Like stones cast into the public education waters, charter schools create ripples that can affect conventional public schools nearby. In large part driven by an aggressive, customer-service approach to education, charter schools engage parents, teachers and students in a partnership focused on improving achievement. Enlightened school districts have taken notice.
We had appearances by Willie Nelson, Danny Glover, Joan Baez and even a former mermaid up in a tree as dozens of demonstrators protested the attempt by 120 sheriff’s deputies to evict them from 14 acres of inner-city land where about 350 people grow produce and flowers in Los Angeles. This they protest.
Yet, half a mile north of the protest, at Nevin Elementary School, only 7 percent of African-American and 14 percent of Hispanic fourth-grade students are reading at the proficient level or above. At Carver Middle School (only 1.25 miles away), 0 percent of African-American and 1 percent of Hispanic eighth-grade students are proficient or above in Algebra 1. A mere .71 miles west of the South Central Farm, at Jefferson High School, 0 percent of African-American and 1 percent of Hispanic ninth-grade students have shown proficiency or above in Algebra 1, and 7 percent of African-American and 9 percent of Hispanic ninth-graders are reading at the proficient level or above.
In 1983, A Nation At Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform was released. This report from the U.S. Department of Education highlighted a number of troubling findings on the state of education in the U.S. The most disturbing – U.S. students are lagging behind in test scores when compared to their overseas counterparts. According to the 1997 Florida Statute 228.056, one of the many purposes of charter schools was to “make the school the unit for improvement.” Charter schools have become the needed catalyst for change in public education. It is not surprising that both charter and traditional school test scores have enjoyed steady improvement since the charter onset.