Bay Area charter schools thriving

February 10, 2009 5:50:34 PM PST
A new report identifies one Bay Area charter school district outperformed traditional public schools.

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Based on state test scores, a report found Oakland's charter schools outperformed that city's traditional public schools.

White students did slightly better in traditional schools, but African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and other minorities did better in Oakland's 33 charter schools.

"If you set high expectations for students and you provide them with great support and resources, then the students can perform really well," said Peter Thorp from the California Charter Schools Association.

The Oakland report found these gains were more prominent at the middle and high school levels. Educators say these are the most crucial years when students need to be engaged in their work.

Outside Oakland, at Summit Preparatory Charter School in Redwood City, every teacher has a master's degree and classes are smaller.

"Twenty-five to one, but every student also has a mentor that is a 16 to one ratio. And that mentor stays with them for four years, works with the family as a liaison," said Diane Tavenner from Summit Preparatory Charter High School.

This charter school receives less money than all the other traditional schools in the Sequoia Union High School District. But they also rely on donations and help from learning institutions like Stanford.

The result: Summit has the highest state scores in that district.

Summit also uses a merit-based pay system where teachers are rewarded based on their performance. But the California Teachers Association believes in rewarding the entire school.

"And we think that works better. It doesn't not pit teacher against teacher and brings everyone together towards a common goal," said Dennis Kelly from United Educators of San Francisco.

President Obama recently visited a Washington D.C. charter school. It's known the president has instructed his new secretary of education to work toward rewarding those schools that are innovative.

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