Thom Jackson on National Charter Week
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.