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Purpose Of Charters And Specialized Schooling

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After reading “Measuring Diversity in Charter School Offerings” by Michael Q. McShane and Jenn Hatfield, my understanding of charter schools has been broadened and solidified. Before reading this report, I knew what a charter school was – a school that is run independently, yet is still funded by the state. However, I now understand just why it is so important for them to run independently and why non-traditional schooling is relevant and necessary.

In sum, the report clarifies the types of charter schools and explores the demographics of over 1,000 charter schools across 17 cities. Among these charter schools, there are “specialized schools,” which I believe are the most important. Throughout these cities, there are different types of charter schools, some “specialized” and some more traditional, and this is sometimes a result of the cities’ demographics. For example, McShane and Hatfield explain that in general, there is a higher enrollment in “no-excuse schools” (schools that are very strict with student’s behavior and attendance) when there is a high percentage of black residents in the city. There are many theories about why this is, but I have my own theories as well.

Firstly, I agree with the idea in their report that “academic achievement is often the primary concern for low-income communities,” and for that reason there are many more “no-excuse” schools. However, I also believe that in poorer areas, students have many more burdens than students who live in wealthy areas. Sometimes they may be afraid to leave the house or go to school, and thus, hybrid/online learning may be necessary. Also, international/foreign language schools may help students of immigrant families feel more at home. And lastly, art schools are most important to me. Art schools are the perfect outlet for a student to express their emotions, in a productive way, while learning. Of course students in wealthy areas attend art school as well, but to me, it seems very important for students in low-income areas. All of these specialized schools have specific purposes in any city in America- wealthy or poor.

Lastly, the article explains the two main arguments of the purpose of charter schools. The first is that charter schools can “increase student achievement,” and the second explains that the “freedom given to charter schools will allow for the creation of schools with more diverse offerings than may be created by traditional schools.” Both of these arguments are very valid and true, in my opinion. As I explained earlier, there are specialized schools, and this is what I find to be most important. I believe that by having these specialized schools that have much more freedom than traditional public/private schools, students’ achievements will increase much more, and graduation rates will rise. If a school is a perfect fit for a student (especially poorer students) – whether it is an online school, a foreign language school, an art school, or a single sex school – a student’s confidence level, intelligence level, and achievement level will all rise significantly. These two “arguments” should not be separated; they should work hand in hand with one another.

A school must fit each and every one of these needs, and these specialized charters do that. Once a student is at the school of their liking, which has much more freedom and choice, the achievement levels will increase significantly.

Gianna Manzella, CER Intern

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