This is partially reprinted from the AJC opinion pages. Please click here to read the article in it's entirety.
By Graysen Walles
Monday, August 30, 2010
. . . We all know that the public school system as it is now designed cannot be the answer for the growing needs of our diverse community.
We have seen time and time again by means of reliable statistics and research that most of our public school systems are failing to prepare students for the 21st-century global community. These are facts, whether we want to face them or not.
The consistent message from families of all ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds in communities like Atlanta is that they want quality educational choice for their children.
In most cases, a traditional school system is not able to accommodate these choices as they are challenged with a myriad of complex issues, even much deeper that what can be seen with the naked eye. . . .
The charter school movement is an answer for many families around the country, as they provide what most traditional public schools cannot.
Quite honestly, at the current time, many of the students benefitting most from the charter movement are minority students and exceptional needs students.
That is why it is so difficult to digest the negative commentary that some civil rights organizations, such as the NAACP, have purported about charter schools.
On the contrary, charter schools are an answer to the challenges of our special education communities and minority communities, as charters provide specificity, flexibility and a level of nurturing for our students that traditional public school have a difficult time mastering.
I was encouraged to read recently that the leader of the National Urban League has clarified its position on charter schools, noting that it “wholeheartedly supports high-quality charter schools and the outcomes they produce for our nation’s children.”
Indeed, if there were any organizations that would support the charter school movement, it is my belief that civil rights organizations would. I would encourage more leaders of these organizations to visit charter schools that have been successful in densely poor communities such as New Orleans, Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and Chicago.
Undoubtedly, these school communities would definitely provide these leaders with a new perspective about charters and the need for charters as a viable educational reform tool.
Some of the best charters have clearly been documenting best practices and invaluable research that speaks to closing the achievement gap for at least a solid decade.
Charter schools have moved beyond test tube theories. They are now established, valued and successful. . . .
Graysen Walles is the principal of Tech Charter High in Atlanta.