What options do low-income families have if their neighborhood school is subpar? Affluent parents have many choices – they can move to a good school district or opt for a private school. If the school doesn’t have tutors, mentors or after-school activities, they can pay for those services. Less privileged families don’t have that luxury and their children are often less likely to graduate, which further widens the achievement gap among black, Hispanic and low-income youth behind their white counterparts.
January 26 kicks off National School Choice Week and it’s a good time to examine school choice and its potential to close the achievement gap. Learn4Life (www.learn4lifecharleston.org), a network of nonprofit public schools focusing on at-risk students, serves minority and low-income students at rates higher than the California state average – and more of them are succeeding to help close the achievement gap.
“Our minority students perform as well as white students – usually better or within one to two percentage points,” explained Caprice Young, national superintendent at Learn4Life. “For example, 74% of our Black students graduate with their cohort compared to 73% of white students, and our Black and Hispanic/Latino students attend school as much as or more regularly than our white students.
“The unique Learn4Life model helps students successfully navigate many of the challenges and distractions in their lives, such as:
- Teen parenting
- Needing to work
- Homelessness or foster care
- English learners and special education
A flexible schedule, one-on-one attention, and small group learning give students the support and confidence they need to stay in school. Trauma-informed practices are important to establish trust, resiliency, and self-confidence in each student.
“We have a moral obligation to ensure all kids get a good education and that means changing the way we do things. One size doesn’t fit all in education, which is why we need a personalized learning model for each student,” added Young.
Young adds that students need more than just a diploma. They need to learn life skills, be introduced to career tech education and make a four-year college education a real option. “Our elected officials need to continue to support the idea of school choice for all families no matter their socio-economic status. Students should not be forced to go to neighborhood schools if they don’t meet their needs,” she said. “That’s a big part of what is driving the dropout crisis. Public charter schools like Learn4Life that help atrisk, poor and minority students are constantly battling to serve the very students who need options.”
Discover more about Learn4Life’s 85 schools that have helped change the story for tens of thousands of the nation’s 1.2 million high school students who drop out every year.
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About Learn4Life: Learn4Life is a network of nonprofit public schools that provides students personalized learning, career training and life skills. Each school is locally controlled, tuition free and gives students the flexibility and one-on-one attention they need to succeed. Serving more than 49,000 students across California, we help students prepare for a future beyond high school. We are proud to be a GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency recipient for our ethical, transparent and effective organizational practices. For more information, please visit www.learn4lifecharleston.org.
Ann Abajian, Learn4Life