We shouldn’t use the race of students or their school’s ZIP code as a proxy to determine if the school is high quality.
That thought was among many points made this week during two hearings for a new charter school that is determined to deliver where busing, magnet schools, court-ordered desegregation and for-profit schools have failed. The idea is to create charter schools with a mixture of students diverse by culture, class and race.
The Missouri Charter Public School Commission expects to make its decision next Tuesday on whether it will sponsor the application for a network of schools to be called Citizens of the World Kansas City. All indicators are it will be approved.
The first two schools are planned to open in 2016 for kindergartners and first graders. But eventually, they would expand to K-12, serving a broad swath of midtown neighborhoods. The Kansas City schools would join six other Citizens of the World schools teaching 1,300 children in the New York and Los Angeles areas.
To say that there is enthusiasm behind this charter plan is to undersell it. The groundswell is more than impressive — it’s been crucial to successes so far. The Kauffman, Hall Family and Walton Family foundations have all contributed significant dollars, totaling $2.65 million.
The idea for the school originated with parents who wanted to raise their children in midtown and have them attend an academically high-achieving school reflective of the wide range of diversity present. For midtown, that means drawing from residents who are 49 percent white, 36 percent African-American and 12 percent Latino, with more than half of the population earning under $40,000 and 20 percent making more than $75,000.
The commission members pressed for specifics of how the charter’s board and administrators would counter barriers tied to class, culture and levels of entitlement. For instance, successful charter schools tend to become less diverse as time goes on, with white middle class families increasingly making up higher proportions of enrollment. With a lottery system determining which students are accepted, the issue becomes keeping African-American and Latino families committed to re-applying.
It’s one thing to say you value diversity, it’s quite another to embed it substantially.
So far, every step is being taken with great intentionality. The 300-page application explains in depth the methods for developing students who are critical thinkers with the interpersonal skills and academic rigor to succeed as Citizens of the World.