Ray Charles’ Words Inspire Education Reform
Ray Charles, the great singer from Albany once said, “There are many spokes on the wheel of life. First, we’re here to explore new possibilities.”
These words of limitless hope and inspiration come from a man who could have used life’s adversities as excuses, but instead was an innovator who crossed musical genres, overcame blindness and continuously embraced “new possibilities.”
Life is tough, but no matter what life throws at us, no matter what obstacles are placed in our way, a rigorous education is the surest, fastest on-ramp to a successful future. And the more educational pathways a community can provide to a good education, the better.
Which is why the recent release of results for Georgia’s new College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) grading system for public schools, is so disturbing. Only 31% (8 out of 26 schools) of Dougherty County Public Schools are operating at an academic level of “C” or better. Just two schools received a “B” grade with no schools receiving an “A”.
Dougherty County is not alone. 43% of public schools across the state failed to meet an academic level grade of “C” or higher.
It’s time to do things differently in public K-12 education. One way is to empower parents by expanding options in public K-12 education so they can choose the school that’s best for their child.
For families who can’t afford to move to a “better” school district, and even for families who can, charter schools empower all parents with the ability to ask one simple question; ‘What is the best academic setting for my child — the traditional zoned public school or the charter public school?’”
In Georgia, the growth of autonomous, self-governing, tuition-free charter public schools that are 100% open to any child who wishes to attend, has been mostly limited to the Atlanta metro area. But improved academic results are already paying big dividends for districts like Atlanta Public Schools (APS) who have embraced charter schools and consider them a vital part of their efforts. In APS, charter schools are not seen as unwanted competition, but as welcome parts of their improvement efforts.
Consider KIPP — Atlanta’s network of charter schools where students have a longer school day, where the school year ends in mid June, and where students attend school every other Saturday to build so-called ‘soft-skills’ – the personal attributes that enable students to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.KIPP’s approach is laser-focused on college preparation and many KIPP graduates will be the first in their family to attend college.
Another APS charter middle school called Latin Academy Charter School (LACS), uniquely requires every student to study Latin, the foundational language of English and romance languages. The school has found that Latin supports vocabulary development and prepares students for success in rigorous high school programs and on college entrance exams.
In just two years of operations, LACS has caught the eye of others school districts. Fulton County Public Schools recently approved the creation of two new Latin Academies based on LACS — one for elementary grades and a middle school for the South Fulton area.
It’s all about new possibilities, new pathways. And Dougherty County can do it too, if community leaders and citizens are willing to put all education options on the table.
Charter public schools are just one tool in the K-12 tool belt, but they are a tool that Dougherty County could use, as APS and Fulton County already have.
The Georgia Charter Schools Association stands ready to assist school districts, teachers, parents and community leaders to make public charter schools a reality in their communities.