IFF Provides Map for “Quality” Charter Schools
IFF, a nonprofit community development financial institution based out of Chicago, released its latest widget last week. The widget is an interactive map, which allows St. Louisans to directly manipulate variable layers like educational attainment, non-English speakers, poverty, and age. The most stunning layer is zip code rank.
The zip code rank layer shows which St. Louis City zip codes have the most need for quality schools—the lighter the gray, the higher the need. Need is based on what IFF calls the service gap, or the difference between supply (capacity of districts designated as “Accredited” or “Accredited with Distinction”) and demand (students enrolled in district and charter schools). IFF found that St. Louis needs 18, 987 more seats in accredited schools to serve all of its K-12 students. IFF also found that 63 percent of the service gap was concentrated in six neighborhoods. With support from Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis Public Schools superintendent Kelvin Adams, the institution made a few recommendations, including: Encourage district partnerships with charter schools like KIPP.
This is a recommendation we support. Research points to the effectiveness of quality charter schools in urban areas, but simply saying “we need quality charter schools” isn’t enough. The next step is to identify what a “quality charter school” is. Harvard economist Roland Fryer points to five qualities: frequent teacher feedback, data driven instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and relentless focus on academic achievement. Schools like KIPP echo Fryer’s findings (KIPP teachers work Monday through Friday from 7:10 am to 5:00 pm and every other Saturday).
Studies like Fryer’s and real world examples like KIPP serve as a road map for building quality charter schools, but the path to quality education starts with parents. Parents need the right tools to make the best choices for their children, and IFF’s interactive map is one of those tools.