It was recently reported that Leflore Legacy Academy Charter School in Greenwood, in only its second year of operation, was rated higher overall than any middle or junior high school in the Greenwood-Leflore district in the school year that ended in May. Clarksdale Collegiate Charter School had a higher level of reading proficiency than any school in the Clarksdale district.
Both schools posted strong numbers for growth in reading, with each scoring better than all but one school in the respective districts where they are located, including growth among students in the bottom 25% academically. And yet both schools were assigned a grade of D on an A-F grading scale.
In fact, of the state's eight charter schools, one received a B, two scored a C, three earned a D, and two of them were too new to be graded.
Grant Callen of Empower Mississippi, which is "dedicated to the mission of a quality education for every child, meaningful work for every adult, and justice for all," points out the law requires charters to open in failing districts, which is why they should not be judged on grades alone.
"You should look to their retention rates, you should look to whether they have a waiting list to get in, and you should look to parent satisfaction," he submits. "Parents vote with their feet, and I'm here to tell you parents in Mississippi are loving the charter school experience."
With a recent survey showing 98.1% of charter schools parents would recommend their schools to other families, Callen reasons that the state needs more.
"We only have eight charter schools in the entire state," he reiterates. "At Empower Mississippi, we believe that's not nearly enough to meet the demand across the state for parents who want their kids to have a high-quality education."
His organization has a plan to double the number of charters within the next five years.