Two new charter schools appear headed to Durham for the 2015-16 school year, continuing the the growth of charters here.
KIPP Durham College Preparatory and Excelsior Classical Academy both passed the final step the application phase. They now proceed to the planning phase and likely final approval when the state Board of Education meets in in March.
“Since 2008 we have had interest from families and community members about coming to Durham,” said Anders Campbell, who will be the school leader at KIPP.
“We are excited to be a part of Durham, to learn from what is already being done well here, and to add value as another high-quality educational option for students who will one day be first-generation college graduates,” he said.
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Mark-Anthony Middleton, one of Excelsior’s board members, said the same.
“Excelsior is drawn to Durham first and foremost because our board is composed of citizen-fans of Durham,” he said. “We simply love the place. Durham is a truly great American city endowed with world class educational institutions, a vibrant cultural scene and a diverse population.”
A total of 11 new schools were approved in the state, including the two planned for Durham. The board denied a third new charter school proposed for Durham, North Carolina Connections Academy.
In recent years, Durham has been a hot spot for charters. It has 11 charter schools, which would grow to 13 with the new schools.
KIPP Durham College Preparatory
KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) has 141 college-preparatory schools in under-resourced communities around the country.
In Durham it plans to target first-generation college students, students struggling most in traditional public schools and those from low-income families.
In its first year, KIPP plans to serve 90 fifth graders, adding grades until it serves 360 students in fifth through eighth grades in year four.
Durham KIPP’s mission is to empower all of our students with the skills, knowledge, and character necessary to succeed at the colleges of their choice, strengthen their community and fight for social justice.
The school will operate on an extended day and says it is having conversations with Durham Public Schools about ways to close the achievement gap.
“We begin with the end in mind and envision all of our students with college diplomas and lives of increased opportunities,” Campbell said. “To get there, we offer a rigorous curriculum that is aligned to AP (Advanced Placement) and pre-AP standards to prepare our students to be successful at the colleges of their choice.”
Excelsior Classical Academy will target all children in the Durham. Excelsior’s application says its student population will reflect Durham’s 2011 racial makeup of 42.5 percent white, 38.5 percent black, 13.5 percent Latino and 4.2 percent Asian, It will be located in North Durham.
Excelsior will have a classical curriculum, which promotes literacy, wide knowledge, critical thinking, effective communication, and ethics. No other school in Durham has a classical curriculum.
It plans to serve 250 students in grades K-4, adding grades until it has a total of 650 students in grades K-12.
One of its focuses will be on closing the achievement gap.
Its mission statement is “providing excellence equity in education by developing in every student a foundation of knowledge, a practice of reason, a quality of eloquence, and a habit of virtue, to prepare each student for a lifetime of learning and citizenship.”
“Throughout the grades, we will foster a growth mindset in our students by praising them for effort and perseverance rather than talent,” Middleton said. “We believe that intelligence can grow, and that knowledge and reason make one smarter.”
Some Durham Public Schools officials worry about the amount of money charter schools remove from the school system.
When students leave a traditional public school to attend a charter school, state and local funding follow them. In the Durham Public Schools district, the per-pupil spending is $3,125, one of the highest in the state.
There are 4,783 Durham students that go to charters in Durham County and outside of Durham County.
Typically, Durham Public Schools pays charter schools about $16 million every year.
Some in charter schools say they want to work with the traditional public school system.
“We believe that regardless of a child’s life circumstances, they should be able to be afforded with the opportunities that the most affluent members of our society have access to,” Campbell of KIPP said.