Reach Lessons: Raise the Standard Across the Board

June 15th, 2011

Category: News

Reach Academy Charter School has filled the headlines the last couple of weeks, and I think we can all agree that if the problems that the school faces had been unearthed earlier, a great deal of heartache and unrest could have been avoided. Any parent would agree that every person serving on their children’s school board – traditional public, charter, or private — should go through a background check, and most would consider a regular review of the school’s finances a good, necessary idea. That’s why I support the related proposed changes to state policy.

I believe that charter schools need to be held to a much higher bar in terms of what we expect from them academically and organizationally, and to that end, I agree with the News Journal’s editorial on the need to get tougher on charter school boards. Yet, along with higher accountability, we need to give them a fighting chance. Last week, I visited the Young Scholars Charter School in Philadelphia. This school – which serves a majority low-income population —  is knocking it out of the park in terms of performance. This is possible in Delaware, with some improvements to our policy environment.

To reach this higher bar, charter school students should be getting the same funding as their district counterparts and they are not.  In addition to not getting any funding for capital costs, the gap in funding is big and getting bigger.  Additionally, we should make it more possible to replicate high-performing charter schools, so Delaware families have more excellent schools to choose from.

On a more fundamental level, we need to hold all schools to these high standards.  Let’s not forget that our two largest school districts (Christina and Red Clay), both with much larger central offices than any charter school, faced huge financial problems not too long ago (over $20M in the case of Christina).  We need higher expectations of anyone serving on a charter or district board, and we need to support building capacity in the  state DOE to manage both.

As the expectations for our children continue to rise, the bar for all of our public schools will inherently do the same.  As the bar rises, we need to hold every school accountable and will need to make difficult decisions in the event of a failing school. However, more importantly, we need to proactively provide all schools with the technical and financial resources they need to succeed.

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Paul Herdman



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