Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The High Speed Charter School by Akindele Akinyemi

The need to develop independent charter schools (or high speed charter schools or high speed public school academies) are now. With the collapse of the Detroit Public Schools and charter advocates trying to block insane legislation such as re-defining a "first class school district" in the SB 1107 (the Fiscal Year 2009 school aid budget sponsored by Senator Ron Jelinek from Three Oaks) we need to develop a new hybrid of charter schools that will continue to push for economic development.

The high speed charter school falls under the Covenant for Detroit's fifth point which is the following:

Educational Reform: Repeal the tax credit in the Michigan Constitution to allow Universal Tax Credits for parents and children in Detroit, expansion of theme based charter schools, private scholarships for children in failing public schools, prayer in schools, replace multiculturalism with patriotic education, encourage private sector participation in math and science education, fighting adult illiteracy with private based programs that will create job readiness.

A high speed public school academy (or high speed charter school) is simply a theme based charter school with a fast paced curriculum that is geared towards the learning style of the student. The infrastructure of the school is based on two things: the fiscal health of the school and the academic health of the school. Most conventional and traditional charter schools only have one leader of the school and that is the principal. The principal is left to do the duties of everything while the most important things are hardly ever touched. Even with an assistant principal the school leader is still left to do almost everything that results in frequent burnout and in many cases...leaving the profession all together.

In a high speed charter school the executive director of the school acts as the financial manager of the institution while the school leader acts as the academic agent of the school. Both have specific instructions on how the school will succeed. The goal is to become less dependent on state aid money from the Department of Education and becoming more financially independent by way of spurring economic development that will help pour money back into the educational institution.

Management companies are not necessary in a high speed charter school because these schools are self-managed. Instead of utilizing a management company taking 14-20% of your state aid money to keep the management company in business the state aid money is going right into the classroom for the students.

A high speed charter school also is constantly raising money by way of donations. Annual giving (like you see in schools such as Cranbrook and Country Day) are necessary to keep the institution afloat. The Executive Director is the external face of the school by connecting with corporations, small business owners and other factors that may be used to keep the school afloat fiscally. High speed charter schools may generate enough income from other business venues to the extent of where it can operate on its own without the aid of state money which will free it up from federal and state mandates.

Some may say that these type of schools exist. They do not exist. Traditional charters have a emphasized program within the academic climate BUT that program is not necessary geared towards a specific specialization. Most charters are no more than duplicates of traditional schools such as Detroit Public Schools.

For example, AT& T or Verizon should charter with Wayne County Community College or Eastern Michigan University to set up a specialization school dealing with telecommunications.

The curriculum in a high speed charter school is fast paced. This means the classwork is high caliber as well as students applying themselves 100%. These types of schools are designed for students who want to get into the top universities in the world (not just the United States). Trimesters are used in an independent charter school to maximize the student's learning time. The school year is normally 215-240 days out the year depending on how a group develops their own high speed charter school based on the curriculum. All high speed charter schools have a mandatory Saturday school that is a half-day from 8:00 am to 12:00pm. Then the school converts over to a community school for parents and other services such as adult illiteracy and financial literacy courses for parents.

Mathematics are highly stressed in a high speed charter school. Students in these schools should be learning calculus and should have mastered the metric system by the time they are in 12th grade. In a high speed charter school the curriculum is geared towards advanced placement. This means by the time the students are in 11th or 12th grade they are prepared to take the ASVAB, SAT or ACT tests. While most public schools trim and gear their entire first semester preparing their children to take either the MEAP or MME examinations in a high speed charter school the SAT, ASVAB or ACT preparation is integrated into the curriculum.

High speed charter schools stress SAT, ACT or ASVAB tests over state mandated tests because of the parent factor. Parents want to know which tests are going to save them money when their child graduates from high school. This is why high speed charters integrate these tests into the core curriculum.

The foundation of a high speed charter school is based on three items. Business, Technology and Government. These core items is what makes the high speed charter school more effective, more efficient, and more marketable than traditional public school academies. In a high speed charter school students will not just learn government but actually learn how to draft and craft public policies for their community. Students will not just learn about business but actually OPEN a business or credit union. A high speed charter school creates and patents its own software for the students and parents. The entire curriculum is online in a high speed charter school.

Foreign language is stressed in a high speed charter school. The most marketable languages include Spanish, German, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. Students taking any of these languages are expected not just have fluent literacy skills in these languages by the time they reach 12th grade but also have strong geographical skills.

Other traditional classes taught in a high speed charter school includes home economics (integrated with etiquette courses), marriage and family and morality courses.

Several things should happen to make a high speed charter school more effective.

(1) Developing educational empowerment zones within urban communities. These are zones that are a combination of continued charter schools growth and an expanded education tax credit available to all of those who may live in a failing school district . These zones should encourage urban living and help stem the exodus of middle-class families to the suburbs.

(2) Introducing an independent charter school authority. A proposal that is in front of the Colorado House Education Committee calls for setting up an independent statewide charter school authority.

A recent Wyoming poll conducted by Center for Education Reform earlier this year found 76 percent of those surveyed believed in allowing communities to create public charter schools.

In Georgia, Gov. Sonny Perdue recently signed legislation that allows charter school applicants whose petition is rejected by the local board of education to seek approval before a newly formed state charter board commission. The authority would oversee the establishment of charter schools in the State of Georgia. The same has happened in South Carolina. We must do this in Michigan to ensure that parents have a choice to send their children to high speed public school academies.

(3) Wayne County Community College should have the ability to authorize charter schools in Detroit since the student population in DPS have dropped below 100,000 students. Oakland Schools should also charter high speed charters in Oakland County as part of the emerging sector in the county.

It can be done if we learn to work together. Our children's education is at stake. Let's continue to push for more educational choices in our community.

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