Well, I think charter schools have finally arrived. Not only are they the subject of the greatly anticipated "Waiting for 'Superman'," a new documentary film about the challenges facing America's education system, charters were also the subject of a recent episode of "The Oprah Show." Now, that's big time.
In true Winfrey style, Oprah's Angel Network donated $1 million to each of the following six Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) for raising student achievement to high levels: The Mastery Charter Schools of Philadelphia; Aspire Public Schools in California; the Denver School of Science and Technology; the LEARN Charter School in Chicago; the New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy; and the YES Prep Public Schools in Houston.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools congratulates all the charter organizations recognized, as well as Oprah Winfrey, her Angel Network and the HARPO team for understanding the significance of supporting and replicating high-quality charter school programs!
In addition to these great schools, the documentary's director, Davis Guggenheim, was featured as a guest on the show. He was joined by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who was a keynote speaker at our 2010 National Charter Schools Conference. He spoke favorably and passionately of the KIPP schools; Ms. Winfrey did, as well.
It is a tremendous time in education reform. Some of the most influential people in America have turned their full attention to the crisis in education and the tangle of policy challenges we face every day. The result is an unprecedented opportunity for a true national discourse on reform. The film has rightfully attracted interest and attention from all areas of education and I'm happy, because it means many who have been talking about education policy around private conference tables have come together to speak now around a bigger and more public table.
For years, folks on all sides of this issue have debated the best and most effective ways to fix public education. In fact, there are so many different ideas about what to fix first, there is sometimes a paralysis of indecision. However, "Waiting for 'Superman'" reminds us that it is simpler than we think. If you back away from the nuances of policy far enough to look at the children who are really the focus of this work, it becomes a lot clearer. If we can all remember to put children first and make decisions based on what is best for them, we'll find that we agree on more than we think. In fact, I bet we agree on more than we don't.
The door opened by this film brings the conversations to the widest and most influential group, the public, and that is as it should be. Public education is, after all, a public trust. If we're going to achieve the long-term, systemic change that public education needs, we've got to use this opportunity to make sure the people in every community understand and engage on this issue and build the highest quality public school system this country has ever seen.
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