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Pass It On

The debate about education reform impacts all Americans and starts with you! Join the discussion and tell us what you think about Closing the Achievement Gap and the charter school reform movement.

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We value viewers' response and read all letters. Due to volume, we regret we cannot publish every letter; we will publish as many as we can which reflect proportionally the range of views. Short letters are more likely to be published, and those with all capital letters, less likely. All letters are subject to editing for length and clarity.

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Viewer Response

(Please note some responses were edited for spelling and grammer.)

This was a great program. It showed that everyone can succeed in school with a focus on the basic fundamental things that I remember as a child (reading, writing and math). The discipline that is just apart of the children is definitely why the school is successful. If there is discipline in a classroom, then children can and will learn. This school is excellent, and should be a model for ALL public schools. Then for sure NO child will be left behind.

Southfield, MI

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Closing the Achievement Gap documented in a wonderfully simple way how the achievement bar can be raised when dedicated students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and government education leaders come together and truthfully confront a growing problem. Stories like this help fuel the fire of reform that exists within so many new out-and-coming educators. Closing the Achievement Gap should be shown to every student in all the many aspects of education.

Detroit, MI

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As always PBS enlightens our views and gives us alternatives and I thank you for that. Now that I've seen the Amistad Academy program in Connecticut I'm hoping that Texas schools look at this problem here with minority kids too. Please help my children with more information

Larry J. Mckenzie
North Richland Hills, Texas

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This was an excellent program to watch and the excellence in achievement for the students was exceptional. I wish all Public schools throughout the United States had this program in action for the students. Hoorays for all of the Students of Amistad!!

Wanda Ingles-Stewart
Surprise, AZ

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As an educator I have been intrigued by the growing debate over the merits (or demerits) of charter schools versus public schools. The successes of non-traditional schools such as the Amistad Academy should be carefully examined as part of the dialogue on educational reform.

Teaching in a low-performing Chicago Public School, I have had an inside view on the failures of such public schools. Public schools like mine have become a lightning rod for the media, politicians, and others to cast blame upon for the disgusting failure of educating so many students, most of whom are minorities. Much of the blame is deserved, especially when compared to a successful model such as the Amistad Academy that educates students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds much more successfully.

However, the realities of education must be kept in perspective when evaluating the successes and failures of these schools. I enjoy reading stories of non-traditional schools (i.e. KIPP) and their successes, but it also must be said that for every successful non-traditional school there are many others that fail. In fact, the Department of Education just released a report that found charter schools slightly lagging behind public schools in performance. Just as in public schools, the quality of administration and management of an educational program is what produces student results.

The answer seems to be creating charter schools like Amistad Academy across the country, especially in areas that would serve the educational needs of "at-risk" youth. Unfortunately, here is where the realities of education come in again (besides the financial logistics of this actually occurring). What this Internet report fails to discuss is the possibility that parents who seek Amistad to enroll their child are obviously proactive in their child's education. Typically, a child of parents who are proactive in his or her education usually succeeds. I have found that proactive parents of public school children also do well. My point is that charter schools such as Amistad do not educate children of uncommitted parents. If the parents do not live up to their contract, the child is removed from the school. Where is this child sent? To a PUBLIC SCHOOL. [Producer's note: According to Amistad Academy officials, a child would not be removed from the school if their parent did not uphold their responsibilities outlined in the contract.]

My point in this commentary is not to fully denounce the success of Amistad. It is to bring a voice of reason that schools like Amistad do not face the same obstacles that public schools do. Does that mean that we should not go forward in creating schools like Amistad to "close the educational gap"? By no means! It is my opinion that we should provide more opportunities for "at-risk" students to enroll in structured and intensely academic schools like Amistad. Give them the choice and by choosing ownership is taken. When humans take ownership of an endeavor it is more likely to succeed. And for the students and/or parents who are unable to handle such and educational setting...there are always public schools.

Josh Miller
Chicago, IL

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I wish to thank PBS for presenting the program Closing the Achievement Gap. I am in the process of spreading the word about Amistad Academy, because it demonstrates what could occur in poor areas all across the nation.

Lucious Thomas
Milwaukee, WI

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I am completely blown away by your program. It is exactly what I've been looking for. I earned my degree in economics, but part of me has always wanted to go into education. The only problem was that I didn't have a great deal of faith in the current system. It would be difficult to succeed in an environment that wouldn't let me be creative. I couldn't put my finger on what an ideal place would be, but now I know. Seeing the profile of Amistad Academy enlightened me. This could be duplicated throughout the nation. It might be a large undertaking, but the positive externalities associated with educating the population you have chosen to work with has never been truly explored. This is ground breaking work. All schools should model "Double A." If it is at all possible to email or mail some of your information (philosophies, policies, curriculum, etc.) I would greatly appreciate it. Excellent work.

Landon Mickens
Kansas City, MO

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How are these schools funded? Who does the administration...the local school board or a private corporation? Do these schools have a particular religious program? [Producer's note: Charter schools do not have a religious program—they are public schools. For information on how charter schools are funded and operated, please visit our Charter School FAQ.]

Susan Zenier
Moscow, ID

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If we funded public schools at such a level we may see dramatic improvement in student performance. [Producer's note: Amistad Academy, which is a public school, spends about the same per pubil as New Haven public school district. See Amistad Academy for details.]

Richard Birdsall
Jacksonville, FL

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I truly enjoyed your program: Closing the Achievement Gap. I am studying to become a special education teacher in the city of Chicago, and a lot of what was mentioned on this program has been introduced to me in my classes at UIC. It is common sense that if something does not work then it must be changed. I'm astonished that at this time in our society, we are not making the right changes in our schools and therefore our students, our urban students, are not receiving the help they need. Your program has been proof to me that change is essential, and with the right people and the right ideas schools and teachers can help students of any background be successful.

Thank you.

Mayela Carrasco
Chicago, Illinois

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This was a very great program. I found it very informative and inspirational. Keep up the great work PBS.

Jermaine Johnson
Columbia, SC

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I have been a Principal and School Counsellor in Australia with some teaching experience in Canada and UK. I wish you well in implementing ideas I too have strived for with significant success. I particularly wish to support the idea that just mentioning REACH or a similar set of values can be a transforming action.

John Hegarty
Bonnells Bay NSW Australia

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