by Jeremiah Grace
For the first time in over five years, new charter schools will be opening in Connecticut.
The Governor Malloy and state lawmakers put together a budget that fulfills most of the promises made in last year’s education reform law by increasing per-pupil funding and allocating more money for new charter schools. And in recent weeks, the state Department of Education has approved two state charter school applications.
In a terrible fiscal climate, this was a good six months for charters.
Our small charter community has been a blessing to me, as I’ve come to know staff and parents at all of our 17 schools. Watching them come together throughout the legislative session to fight for our children’s education was incredible.
I was even more touched by charter parents’ willingness – without a second thought – to advocate for more new charter schools so that other families can have the same of opportunity they do. It’s clear that charter parents are as committed to their schools as they are compassionate for the families who want better public school options.
Meanwhile, community leaders, non-profits and other organizations were busy trying to create more great public charters schools. After meeting the whirlwind application deadline, working with partners in their target communities to assess need and tailor their school design, and making their case at a public hearing, one local and two state charter schools are on their way:
- Our Piece of the Pie is a Hartford-based non-profit that has provided services to over-age, under-credit youth for years. They provide tutoring and after-school activities on their own and a comprehensive in-school support program within a local high school. Now, OPP will bring their considerable talent to bear in Windham, CT with the newly approved and funded Path Academy. The school is designed to serve the most at-risk high-school students in a troubled area known for its rural poverty and high non-English-speaking population.
- Waterbury, long the only major city in Connecticut without a charter school despite broad local support, will be the new home of Brass City Preparatory Academy. Their mission is to “educate the mind, body and spirit of Waterbury’s inner-city children and encourage strong parental involvement to insure the success of each child.” Brass City’s founding group has a long track record of educating at-risk students to graduate high school on time and hopes to scale up their impact with this new state charter school.
- A parent group in New Haven generated a lot of excitement and gained approval for Elm City Montessori Charter School, a local charter for pre-K through 4th grade. This research-backed and popular model allows students to drive the pace, and to some extent the content, of their own learning. Students are guided by teachers and collaborate across subjects and age groups in open-plan classrooms. The curriculum is project-based, and advancement is based on the mastery. The goal is to not only increase test scores, but also create self-motivated learners.
It has been my pleasure to work with some of these dedicated school founders, who took a chance with Connecticut’s unwieldy application process and long odds. I look forward to supporting them as they launch their new schools.
We still have a long way to go before every child in Connecticut has access to a good public school education, but it humbles me to know that I am working with such a great group of parents and school leaders. Together, we can close our state’s achievement gap, and create more great public schools.