Monday, February 15, 2010

Voting with Their Feet for Charter Schools

Debate about the effectiveness of charter schools, vis-a-vis their conventional public school counterparts, seems never-ending. Some studies suggest they're superior; others say that's a myth. Both camps point to the anecdotes and analyses that bolster their case. The waters remain murky.

But by one oft-overlooked but critically-important measure, parental demand, charters seem to be making the grade. Just look at today's Denver Post:

"Alma Meraz's eyes welled when her daughter's name was pulled from a cookie jar during an enrollment lottery for the high-performing West Denver Prep charter school.

"I'm so happy," said Meraz, who cleans houses for a living. "I need her to go to this school for better opportunities. For a better life."

West Denver Prep — which some parents have come to view as a first step toward college and possibly a lifeline out of poverty — is rated the second-best school in Denver.
The school's college-preparatory curriculum and swift interventions for struggling students have been touted for helping at- risk kids beat the academic odds. West Denver Prep now posts some of the best academic growth in the state.

The middle school also draws nearly double the number of applicants it can seat, meaning waiting lists are long and disappointments high during the annual school- choice enrollment period.

It's a scenario played out across the state each winter, as parents battle to get their kids into popular, high-performing schools during the choice period.

The Colorado Department of Education estimates about 38,000 children are waiting to get into Colorado charter schools. One such school, Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, has 7,800 students on its wait list."

While the so-called experts duel and debate, education consumers are speaking loud and clear. More and more Americans, if given the choice, are voting with their feet for charter schools. And that's a good enough measure of success for me.

1 comment:

Doug Hering said...

Great point. Even if charter schools are equal academically, if they offer a better environment and hope, parents will choose them.