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NAACP’s wrong move on charter schools

Parents, children and family members wait to hear

Parents, children and family members wait to hear if their students will be awarded a coveted slot at the Harlem Success Academy charter school system April 23, 2009 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Chris Hondros

The NAACP, arguably the nation’s most influential civil rights organization, has approved a resolution that calls for a ban on new charter schools.

It is unfathomable that the NAACP is trying to halt a movement working to reverse the achievement gaps for black and brown children in public school education nationwide.

I am African-American and the principal of a charter school in Harlem. At my school, 91 percent of the students are proficient in math and 72 percent are proficient in English. If these students weren’t at my school, most would be attending district schools where, sadly, their chances of success would be diminished. Last year, only 17 percent of the elementary school students in central Harlem district schools scored proficient in math and only 21 percent scored proficient in English.

There are more than 44,000 children in NYC who are stuck on waiting lists to get into charter schools. But by calling for the moratorium, the NAACP would trap children, particularly children of color, in many schools that are failing.

Language in the NAACP’s resolution comes from the teachers union playbook, replete with debunked myths about charter schooling. The most outlandish — that charter schools should be subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools — is laughable. While outliers exist, charters are highly accountable.

In New York and other states, charter schools are reviewed by authorizers every five years and must pass academic and financial reviews; failure to meet the standards leads to closure.

If the NAACP values accountability, where is its outrage over the fact that 77 percent of black and Hispanic students in grades 3-8 can’t read or do math on grade level in New York City? Or that in 170 city high schools, less than 5 percent of black and Hispanic students graduate ready for college?

Those of us who are in charter schools in urban areas know how much charter schools are doing for children of color, and how wrong the NAACP is to take its position. After the smoke clears, history will show the NAACP to be an enemy to education reform and the empowerment of black and brown children.

Khari Shabazz is the principal of Success Academy Harlem West.

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