The Human Impact of Charter Schools

A WSJ article from last week puts a human face on the difference that charter schools can make for “at risk” students:

In middle school, Ivan Cantera ran with a Latino gang; Laura Corro was a spunky teen. At age 13, they shared their first kiss. Both made it a habit to skip class. In high school, they went their separate ways.

This fall, Ivan will enter the University of Oklahoma, armed with a prestigious scholarship. “I want to be the first Hispanic governor of Oklahoma,” declares the clean-cut 18-year-old, standing on the steps of Santa Fe South High School, the charter school in the heart of this city’s Hispanic enclave that he says put him on a new path.

Laura, who is 17, rose to senior class president at Capitol Hill High School, a large public school in the same neighborhood. But after scraping together enough credits to graduate, Laura isn’t sure where she’s headed. She never took college entrance exams.

The divergent paths taken by Laura and Ivan were shaped by many forces, but their schools played a striking role. Capitol Hill and Santa Fe South both serve the same poor, Hispanic population. Both comply with federal guidelines and meet state requirements for standardized exams and curriculum. Santa Fe South enrolls about 490 high school students, while Capitol Hill has nearly 900.

At Santa Fe South, the school day is 45 minutes longer; graduation requirements are more rigorous (four years of math, science and social studies compared with three at public schools); and there is a tough attendance policy.
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  1. As a Texan marveling at someone’s ambition to be governor of Oklahoma I am tempted to paraphrase St. Thomas More’s joke about Wales.

    (That’s a mild attempt at innocent humor, O dour keyboard commandos.)

    Ivan’s ambition to be governor of Oklahoma is admirable; that he wishes to be a Hispanic governor may in charity be attributed to his youth. One hopes he will be an Oklahoman governor of Oklahoma, leading and serving all people regardless of their DNA or culture.

  2. While I see a place for national standards, I’m a big proponent for a sizeable amount local control of education. I’d like to see a lot more private and independent schools in the country, each to an extent free to pursue excellence in their own way.

  3. It’s important to note that, nationwide, charter schools haven’t improved education. However, there are vast differences between cities. New York’s charter schools are working. It looks like the structure of the school itself doesn’t matter much if the teachers are still bad. NY’s charter schools have managed to attract top notch teachers. That fits well with numerous other studies that show that the teacher quality is the most important component to improving failing schools.

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