We Support Urban League's Charter School Proposal
by Adaeze Okoli, Senior Teen Editor, age 16 and Deidre Green, Managing Editor, age 19
The editors of the Simpson Street Free Press strongly support the Urban League of Greater Madison’s proposal for a new charter school in south Madison.
The Urban League, its staff and board, and executive director Kaleem Caire deserve great credit for their gutsy and long overdue plan.
There are no band-aids large enough for the achievement gaps in our schools. The time for talk is over. Thousands of local kids are slipping through the cracks every semester. We need innovation. We need new ideas.
Here at the Simpson Street Free Press we say it all the time: Academics must come first. And Dane County needs to change its course now, or we will all pay a steep price in the future.
Recent reports in the Wisconsin State Journal say the Madison School District projects the cost per-student for this new charter school at as much as $28,000 per year. Madison Preparatory Academy planners say the cost is substantially less than that. No matter which figures are correct, it is time we think about the real costs of Madison’s achievement gap. It ain’t working folks. We need to think about innovation and change.
It takes guts to propose real change. Kaleem Caire and others pushing the Madison Prep idea are proposing just that—real change. Plans for longer school days and a longer school year are good ideas. We also applaud the idea of connecting volunteer and extracurricular activities to academics. National research demonstrates that when extra-curriculars compliment in-school learning, students benefit. Communities that use these strategies make progress in the fight against nagging achievement gaps.
Alongside the pre-existing achievement gap between white students and minority students exists a gender disparity. This problem exists across racial divides, but it is particularly pronounced within minority communities. African American and Latino males simply do not perform as well as their female counterparts.
The Madison Preparatory Academy would specifically target at-risk minority male populations. It would thus be more apt to address the unique struggles particular to these groups. Small classroom sizes, the single-gender approach, an emphasis on community service, and a rigorous curriculum would all help provide students with individual attention. Distractions would be minimized and a sense of community engagement will help foster academic self-confidence.
The Madison Preparatory Academy is an innovative idea that may be exactly what the Madison School District needs to help bridge the achievement gap. We strongly support the proposal.