Upon the conclusion of the American Revolution, our newly independent nation began to place an emphasis on public education; and by 1870, every state had free elementary schools, and the United States had one of the highest literacy rates in the world. However, it was not until the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that the doors of every public school in our country were opened to all students, regardless of their race or socio-economic circumstances.
Historically, we have seen that change has not often come quickly to our public education system. Local school boards, that generally control the funding and operations, hold firm to the belief that they know what is best for the children in their communities. Yet, in the late 1980’s, many prominent and respected educators and public officials called for the reform of the public schools by establishing "charter schools" or "schools of choice”; and in 1991, Minnesota became the first state to pass a charter school law.
This week, as we mark “National Charter Schools Week”, 3 million students attend more than 6,800 charter schools in 43 states. The vast majority of these students are economically disadvantaged and racial or ethnic minorities.
Volumes of research data show that charter students are learning more than they would have had they stayed in their traditional public schools. But just as important, traditional public schools - faced with competition from charters - have embraced many of the innovative approaches being advanced in charters, and have improved as well.
From the advent of the charter school movement, there is no organization – be it for-profit or non-profit – that has played a more significant role in advancing distinctive and innovative charter schools than EdisonLearning. In fact, since 1995, EdisonLearning has helped to educate more charter school students than any other for-profit of not-for-profit organization in the nation.
In addition to education and administrative services we have provided to our 80 charter school partners, we also raised hundreds of millions of dollars of private capital that enabled dozens of charter schools nationwide to build or acquire facilities, books, computers, and get off the ground.
Our portfolio of charter schools includes some of the most successful, such as:
- San Jose-Edison Academy, West Covina, CA – a National Blue Ribbon School
- Charles R. Drew Charter, Atlanta, GA – the first charter in Atlanta, and Georgia Charter School of the Year
- Duluth Edison Charter Academy, Duluth, MN - consistently among the highest performing schools in the state – and has been recognized as a Minnesota Celebration School
- Charter School for Applied Technologies (CSAT), Buffalo, NY – the largest charter school in New York
- Renaissance Academy, Phoenixville, PA – named National Charter School of the Year
- Friendship Academy, Washington, DC – Highest performing charter in DC
These represent just of few of the charter schools nationwide for which EdisonLearning helped to establish a solid educational model and learning culture that would be sustained over many years. Throughout our history, our purpose has not been to develop charter relationships that run indefinitely, but to guide charter schools onto a path of self-sufficiency. As Donald Hense, head of the Friendship Academies stated, EdisonLearning “gave us the wings to fly on our own.”
As public education continues to adjust to economic and competitive realities, our organization remains steadfast in our support of the charter school movement in this country; just as we are also proud of the work we do with our district school partners.
We have always been committed to forging strong partnerships that transform students’ lives, transform their schools and uplift communities. With the continued dedication of our entire team, we will continue to do so for years to come.
Thirty-three years ago, a landmark report was released that triggered an historic wave of change in America’s public education system. A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform clearly stated that our public schools were failing miserably, and reform was needed on the local, state and federal levels. As a result of this call to action, thousands of local communities and groups of parents stepped forward to advance the charter school movement.
As we conclude National Charter School Week, it is appropriate for us to recognize the role our charter school partners have played in what has been a remarkable transformation in American public education.
Today, communities throughout the country benefit from the competition of nearly 7,000 charter schools. Dozens of organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, have emerged to support charter schools and their boards to offer parents distinctive school choices they could not have imagined even a decade ago.
More importantly, the vast majority of students served by charter schools are economically disadvantaged and racial or ethnic minorities. The best evidence indicates that these developments have been a very good thing. Charter students appear to be learning more than they would have had they stayed in their traditional public schools. And, traditional public schools faced with competition have improved as well.
Clearly, there is no denying that public education is now driven by a different dynamic than it was a generation ago—and families that once felt disenfranchised are empowered as never before.
We are proud of the role EdisonLearning has played in bringing about this transformation. In addition to education and administrative services we have provided to our charter school partners, we also raised hundreds of millions of dollars of private capital that enabled dozens of charter schools nationwide to build or acquire facilities, books, computers, and get off the ground.
Since 1995, when EdisonLearning opened its first independent charter school, our company has gone on to serve more charter school students than any other for-profit of not-for-profit organization. However, we could not, and did not do it alone. Our dedicated partners in every single charter school we have been involved in from the beginning have helped bring about the positive reform to public education A Nation at Risk called for in 1983.
As public education continues to adjust to economic and competitive realities, our organization remains steadfast in our support of the charter school movement in this country, and is privileged to work together with our charter partners for student success.
Nearly two-thirds of Minnesota schools are on track to reduce achievement gaps in reading and math by 50 percent by the year 2017. Additionally, 119 schools across Minnesota that serve racially and ethnically diverse student populations with high levels of poverty have demonstrated exemplary academic achievements in state exam proficiency, student growth, graduation rates and closing achievement gaps. This is according annual school performance data released yesterday by the Minnesota Department of Education.
Among schools in the state being recognized, is longtime partner Raleigh-Edison Charter Academy in Duluth. The school is eligible for “Celebration School” recognition, which will be based on its success in advancing initiatives that have led to positive student outcomes. Celebration schools are identified annually based on Multiple Measurements Rating (MMR), which includes data on proficiency, growth, achievement gap reduction, and graduation rates.