More time in school key to charter success

Students spend 10 extra weeks in class

FOR MOST FAMILIES, August represents the dog days of summer. Temperatures are at their hottest. Camp is winding down. And the beginning of the school year is still weeks away.

But not for students at Massachusetts public charter schools, where students are already in the classroom and beginning their school year.

It’s no secret that our state’s public charters perform exceptionally well. According to numerous independent studies, from Stanford, Harvard, and MIT, our public charter schools are the best in the nation. And, according to the latest state data, Boston’s three Brooke Charter schools are the best performing public schools of any kind in Massachusetts.

There are a number of reasons for Massachusetts’ public charter schools’ success: individualized instruction, quality teachers, and a strong culture of learning.

But one of the biggest reasons our public charter students are succeeding is the time they spend in school. In addition to longer school years, school days themselves are longer. While a traditional district school day in Boston is 6.1 hours long, school days at Boston charter schools are 8.2 hours long, translating into real academic gains.

Compared to district school peers, charter students gain 1.5 more months of learning per year in reading and 2.5 more months of learning per year in math.  In Boston’s charter schools, these longer school days add up to nearly 10 extra weeks of school annually (48 days).

But additional time doesn’t just give low-income children the opportunity to do more math and reading. It also provides real opportunities for these students to study art and music, to explore science, and to engage in activities that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them.

In this way, public charters help close not only the academic achievement gap but also the “experience gap” that exists between children of means—whose families can afford to invest in these experiences during afterschool hours—and those living in or near poverty.

Unfortunately, across the state there are nearly 33,000 children waiting for access to public charter schools. Because of an outdated, arbitrary cap, many of these students are stuck in failing or underperforming schools for no reason other than their zip code.

The thing is, public charters don’t just boost student achievement – they also provide a financial boost for our educational system as a whole. Indeed, whenever a new public charter school opens, Massachusetts provides traditional public school districts with additional state aid. As a result, over the last five years alone, public charters have increased overall education spending on public education more than $236 million.

Meet the Author

Jon Clark

Co-Director, Brooke Charter Schools
A longer school year, impressive results and additional funding are but three reasons why voting Yes on Question 2 on this November’s ballot is so important. By lifting the cap on public charters, we can give every child the opportunity to benefit from Massachusetts’ world-class public education system. We can give them the exceptional educational experience every child deserves. And most important of all, we can ensure no one is left out.

Jon Clark is the Co-Director of Brooke Charter Schools, which operates four public charter schools in Boston.