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Schools of Choice: No One is Stuck

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Often we hear about children being “stuck” in poorly performing, unsafe, traditional public schools. Last week, The Center for Education Reform (CER) staff got a taste of something different during two charter school visits. “Stuck” is never a word that you would use to describe a student in a charter school. In fact, charter school parents and students are willingly, excitedly, and proudly engaged and active in the school community, and are there because they choose to be, not because they were arbitrarily assigned based on their zip code.

BerkeleyBreanCharterVisitCER toured two schools in the nation’s capital last week – Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts, and Achievement Prep Public Charter School. Both schools are located across the Anacostia River in Southeast D.C., a section of the city with high levels of poverty. But these schools are making a difference; they are changing their community and are engines of opportunity. The parents know it and the kids know it, and one reporter even came all the way from Rochester, New York to see what his city can learn from these schools in D.C. “across the river”.

Parents at both schools spoke about the value of having a choice in where their children go to school. One Achievement Prep parent, Deborah, said, “We didn’t have to go uptown to get the education that our son is getting. We would not have gone to a district school if not for Achievement Prep. If not for Achievement Prep, we would have to make ends meet to pay for a private school. We have had a rich experience because our son has gone to charter schools.”

Another Achievement Prep mom lovingly told CER staff that her third-grade daughter already has goals of attending Cornell University. “I’m proud that she is only nine and her mind has gone beyond high school,” she said. Not only is Achievement Prep important to her family, but the act of choosing the right school for her children is key: “There is nothing exceptional or exciting about [our] traditional public schools…Choice is everything.”KaraAtRichardWright

At Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts, parents echoed the same sentiments. Families are empowered with choices that transform and improve student learning in the most disadvantaged communities in Washington, D.C. These students’ zip codes do not define their destinies. They are not “stuck”. Their parents choose the school that is right for them, and that makes all the difference.

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