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State of Mass. Education: Are Charter Schools the answer?

REGION (WGGB) — Reforming school systems is something all administrators can agree on. The question is how?  Are charter schools the answer?

We told you about a new documentary that portrays the country’s public school system as failing and favors charter schools as the solution. Springfield and Holyoke are two districts in the state facing the possibility of state takeover if they can’t turn their under performing schools around.

The film is called “Waiting for Superman.” The premise – five inner city kids want to achieve their dreams. They need to leave their failing public schools and win a hard to get slot in a charter school system.

The movie comes at a time where many public school districts, faced with budget shortfalls, are either closing or merging schools. The result – overcrowded classrooms and a lack of quality education.  In Massachusetts, 35 schools labeled as under performing are facing the possibility of state takeover.

Frustrated parents are pursuing alternatives. Some parents feel that if one’s child is to get a quality education, he or she should enroll in a charter school. That attitude is sparking an increase in charter school enrollment. On the national front, students attending charters has tripled. Here in the Bay State, it’s doubled over the past decade. The number of schools increasing from 40 to 63.

Springfield School Superintendent Alan Ingram is struggling to turn ten under performing schools around.  In Holyoke, officials are trying to prevent a state takeover of Dean Technical High School and are working to get the Morgan School back on track.

All of the state’s troubled schools are in poor inner cities where poverty and homelessness are the toughest challenges. The other hurdle facing public schools is the number of students requiring special education.

Both districts are working diligently to fix their problems. Springfield is trying to attract and hire more qualified teachers to accelerate student growth. Holyoke is looking to extend the school day at its two troubled schools. The action though is not stopping parents from switching schools.

In Springfield, Sabis International, the city’s largest charter school, has a waiting list of 2,700 students. Holyoke’s Community Charter School has a long waiting list too. The competition results in more than a financial drain.

Charters seem to be the hot trend, by boasting high graduation rates and modest MCAS test results. Educators however are mixed on whether they alone are the silver bullet solution.


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