Guest Editorial by Giulio Gianturco
In the world of education, we the taxpayers are the shareholders and students are the customers. We should expect that our investments in our school systems will yield graduates who are ready to face the challenges of an increasingly demanding and rapidly changing business environment.
We see these changes occurring all around us at breakneck speed—product development cycles measured in months, not years (witness Apple), go-to-market plans that incorporate distribution channels that did not exist a few short years ago (witness social media), and the increasing need to formcross-border, public/private strategic alliances to stay competitive.
I continually hear from business leaders that, while their staffing needs are increasing, they find it difficult to find strong candidates, even for entry-level positions. Many of our primary and secondary schools have improved (in some cases substantially) to meet the market need, but the overall rate of these improvements is not keeping up with the rate of change experienced by employers.
Incremental advances in education are no longer acceptable. We need to embrace new models that offer the promise of breakthrough change, and public charter schools are key to helping us get there.
Charter schools like Carpe Diem (grades 6-12) in Arizona are utilizing the very force causing our vast market shifts—technology. Students sit in the “world’s biggest one room schoolhouse,” each with his or her own cube, learning on a customized software platform.
This model better leverages our teachers’ skill sets by allowing the best teachers to reach more students, providing students with “coaches” who give real life relevance to the material and teach important life skills, as well as experts in individual learning patterns who develop strategies to overcome obstacles preventing student advancement.
The results have been a dramatic improvement in graduation rates, grades and test scores for Carpe Diem students. Not surprisingly, student (i.e. customer) satisfaction with the Carpe Diem school is extremely high.
For this type of robust public charter school innovation to be possible in Georgia, a state level charter school authorizer is needed. Prior to the creation of the State Charter Schools Commission, nearly all local boards of education denied start-up charter applications.
After its creation, the state approved 17 new charter schools, and local boards of education began slowly approving more charter schools as well, providing students across the state with high-quality school options.
Then in May 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down the State Charter Schools Commission.
Now there is every indication that charter schools will once again face an uphill battle for approval, despite their quality. State charter schools outperformed their local school districts in English, Reading, Science and Social Studies in 2011 – and despite being in high demand by parents and students – thousands of students are on the wait list for Georgia’s charter schools.
In November, Georgians have a chance to help create strong and innovative schools in our state, schools that are more efficient than traditional schools, operating on average with 62 percent of the funding that traditional public schools receive.
The Election Day ballot includes a question about allowing the state and local boards to create charter schools, allowing for a robustcharter market that provides families with additional quality school options and empowering parents to make decisions about their child’s education, the most local level of control.
When you vote on the charter school amendment on November 6th, remember a YES vote will help Georgia schools and businesses remain innovative and competitive in our ever-changing world.
Giulio Gianturco is Managing Principal of GSR Investment Partners, LLC and is the Chairman of the Center for an Educated Georgia’s Advisory Council. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two children.