RR: Charter schools a stone’s throw away

January 14th, 2009 by Perry

In Reasonably Right this week I discuss the efforts by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy to improve Mississippi’s charter public school laws to provide that alternative choice for parents. Here are some excerpts:

The MCPP produced a DVD on charter schools distributed by mail to thousands of Mississippi parents. Entitled “A Stone’s Throw,” it shows parents in the Delta do not have the opportunities and choices that parents possess just a stone’s throw away in Arkansas and Tennessee. You can view the video at their charter school web site ParentPower.net.

“A Stone’s Throw” shows the successes in communities neighboring the Mississippi Delta with charter schools.

The Delta College Preparatory School (DCPS) in Helena, Arkansas is one of 66 KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) public schools across the country in states like Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia. DCPS serves 300 students (fifth through tenth grade). The schools cites their scores from the Stanford Norm tests to show students in three years moved from the 22nd to the 76th percentile in language, and 20th to 82nd percentile in math. Teachers and students subscribe to the school’s motto in all their lessons, “There are no shortcuts.”

Curtis Weathers traveled from the football field at Ole Miss, to seven years with the Cleveland Browns. Now he tackles public education in Memphis as the executive director of the Memphis Academy for Health Sciences, a public school chartered by 100 Black Men of Memphis.

“There are two things that make a great school: one is order, the other is great teachers,” says Weathers in the video. “The most beautiful thing about a charter school is our autonomy. We can do it the way we want to do it. Our whole idea is to make school really different. It’s a serious endeavor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun doing it. So when you think that way, you do things a little different from time to time.”

Weathers speaks of the greatest advantage charter public schools have over traditional public schools: freedom. No one assigns a student or a teacher to a charter school; they choose the charter school. Charter schools do not have more money or more teachers or higher paid teachers or newer facilities. They have flexibility and choice: freedom with accountability.

Weathers says if students don’t succeed, then no one cares about anything else. Forest Thigpen, president of MCPP, echoes those sentiments in a new radio brief on charter schools, “Charter public schools are given freedom from some rules and regulations that traditional public schools have to follow, and in return for that freedom, they are held to a higher level of accountability….When a traditional school fails, it gets more money from the state. When a charter school fails, it closes. Now, that is accountability.”

You can read the full column in the Neshoba Democrat: Perry / Charter schools a stone’s throw away

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