Over the next four weeks, the National Alliance will feature a compilation of blogs and stories to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and the 30 percent of students attending public charter schools of Hispanic descent.
The charter school movement is one of diversity and inclusion. As Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) begins, the National Alliance is proud to recognize the dedicated Hispanic educators, families, and students who strengthen public charter schools and the communities they serve. Charter schools’ autonomy allow many schools to provide unique services that meet the needs of their diverse student population—from offering second language support and elevated levels of cultural responsiveness and family engagement, to hiring teachers who reflect the diversity of the community.
Across the country, approximately 30 percent of public charter school students identify as Hispanic. And according to a 2015 report from Stanford University, public charter schools are helping their Hispanic students achieve academic success—urban charter schools generate learning growth equivalent to 22 extra days of learning in math and 6 extra days of reading. For Hispanic students in poverty, these numbers rise to 48 extra days in math and 25 extra days in reading. Such success is reflected in the Hispanic community’s support for charter schools: according to a nationally representative parent survey, 84 percent of Hispanic parents say they favor or strongly favor allowing parents to choose which public school their child attends.
Read on for five public charter schools from across the country whose commitment and innovative approach is making a difference for Hispanic students:
1. STRIVE Preparatory Schools (Colorado)
STRIVE Preparatory School first opened 12 years ago in southwest Denver and has since grown into a network of 11 schools across the city serving 3,700 students—87 percent of whom identify as Hispanic, and 49 percent of whom are English Language Learners. STRIVE Prep’s Ruben Valdez Achievement Campus has a unique history, as it is named after Colorado’s first Hispanic Speaker of the House, which the network saw as “an opportunity to…[name] the campus in honor of someone who represents a living pillar of the community.” Valdez, who in the 1970s shepherded Colorado’s Bilingual and Bicultural Education Act, joins his granddaughter Amber in helping to cultivate the next generation of Hispanic leaders at the STRIVE Prep campus. With Amber serving on the network's board of directors, the Valdez family continues their multigenerational commitment to education.
2. Grimmway Schools (California)
Grimmway Schools is a growing network of high-performing, college-prep public charter schools in Kern County, California. At Grimmway, students—about 90 percent of whom identify as Hispanic—benefit from the example of school leader Paul Escala. “My grandfather came to this country as a migrant farm worker at the turn of the 20th century,” says Escala. “Inspired by his belief in a better life for his family in America, this self-taught man who raised me to appreciate the values of rural life led me to Grimmway Schools.” Those values are evident in Grimmway’s vision to transform education for students in rural areas, and are a contributing factor in Grimmway’s student success: 92 percent of kindergarteners are ending the year above grade level.
3. Carlos Rosario International Public School (Washington, D.C)
Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School has transformed the lives of many immigrants in Washington, D.C. by investing in their journey to achieve the American Dream. With 68 percent of students identifying as Hispanic, Carlos Rosario is tailored to explicitly meet the needs of the local immigrant community. ESL instruction is embedded in life and technology skills, health education, parenting, civics, and workforce training. With the help of Carlos Rosario’s programs, thousands of students have obtained high school diplomas, earned college degrees and workforce certifications, and become U.S. citizens. In 2015, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute awarded school founder Sonia Gutierrez the American Dream Medallion of Excellence for her lifelong contributions to education and workforce development.
4. DeKalb PATH Academy (Georgia)
DeKalb PATH Academy’s mission is to create a safe and nurturing environment in which refugee, immigrant, and local children can develop the skills and character needed to succeed in college and life. With approximately 80 percent of students identifying as Hispanic, key to that mission is breaking down linguistic and socioeconomic barriers. Principal Crystal Felix-Clarke believes an extended school day, Saturday classes, summer school, and DeKalb PATH's dedicated teachers have all contributed to the school's success. As a result, DeKalb PATH’s middle school recently had the highest percentage of eighth grade students in DeKalb County who were proficient or better in math on the Georgia Milestones tests.
5. Amber Charter School (New York)
Amber Charter School in Harlem, New York State’s first Latino-led public charter school, has been in operation since 2000 and recently expanded to two campuses. Started by the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans (ACDP), Amber is centered around the community and meets their students where they are by teaching courses in both English and Spanish. Amber’s students outscore their peers city-wide in both math and reading- this year 100 percent of Amber’s fourth grade class scored proficient on the New York State Science Test. Amber also offers robust wrap-around services, such as after-school programs and family counseling, to meet the needs of its students and families.