Back in November I had the opportunity to go to a conference in Milwaukee about school choice as an education policy. A lot of it was about messaging but there was enough on the wonk side to keep me interested. There were also a couple of field trips.
Now when you are a kid in school the field trip is the best of all days that are not holidays, because you get to leave the classroom. For us at the conference it was the reverse. Instead of leaving class, we got to leave the hotel and pack onto a couple of school buses, something I hadn’t done since high school, and go visit a couple of schools.
One of those schools was Hope Christian High School. It is a religious based private school that only serves the economically disadvantaged. Wisconsin has a voucher program and 100% of the students at Hope use those vouchers. A significant majority of these students are also on a free or reduced lunch program.
Why write about them? Well this year marked the third year in a row that their entire senior class was accepted to college. Three years in a row and 100% college acceptance, from a population that all too many people simply forget. I think that’s noteworthy.
One of the students that I got a chance to talk to had to take three public buses to get to school. But she is going to college the next year because of all of her effort. At 17 she already knew how much better she was being prepared for her future than the other kids in her neighborhood that went to a normal public school.
One of the things that Hope Christian has done is provide an avenue for economically disadvantaged kids to succeed. This is what school choice does. Just because a student is poor or a minority does not mean that they are unable to succeed at the same level as a wealthy white student.
Do all of these kids eventually go to college? No. Some go into the military, others go to a trade school, others will go straight into the work force. But what this program has done is provided a place to prepare these kids for success and then those students have a tangible success of being accepted into college.
Hope takes a different approach to education. They are technically a private religious school but they behave very much like a charter school. They are data driven and are constantly evaluating their methods to improve their program. They were very proud to show us the numbers over the last few years and how hope compares to the rest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the country. While there’s still a ways to go, how far they’ve come was pretty impressive.
Wisconsin has created a program that has had real success over the last few years. We were told over and over about how much Milwaukee schools failed their student population. The implementation of a voucher and charter program have been the impetus for steady improvement. Maybe we should revisit this approach to see what it could do for Georgia, another state that consistently under performs.