It’s still difficult for some educators to say “charter schools” without sneering. But in Charleston County, charter schools are delivering on promises.
Monday, the once wary Charleston County School Board renewed the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science’s contract for 10 years and approved its expansion by 80 students to 560. The school has achieved an impressive track record of academic achievement and is the most racially diverse public school in the district.
Two more charter schools are scheduled to open here in the fall, and at least five more want to open in 2014. Parents, it appears, like having choices about where their children go to school. And they appear to be well satisfied with the schools’ academics.
The vast majority of children still attend regular public schools. But a funny thing has happened in those schools since charter schools came on the scene. They are offering many more choices. School districts didn’t want mainstream schools to lose students to charter schools, so they began looking harder for ways to offer their own choices.
Schools with arts-centered curricula have been very successful, as have those using the Montessori approach to teaching and others with a focus on a single discipline like math or science.
The trend toward charter schools is strong in the Lowcountry, but it is growing statewide as well. Ten more schools are to begin in the fall, and 40 more have signaled they will apply to open in 2014.
School Board member Todd Garrett, who represents the peninsula, recognized that District 20 is considered an educational desert to many parents. He campaigned on a promise to provide options so that parents would be able to send their children to neighborhood schools with confidence.
Three of the schools are applying to operate in peninsula Charleston. These, along with the successful Charleston Charter School for Math and Science might allow parents to stop driving their children to other districts or paying for them to attend private schools.
The three in planning include Carolina Voyager for grades K-8; the Charleston School for Musically Inspired Minds for sixth through 12th grades; and Burke Community Development Charter School of History, Culture and Global Economics also sixth through 12th grades.
Charter schools are public schools run by boards of parents, community members and educators instead of the elected district school board.
They shape their own policies and curricula. And they are born, and survive, because of much labor on the part of the community.
Those that fail to achieve adequate academic results stand to lose their charters. But in Charleston County, charter schools are helping to change the face of public education, where change has been a long time coming.
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