Cambridge: Concern about Charter Schools’ Impact on Public Schools

Written by Rachel Kashdan

Rachel Kashdan
BU News Service

On a Monday afternoon in Central Square, shouting and laugher pour out of open windows at Prospect Hill Academy, a charter school serving kindergarten through high school. Five minutes down the road on Broadway is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, a brick building about three times the size. Outside this school, all is silent.

Between 1999 and 2013 the number of charter schools in the US swelled from 1,500 to 6,100, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and today in Cambridge alone there are three.

These schools promise a better quality of education to students who are accepted.

Prospect Hill charter school, founded with the ideals like “high expectations,” “equity,” and “personalization,” was dubbed a “gold medal” school, meaning top 2 percent of high schools nationwide, in 2013 by US News & World Report.

Some community members, however, say charter schools  siphon off the best students from surrounding public schools, leaving them high and dry.

“I have no issue with charter schools, I have an issue with who gets into the charter schools,” Lem Lanier, 62, of Newton, said.

Others, like Karen Henry, 26, of Brighton, said that charter schools offer greater opportunities for students who seek it out.

“It seems like a good idea for students who are really interested in being successful to have the opportunity to do that in a focused environment,” Henry said. “If someone wants to be challenged and someone doesn’t and their sitting in desks across from each other how do you get them both to succeed?”

 

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