It is too obvious why Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Denver public schools this week: to boost Michael Bennet, Colorado’s newest U. S. senator and former DPS superintendent. But why were Bruce Randolph and Montclair Elementary singled out as exemplars of school reform? Not to take away from their attempts at reform, but their results with an urban population are not yet fully documented. Why were proven middle and high schools with consistent results of academic success using reform methods with similar school populations not mentioned? Simple. They are charter schools. Giving Bruce Randolph kudos for increasing time on task is dishonest when KIPP Sunshine Peak made that a requirement when they set up shop over five years ago when Bruce Randolph was deemed one of Denver Public Schools’ worst according to Jeremy P. Meyer, April 8, “Aggressive Schools to Reap Reward,” denverpost.com. When parents and educators do not provide quality instruction by insuring elementary students are performing at grade level or higher, longer days, weekends, and/or summer school is absolutely necessary to support students’ academic skills so they reach grade level proficiency. KIPP schools, Denver West Preparatory, and Denver School of Science and Technology have always had requirements of more time on task and rigorous academics. These schools expect students to grow to grade level proficiency in time to graduate from high school and be prepared for college success.
When will all district schools look at the success of many charter schools across Colorado serving diverse student bodies? Denver, Jefferson County, Aurora, and Adams County charter schools also serve the same diverse urban populations, but instead of making excuses, the charter educators are rolling up their sleeves and getting it done. District schools should be replicating the best of these schools immediately. The legislation is there to allow districts to give freedom from state,and district regulations and union policies to schools wishing to reform. Why aren’t more schools taking advantage of freedom? Freedom means taking risks and not making excuses. Few educational leaders have the ability and skills to take on this daunting task.
Florida, through NOVA University, and the University of Arkansas actually have charter school leadership classes, and a department of educational reform, respectively. Colorado Universities need to pick up the pace and begin leading in the area of charter school leadership and educational reform training. In order for Colorado to win the “Race To The Top” federal funding, our Universities, as well as, our schools and districts need to innovate.
Kathleen Kullback is a licensed special educator with an M.A. in Educational Leadership and a former candidate for the State Board of Education.