Brown v Board of Education

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60 years ago, on May 17, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered their ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, a decision changing education in the United States forever and confirming what sits at the core of being an American: every child, regardless of their ethnicity or socioeconomic background has a right to a quality education and deserves a chance at success! Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said the Brown ruling was “a great beacon light of hope” and today there are more public school opportunities for all children.

At the Missouri Charter Public School Association we are proud of the role public charter schools in Missouri play and the work they are doing to help close the achievement gap and provide minority and low-income students with a path out of poverty. Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement.

There are 46 public charter schools in the State of Missouri providing an excellent education to over 20,000 students in Kansas City and St. Louis. These students come from all ‘walks of life’ bringing a diversity of strengths, abilities, and challenges. Charter public schools are employing multiple innovative instructional techniques, a diversity of educational programs, extended year opportunities, and finding ways to reach students never having experienced the feeling of success. Today many minority children finally have the opportunity to attend a public school that is on par with or better than public schools in non-minority neighborhoods.

However, as Nina Rees from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) points out, “there is much more work to be done to ensure all children have equal access to great schools”. There are more than one million student names on charter public schools waiting lists nationwide including the charter public schools in Missouri. And in some minority communities within our State chronically failing schools persist and there are no charter public schools options at all. We owe it to all students to make sure they can attend a school that challenges and prepares them for the future.

The NAPCS recently presented the following data points:

  • Nationwide, 63 percent of students enrolled in public charter schools are minority students. The most recent independent research study on charter school performance conducted by Stanford University found that minority students are learning more in public charter schools. The 2013 study compared minority students in public charter schools to minority students in traditional public schools and found that in charter schools:
    • Black students gain nearly three additional weeks of learning in both reading and math.
    • Low-income black students gain nearly one and a half additional months of learning in reading and more than one and a half additional months of learning in math.
    • Low-income Hispanic students gain nearly three additional weeks of learning in reading and more than a full month in math.
    • Hispanic students designated as English Language Learners (ELL) gained two and a half additional months of learning in reading and more than two months in math.
  • Since 2010, all but one independent research study has found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools.
  • Separate studies by the Center for Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

These nationwide findings reflect the success of individual charter schools across the country providing minority students with a top-level education. In Missouri:

  • Almost 50% of the charter public schools scored over 70% on their Annual Performance Report.
  • 63% performed better than the local district average on their Missouri Math assessment.
  • 46% performed better than the local district average on their Missouri English Language Arts assessment.

We still need to do more! When it comes to the education of ALL of Missouri’s students we must think differently, act creatively and move expeditiously. The stakes are simply too high to do otherwise. The future of our State depends on educational innovation, a reasonable approach to assessing school performance, a comprehensive approach to ensuring school quality, and moving past the political traditional vs. charter arguments and working collaboratively to ensure that every family in the State of Missouri has excellent public school options to choose from. The growth and competitiveness of our entire region is dependent on a highly educated workforce, and Missouri must not be left behind.

Today we celebrate this “great beacon light of hope” with a commitment to ensure that the light continues to shine brighter until every child in the State of Missouri has only excellent, quality public school options to choose from.

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