by Georgia Charter Schools Association
By Andrew Lewis
The great Bobby Jones once said, “competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course — the one between your ears.”
What’s at stake is way more than a 10-foot putt. That ‘five-and-a-half-inch course between your ears’ is what determines if a child will be successful, not on a golf course, but in life.
Which is why the recent release of results for Georgia’s new grading system for public schools, the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), is so disturbing. Only 23% (15 out of 66 schools) of Richmond County Public Schools are operating at an academic level of “C” or greater.
Richmond County is not alone. 43% of public schools across the state failed to meet an academic level grade of “C” or higher.
Do we need further proof that too many of our children are not prepared as best they can be for higher education or the job market? The Education Trust, a well-respected national education advocacy organization, notes that nearly one in four American children are unable to pass a basic entrance exam for the armed forces.
Unless we step our game in public education, we will only continue to fail our students and their parents. They deserve better!
It’s time to do things differently in K-12 education. One way is to expand public school options and empower parents by embracing charter schools.
For families who can’t afford to move to a “better” school district, and even for families who can, charter schools empower all parents with the ability to ask one simple question; ‘What is the best academic setting for my child — the traditional zoned public school or the charter public school?’”
In Georgia, the growth of autonomous, self-governing charter public schools, that are 100% open to any child who wished to attend, has been mostly limited to the Atlanta metro area. But improved academic results are already paying big dividends for districts like Atlanta Public Schools (APS).
APS charter schools outperformed the district across all grade levels. At the elementary grade level, APS charter schools outperformed the district by 7.1 percent, by 12 percent at middle school, and 12.2 percent at high school.
APS, still stinging from the black eye of a cheating scandal, can actually point with pride to its innovative charter schools. One teaches Mandarin Chinese, another pioneers small classes of just 15 students, another uses Latin to support vocabulary development and prepare students for success in rigorous high school and college programs.
And one APS charter school uniquely offers every student the opportunity to learn in the East Lake Community of Atlanta, located on the edge of Georgia’s second most famous golf course, Robert Trent Jones’ East Lake Country Club.
Drew Charter School is the signature piece of a community revitalization effort of the East Lake Community. From the 1920’s until the 1970’s, East Lake was a community gem in Atlanta. But in the 1970’s, East Lake fell on hard times seeing poverty, crime, and high school dropouts rates spiral out of control. The famous East Lake Golf Club fell into disrepair and almost closed.
That was until community leaders from East Lake and across Atlanta joined forces to rebuild the community and establish an autonomous, self-governing charter public school as its centerpiece. That school, Drew Charter School, is now considered one of the top performing public schools in Georgia, improving the lives of countless children.
It can happen in Richmond County as well, if education leaders and citizens are
willing to place all education options on the table. Charter public schools are just one tool in the K-12 tool belt, but they are tools of reform that we must learn how to wield, to improve our public school systems in Atlanta, Augusta and all over Georgia.
If our children are going to become successful members of our community, we must help them master the ‘five-and-a-half-inch course’ between their ears.
Andrew Lewis is Executive VP of the Georgia Charter Schools Association