Innovative Charter Schools
Although Lee’s Life Skills Center and Richard Milburn Academy already target drop- out or at-risk students, Stiles and Victor Hall, a member of the accelerated high school board, hope to reach other students.
“We have found that Lee County has a significant dropout rate,” Stiles said.
Lee’s dropout rate was 3.5 percent in 2005-06, according to the Florida Department of Education, compared with 2 percent in Collier County and 2.5 percent in Charlotte County.
“Frankly, a lot of those students’ needs aren’t being met for a variety of reasons,” Stiles said. “They may have transportation issues. Students may physically have a need to go to work to help their family make ends meet.”
Also in the article, a district’s director of charter schools discusses why they’ve become so popular. She attributes the charters’ success to parents’ desire for different choices. And charter schools offer real alternatives to traditional public schools, because they’re free to experiment in ways that traditional public schools can’t (or won’t). For example, the article describes Florida charter schools that focus on reading and physical education and feature longer school days than most public school districts.
Other charter schools around the country are responding to parents’ desire for unique educational approaches. In Chicago, there’s a charter school that emphasizes healthy lifestyles. A charter school in Arizona requires students to take AP courses starting in ninth grade and offers foreign languages like Mandarin. A California charter school gives students extra opportunities in drama and music.
St. Louis currently lags behind Kansas City in number of charter schools. If St. Louis expanded its charter school system, parents would have these choices here too.