A Prince Among Men

Robin Hood Foundation gives some much deserved recognition to educator John King.   John’s personal story is amazing and inspiring and the school he helped found and the network he’s now a part of are as well.  He was a hero to a lot of people long before this award but it’s a great acknowledgement of the impact of his work.

Only problem is that the Roxbury Prep school in Boston he helped launch has opened up quite an achievement gap…African-American students there outpace white students statewide in Massachusetts.   Same kids, same neighborhoods, same challenges, but dramatically different results.   But as I wrote the last time I highlighted Roxbury Prep on the blog, the school really isn’t a “no excuses” model, it’s a “whatever it takes” model, and that’s an important distinction per ongoing debates. 

Anyway, congratulations John King.

5 Replies to “A Prince Among Men”

  1. Also, it’s not an accident that all 3 of Rox Prep’s leaders, including John King, have, over the years, moved from Red Sox Nation to Yankees Country.

    NY’s Governor and NYC’s Mayor support charter growth. MA’s Governor Patrick and Boston’s Mayor Menino do not.

    Rox Prep is not allowed to open a network of school’s in Boston, because of the “9% cap” here. The state law says that no matter how much urban parent demand exceeds supply of seats, no more than 9% of any district’s students can enroll in charters.

  2. I think that charter schools can produce great improvements for the students who attend. But my caveat about charters is that the schools only teach a self-selected group of kids who make the effort to apply and attend the school. Most of the struggling students in public schools do not have the motivation to devote themselves to education in this way. Charter schools can be valued for the service they provide to a select group of kids, but we can’t assume that all kids would become stellar students if they were somehow forced to attend a charter school. Much of the magic of charters is that charters can require a level of dedication, effort and behavior from their students that public schools simply (and legally) cannot.

  3. Although I appreciate the perception that Attorney DC and others have that alternative public schooling models can lead to inequity or “creaming,” the data does not support this opinion.

    To stay with the example, a Roxbury Prep press release about last year’s MCAS scores clearly shows that as, a cohort, the students admitted to the school enter with MCAS scores as low as their peers in Boston and then leave with some of the best scores in the state. The students are not different from their peers; Roxbury Prep is different from other schools. Further, there is extensive research that shows that charter schools serve a higher percentage of students of color, low-income students, and low-skilled students.

    I agree that charter schools thrive in part because of the dedication of students and families; this is true of any school, public or private. What Roxbury Prep and other high-performing urban schools show is that is the dedication of teaching staffs poring over data, crafting rigorous lessons, and holding students accountable can create widespread achievement. All children have intrinsic motivation and curiosity. The question for adults at any school is whether you can create a culture that directs those qualities toward academic excellence. Roxbury Prep and other schools have shown we can close the achievement gap; the question remains whether or not, as a society, we have the political and moral will to do so everywhere.

  4. Boston: My point was not that charters attract smarter kids, or those who already have a track record of academic excellence. My point is that charters contain students who have shown an interest and dedication to learning. If all students and families were as motivated and committed to educational success as charter populations, then we wouldn’t have as many problems in the country’s education system.

    Charters have the advantage of low numbers of students who are disruptive or who interfere with other students’ ability to learn. From my understanding, students who do not exhibit a true committment to the charter’s goals and rules are often encouraged to leave – and then return to public schools. This is great for the kids at the charter school, but it wouldn’t happen if charters were required to take a random selection of students, including those who did not want to attend, who exhibited consistently disruptive behavior, who were frequently truant and/or did not complete assignments. The power of the charter is that it can ask or encourage students who do not want to follow the charter’s guidelines to leave – not an option general public schools are given.

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