Yet even in the face of these challenges, at least a handful of fantastic, integrated charter schools have gotten off the ground. Consider Capital City Charter School in Washington--the first public school the Obamas visited as President and First Lady--which serves equal numbers of white, black, and Hispanic children and roughly equal proportions of poor and middle class kids--and which has gotten strong results over its ten-year history. There’s the famous High Tech High (HTH), founded with an explicit mission to serve a diverse group of students in the San Diego area. And there’s the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST)--the best school in Denver, which is just about perfectly integrated along racial and class lines. Such schools should offer inspiration to the school reform, pro-charter crowd, as well as civil rights types--indeed, to just about everyone except neo-separatists who would prefer that, say, African-American youngsters learn from African-American teachers in Afro-centric schools.
Of those three, I know High Tech High is a very progressive design, and from browsing its website, Capital City is also a Coalition of Essential Schools school and generally progressive. DSST looks more traditional, but it is difficult to say just from the website, especially in a high school focusing on science. It is hard to create a genuinely rigorous science program that does not include a healthy dose of inquiry.
So no, at least two of those schools are not inspirational to everyone, they shouldn't be inspirational to people who don't like progressive education. Like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
This is one reason the RI mayoral academies are such a curious construct. The intent seems to be to create integrated, city/suburb, "no excuses" schools. As far as I can tell, there is no precedent for that. It might work, but if it does they'll probably end up quite different from their original urban/segregated inspirations.
I have to admit that I also stopped short when I saw Mike praise HTH and Capital City--neither exactly conforms to the Fordham ideal.
But then Mike isn't really an ideologue at base.
They do, however, struggle with their desire for standard curriculum on the one hand and real choice on the other. Not necessarily mutually exclusive, but certainly difficult to reconcile at times. Perhaps Mike's pendulum was swinging towards the choice side of things.
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