Current Issue

June 1, 2011

Vol. 111, No. 14

Creating great schools

In response to: Schoolhouses rock

Published on June 1, 2011

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.

Eileen H. Bakke ’75
Vice president for education, Imagine Schools
Arlington, Va.

Post Comments
1 Response to Creating great schools

Tobin Hahn '94 Says:

2011-06-15 09:13:40

It is not clear to me how offering choice and competition so that parents can "vote with their feet" will do anything to support and improve public education. It will, however, pad the pockets of supposed nonprofit companies like Imagine and their real estate subsidiary, Schoolhouse Finance. States that are abandoning traditional public schools and replacing them with charters or corporate-run schools are hastening the demise of American education. When the dust clears and the data are in, it is unlikely these trendy options will fare much better (and indeed, current data suggest this). There is a place for school choice and charters that support the needs of a district are a part of that, but the privatization of America's education system will hurt us all in the long run.
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