Geoff Rosenberger chairs a network of four charter schools in Rochester, N.Y., and recently wrote an op-ed piece for, the web arm of the Lexington Herald-Leader.   The principal of Talbot Consulting, Leslie Talbot, wrote the following thoughtful response that is continuing to gain digital traction:

Thanks, Geoff for your op-ed piece, “Charter Schools Can Succeed and Empower.” We share the same opinion regarding charter schools in New York. I have seen my Central Harlem neighborhood transform from an array of poor performing schools, to one wherein parents actively debate with each other in the local drugstores, restaurants and groceries about the “good things in [their] children’s schools.” Central #Harlem parents have choices, and the competition has improved the quality of district schools in the neighborhood — though only slightly. Per your point, New York is one of several states with a charter law requiring strong accountability for high performance standards. Contrary to popular opinion, Central Harlem charters enroll as many and in some cases higher percentages of students with disabilities, and those eligible for free or reduced lunch. These schools are not “creaming” the least challenging students to enroll in their schools. Parents are happy, students are happy, and as a resident it brings me joy in the mornings as I walk to the subway stop to see little ones clearly excited to see how the new school day will unfold.

All of that said, those of us in the charter community MUST do more to:

1. Collaborate with district school leaders. We’ve learned a lot during the last 22 years. Let’s share what we’ve learned. Let’s also support district schools in advocating for the same autonomy that our school leaders enjoy , and under the same conditions — greater accountability. I don’t know a district leader who wouldn’t want to control his/her resource allocations — both human and monetary.

2. Let’s work to improve the #charterschool laws and school accountability in states where many of the charters perform at rates lower than their district counterparts (i.e., #Michigan, #Ohio, etc.). Parents seeking better opportunities and life outcomes for their children should have a real choice for quality schooling — not just a safer place to learn.

3. Let’s figure out how to keep the debate centered on young people. Much of the charter/district “noise” focuses on the use of resources. While I understand that this debate essentially is about resource allocation, and the freedom to innovate in support of teaching and learning, it’s REALLY about children. It’s about providing better opportunities for 21st century readiness, building highly functioning communities and creating vibrant urban centers that provide advantages for all.

You’re right. The only way we accomplish this is by increasing the number of high quality schools for ALL students. And so it continues.

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