In your recent story “Boston Public-School Apartheid?”, charter public schools are faulted for taking disadvantaged Boston students and sending them on to excellent high schools and, eventually, college. Why shouldn’t low-income students of color have access to such life-changing opportunities?
Roxbury Prep promises to prepare students to enter, succeed in, and graduate from college. Now in our eleventh year, nearly 80 percent of Roxbury Prep’s graduates are currently enrolled in college — many times the national average for low-income students and students of color. A major reason for this success is the fact that many of our graduates attend public and private high schools with extremely high rates of college matriculation. The preponderance of our graduates attending public exam and private schools is not ideological or exclusionary, as reporter Chris Faraone implies; rather, this is a result of data-driven and mission-driven decision-making, and the exceptionally hard work of our students, families, and staff.
Successful models for urban education are available all over Boston. Our work should not be to limit these models, but to replicate them, and ensure that more and more families can benefit from the educational opportunities they offer.
William F. Austin
Dana L. Lehman
Co-Directors, Roxbury Preparatory Charter School
Many kids from charters come from low-income families. But generally speaking, what makes kids in charters, pilots, and small programs different is the fact that they are more ready to learn than many (but not all) of their traditional-school counterparts. This happens because their parents tend to be more motivated and involved.
Massachusetts, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), has the highest performing traditional public schools in the country. We score first or second in the NAEP in every category — every year. No other state comes even close. Just because half of the charters are alleging to outperform the district schools (and using very thin data), that is hardly an argument in favor of turning current educational policy on its head.
The debate misses the entire point of the charter-school experiment. If Commonwealth charters were created to try out different techniques with longer school days and more autonomous administrations, with the results then intended to be situated within a larger district school setting, why is this not considered?
There are flaws to charter schools, but it is important to see what they have done right — namely, enforce accountability. If a school fails to improve learning methods and the students do not improve, it is not granted funding. That means bad teachers are replaced, school days are extended, and students are pushed.
This battle has developed into one between the teachers’ union and charter schools. Unfortunately, the people that matter — the students — are overlooked entirely. If district-school students were held to the rigorous standards of charter schools, they would not be permitted to fall back to the mediocrity that pervades their academic experience.