Frequent readers of this blog know that Eduflack can best be described as a pessimist. My pop icon hero is Eeyore. And as I’ve often said, it isn’t even a glass half full/empty issue for me, I want to know who stole my damned water.
But sometimes even I can be moved by true positivity and commitment. And today is just one of those sorts of moments. This morning, I had the honor of attending the dedication of the new Amistad Academy facility in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1999, Amistad was the first charter school launched in the Nutmeg State. And this new campus, just blocks from Yale University, was a project many, many years in the making.
As impressive as the facility is, it pales in comparison to the kids enrolled in the facility. There is an enthusiasm, an embrace for learning, and a commitment to success at Amistad that is too often lacking in many other public schools – urban, suburban, and rural. There is a sense of community and family in the building, from the administrators and teachers to the students and families to the community at large.
What is even more impressive, though, are the results. Amistad is the cornerstone of non-profit Achievement First’s efforts in Connecticut. At a time when Connecticut is suffering through the worst achievement gaps in the nation, Amistad and its fellow AF schools are demonstrating real results. On the 2010 Connecticut Mastery Test of 4th grade reading, math and writing, AF students are passing at 75.2 percent rate. That is a higher passage rate than the state as a whole, and it is a passage rate more than double that in the cities in which they operate.
We see the same for 8th grade performance on the 2010 Connecticut Mastery Exam. AF posts a 79.5 percent passage rate, again higher than the overall Connecticut average and nearly double that of the cities in which they operate.
Those trends continue. Looking at the 2011 state scores, 93 percent of AF 10th graders are proficient in all subjects tested by the state, 10 points higher than the state average and 36 percent higher than the proficiency levels in their host districts.
No, it isn’t all about the test scores. It is also about every single kid at Amistad intending to go to college. It is about schools like Amistad working with other public schools in the host district to improve instruction across the board. And it is about demonstrating the cycles of failure and the absence of opportunity that have long dominated too many of our urban centers can be broken and populated.
Too often, we hear the criticism that charter schools somehow do damage to our public schools. Such urban legend overlooks the fact that charter schools ARE public schools. When we see the successes and the energy in schools like Amistad Academy, we are reminded of what is possible in public education. We are reminded of the network that comprises effective K-12 public education — traditional public schools, charters, magnet schools, and technical/vo-tech institutions. And we see how such institutions can work together to fulfill the social compact we have extended to offer all children — regardless of race or zip code — access to excellent public schools.
At today’s event, Paige Leigh Brown, a 7th grade scholar at Amistad, presented her poem, “My Bright Future.” Her poignant words said it all:
You look before you and what do you see?A bright scholar shining beautifully.I see myself reflected.My voice in society projected.I see myself getting a degree
We should seek such insight and sentiment from every single student who passes through our public schoolhouse doors, whether they be traditional, charter, magnet, or otherwise. All students should see a bright future.