ATLANTA -- According to data relesed by the National Alliance for Public Charter School (NAPCS), who recenlty celebrated its 11th annual conference in Atlanta, public charter school growth has risen by nearly 12% between 2009 and 2011.
The data show public charter schools serve a higher percentage of non-white and urban students, with 63% of public charter schools being non-white, compared to 43% of that same population in conventional public schools. Roughly 55% of public charter schools are located in large cities as opposed to 25% of traditional public schools.
The conference was attended by over four thousand charter school professionals and highlighted a number of charter school successes and opportunities, most notably that the institutions now represent a core platform within the American educational system serving 1.8 million students in more than 5,000 schools across the country.
Keynote speakers included dignitaries such as President Bill Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey.
Effectively bringing high-quality public schools to traditionally underserved communities was a primary focus for the conference theme: "Because Every Child Can Succeed." There were more than 140 conference sessions for educators and charter supporters addressing legal, operational, governance and academic outcomes for schools.
The conference also provided an opportunity to emphasize the significant impact public charter schools are having on a growing number of students in need of a quality education, particular children of color. Recent federal data indicates that 32 percent of students enrolling in charter schools are African American - a number nearly twice as much their enrollment in traditional public schools.
"We are very pleased by the progress we've made over the years in providing a quality source of public education for more than 1.8 million students across the country," said Peter C. Groff, President and CEO of NAPCS. Groff, who made history at one point when elected as the first African American president of the Colorado State Senate in 2007, noted that the rise of public charter schools as a preferred alternative for many African American families is a "positive development as public charter schools continue to thrive as some of the more powerful tools in public education reform."
"It's no accident that we gathered in Atlanta," observed Groff. "This is a major location symbolizing accomplishments in civil rights during the 20th century - and yet it recognizes the fact that improving public education for all students is the most pressing civil rights issue in the 21st century. Our children must remain competitive in this highly globalized environment, and public charters schools are leading the charge in terms of delivering new academic options."
"Public charter schools bring parents, students and a community together to design a unique public school meant to serve the community where it is developed," said Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president, Children's Defense Fund. "But to truly resolve the inequities present in public education, we must demand that charter schools hold themselves to the highest standards of quality and effectiveness. Accountability is crucial for all public schools."