schools network, and the Knowledge is Power Program(KIPP) abound,” writes Noliwe Rooks on PBS’ Need to Know. ”These schools, the media narrative goes, are poor, black and brown kids’ great hope — promoting higher test scores, increasing high school graduation rates and advocating for higher levels of college attendance.”
However, she then points out that they may not be the best benchmark for a more ambitious mark of educational success: college graduation. Though almost 85% of KIPP graduates continue to college, almost 2/3 of them drop out before earning their degrees.
Rooks highlights a few other charter schools that have gotten a majority of their students to graduate from college — and what has made them work. Making Waves Academy in California does not hire recent college graduates to teach students, but rather highly experienced teachers. They have robust professional development opportunities for staff and involve them in governance and curriculum decisions. Nearly 60% of students at Making Waves graduate from college.
What are the benchmarks you think we should use to decide how successful a school is?