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By David W. Kirkpatrick (June 19, 2008)
Senior Education Fellow
U.S. Freedom Foundation www.freedomfoundation.us
A few weeks ago notice was given to the Cristo Rey schools which began with one school in Chicago in 1996 and has grown to 19 schools with more than 4,000 students, with more to follow. This network is but one example of a growing trend in public education which may have significant ramifications. The following are some examples.
Ombudsman Educational Services (OES) in Chicago. Started in 1975 by the late Jim Boyle (a career educator who died in 2001) and Lori Sweeney who is CEO, OES began a decade and a half before the nation's first charter school law, in Minnesota. The OES approach was and is to work with school districts on a contract basis whereby it agrees to take responsibility for teaching specific students. It does so more effectively and at less cost than districts had been able to do for themselves. It has grown from one such agreement to more than 82 accredited programs throughout the nation. OES does operate one charter school, in Arizona. It also accepts private students.. More information, see www.ombudsman.com.
The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), was begun in 1994 by two public school teachers in Houston, Texas. Both remain active in the program, one still in Texas and the other in New York City. KIPP has grown to 57 Academies, 55 of which are charter schools, in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Over 90% of KIPP's more than 14,000 students are African American or Hispanic/Latino, and more than 80% are eligible for the federal free and/or reduced price meals program. This counters the argument of some, particularly the teachers unions, that school choice programs will result in "cherry-picking" of the "better" students. KIPP accepts students "regardless of prior academic record, conduct or socioeconomic background." Its rapid growth resulted from the success of the first two Academies which led the creation of the KIPP Foundation and to major financial support in 2000. Its website is www.kipp.org.
Mosaica Education, Inc. was founded in 1997. (In its early stages I assisted Mosaica founder Gene Eidelman in establishing some schools, particularly in Pennsylvania whose charter school law requires a Pennsylvanian to be a sponsor. Mosaica is headquartered in California). Barely more than a decade old, Mosaica's 14,000+ students are enrolled in 76 charter schools in seven states, the District of Columbia, and even the Middle East through Mosaica International. It has been cited four years in a row as one of the 100 fastest-growing urban businesses in the United States. On May 16, 2007 its charter school in Wilkes Barre, PA was named an exemplary Charter School of the Year by the Center for Education Reform. In 1999, Mr. Eidelman, co-founder of Mosaica with his wife Dawn,
was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young People of the World by the Junior Chamber International. See www.mosaicaeducation.com..
White Hat Management, established in 1998 by Akron industrialist David Brennan has, in its ten years, become the nation's third largest charter school operator, with 53 schools enrolling nearly 23,000 students ,, mostly in Ohio but also in Arizona, Michigan, Colorado and Florida, including state-wide distance learning charter schools in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania. It employs nearly 1,700 teachers, staff, and administrators. That it is regularly attacked by the Ohio Federation of Teachers may. along with its rapid growth, be an indication that it is doing something right. Www.whitehatmgmt.com
Finally, Imagine Schools. The youngest of this group, created in 2003, it is also the largest with 25,000 students in 52 schools in ten states and the District of Columbia. Its student body is 39% Black, 33% White, 22%, Hispanic, and 6%other, with 51% of them from low-income families. As do some others, Imagine uses its own funds for school buildings and start-up costs which has contributed to its rapid growth. www.imagineschools.com.
Admittedly, 14,000, or even 25,000 students doesn't compare with New York City's one million. But nearly 7,000 of the nation's 14,000+ school districts have fewer than 1,000 students each. About 3,000 have less than 300. Also, many of these alternate systems allow for more autonomy, similar to the nation's parochial system, than the government's wrapped in red tape public schools. Therein may lie the key to success.
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"The problem with schools is not that they are no longer as good as they once were; the problem is that they are precisely as they always were." Adam Urbanski, "‘Real Change Is Real Hard" Lessons Learned in Rochester," Education Week, Oct. 23,1991 (Urbanski was president of the Rochester, New York Federation of Teachers)
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Copyright 2008 David W. Kirkpatrick
108 Highland Court,
Douglassville, Pennsylvania 19518-9240
Phone: (610) 689-0633