EDITORIAL: Charter is setting the bar in LCSD1
Jan 06, 2013 (Wyoming Tribune-Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Far be it from us to say "we told you so." But we are not surprised by the early successes being enjoyed by the only charter school in Laramie County School District 1.
True, recent reports of academic leaps forward are preliminary. Yet there are no good reasons to think they will not stand up over time, given that PODER Academy is actually pushing its students n hard n toward academic success rather than simply hoping they will find their way.
Consider that, on average, students in LCSD1 are expected to raise their scores on the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) exam by about 10 points over an average school year. Yet students at PODER have already hit that mark, and they have not even completed one-half of one school year.
The charter school, which at this point only serves grades one to three, reports that its students on average have seen gains of 12-13 points in reading and language skills. And increases in mathematics were even greater than that.
And these successes come despite the fact that
PODER's student body includes the largest portion of free and reduced lunch students of any elementary school in the district. It often is expected that these children will struggle, but charter schools across the country are destroying that perception through a formula that includes:
- High expectations. Students at PODER are told from their first day that they are preparing to go to college. This gives the young people both a goal and a reason for trying.
- Longer hours. PODER's school day is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. That's two extra hours of school a day, or about two full months more of extra class time over the length of the school year.
- Enrichment. PODER makes tutoring available before and after school, on weekends and even during vacations. And it is mandatory. School officials gave the MAP test to their students before the Christmas holiday in order to see who needed to be tutored during the break.
No doubt, some of these things also are part of the regular program in LCSD1. But they are not presented with the intensity and diligence that comes with the charter school experience.
Part of that is due to the fact that they are part of PODER's mission. But the other part is that the school has to perform or it can lose its charter. Pressure to succeed is not part of the public school experience.
Surely all eyes in LCSD1 n including administrators, school board members, parents and taxpayers n will be on PODER in coming months to see whether this success continues. But stakeholders also should hope that, if the charter school does keep soaring, some of its practices will find their way into the rest of the district.
That is exactly why this newspaper supports a true charter school movement in Wyoming. Competition is a great motivator to success.
For years, parents and others in LCSD1 have been told that they just need to be patient, that things eventually will be fine. Now PODER is showing rapid success can occur with the district's students. Is there any good reason why it isn't happening in the rest of LCSD1's schools
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