Towards the end of this past summer Washington, D.C.’s annual public school PARCC standardized test scores were released and the academic achievement gap between white and poor students was unambiguously visible for all to see. For example, when it came to English Language Arts for those students scoring in the college readiness range of four and five the variance between white and low-income children was 56 points. In math the difference in results between these two groups was exactly the same. White kids hit the 74 percent range while those living in poverty recorded a proficiency rate of 17 percent. For the charter sector the disparity was smaller coming in at just under 50 percent for reading and math.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. One of the tremendous highlights of the Amplify School Choice Conference I attended last August sponsored by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity was a visit to the Denver School of Science and Technology. DSST is a network of 12 Denver charter middle and high schools with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 children, with plans to grow to 22 schools educating 10,000 pupils. 64 percent of its scholars qualify for free or reduced priced meals. Once there, besides hearing from three impressive alumni students, one of whom is currently attending Yale University, we learned about the school from its founding principal and chief executive officer Bill Kurtz. In 2016, Mr. Kurtz was inducted in the National Alliance for Public Charter School’s Charter School Hall of Fame.