L.A. charter schools proving NAACP wrong: Guest commentary
For decades, the NAACP has worked to throw open the schoolhouse doors for children of color. At every turn, it has fought to remove the ethnic and racial barriers that stand in the way of giving all children access to a quality public education.
That is why the organization’s recent call to halt any new public charters in the United States has left education advocates like myself surprised and disappointed.
We have charter schools in our communities. In Los Angeles, about one in five charter schools in California is in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In fact, for us, charter schools represent, in many ways, the best of public education.
Charter schools are free and open to all students. Funded with public dollars, they are held accountable to state and national standards. The teachers who stand at the front of the classrooms are certified teachers.
Charter schools offer different approaches and themes, including college preparatory curricula, programs emphasizing math, science or the performing arts, and schools that prioritize personalization of the learning experience through site-based and distance learning programs.
But best of all, charter schools work. And they work not just for children from privileged backgrounds. It turns out, charter schools work especially well for African American and Latino children, and for children from low-income households.
In the classrooms of the 282 charter schools in Los Angeles, more than 85 percent of the desks are occupied by children of color; 78 percent of LAUSD charter school students live in low income households.
But community advocates like me don’t believe in charters just because they educate more of our kids. We believe in them because they give more of our kids a better education.
A recent study from Stanford University found that African American charter students gained 36 extra days of learning in reading and 26 extra days of learning in math compared to their African American peers in non-charter public schools.
For low-income African American students in charter schools, the gains were even more impressive. These students gained the equivalent of 44 extra days of learning in reading and an astonishing 59 extra days learning in math over their peers in traditional public schools.
All of those extra classroom hours are having a huge impact on student success. College readiness among African American high school graduates is 73 percent at charters in LAUSD, as compared with only 20 percent college ready at district schools.
Students at public charters are better prepared for future success. Kids who attend charter high schools graduate at higher rates than kids at traditional public schools. There are many charter high schools where 100 percent of the students graduate and are accepted into college.
Families are voting with their feet and choosing charter public schools. They want what is best for their kids.
This weekend, members of the NAACP’s board are set to vote on the moratorium. Before they do, we would invite them to come to a charter school and see what kind of schools these are.
They will find schools that are delivering on the promise of a high quality education that is free and available to all, that are centers of community with organized and energized parents and dedicated and inspired teachers and administrators, and that are delivering for our kids.
Like the NAACP and other education advocates, we know more can and must be done for students of color. There are still too many African American and Latino kids who have been left standing on the wrong side of the achievement gap.
But public charter schools aren’t the culprit. By giving our children the education they deserve and preparing them for a bright future, they are a proven part of the solution.
Johnathan Williams is founder and CEO of The Accelerated Schools, based in Los Angeles.