Kathy Kiely ’77’s “Schoolhouses rock” (cover story, March 2) highlights the impressive achievements of numerous Princeton alumni dedicated to changing education. Many of us aren’t Waiting for Superman. In 2004, my husband and I founded Imagine Schools, a national operator of public charter schools, to bring educational choice to families who otherwise would be trapped in failing zoned schools. In our seventh year, nearly 40,000 students in 73 charter schools are part of the Imagine “school system.”
One reform deserving of additional focus is the performance tool used to evaluate students, teachers, and schools. To make merit pay work and to individualize education, Congress should adopt a learning-gains approach to replace No Child Left Behind’s Adequate Yearly Progress designation. NCLB tests provide an incomplete performance picture, especially for students who are below grade level. At Imagine Schools, we test all students at the beginning of the year to provide baseline academic information and again in the spring to assess how much each student has progressed. Same-student learning-gains data enable us to measure each teacher’s effectiveness and to celebrate each student’s academic growth, not simply their proficiency at a point in time.
As I expressed as a participant on last year’s Reunions education panel, charter schools’ most potent contribution to reform is offering choice and competition. Parents know quality and will vote with their feet. Parents understand that there are elements in addition to strong academics that create great schools: character development, leadership, a loving environment, and effective teachers who serve as positive role models. Our reform efforts will be successful when students graduate being both good and smart.
Browsing Letters 2010-2011