Charting New Voices: Changing the Voices Leading the Charter Narrative
As we enter the three-decade mark since the creation of the first charter school, the conversations about charters have been increasing in volume and intensity. And yet too often, the debate is not being held among those who are most impacted: students and alumni of these schools. Charting New Voices is a report, data set, and collection of narratives by charter school alumni and for the world.
Charting New Voices is a report, data set, and collection of narratives by charter school alumni and for the world. The purpose of Charting New Voices is similar to the mission of Next100—to center the voices of the people most impacted in policy development, debates and implementation.
About the Project
It has now been three decades since the creation of the first charter school, and the conversations about charters have been increasing in volume and intensity. And yet, too often, the debate around public charter schools is not being held among those who are most impacted: students and alumni of these schools, many of whom are now adults. This project begins to close that gap by listening to, learning from, and elevating the voices of charter alumni, and then compiling their stories, data, survey responses, and policy and practice recommendations so that, with their wisdom, we can push toward an equitable educational system, both within and beyond charters.
When it comes to charters and discussing their merits, drawbacks, and points of potential growth, I appreciate the many complexities at play, and consider myself a realist. I understand skepticism of external figures planting themselves in unfamiliar neighborhoods in tumultuous times; I also understand the need for innovation and new models when we’re forcing our kids, especially our kids of color, into failing schools.
It’s no secret to my friends and family that a charter school had a profound impact on my life. As I’ve previously written for Next100, finding KIPP DIAMOND Academy in Memphis was a life-changing moment for me. As a fifth grader, I celebrated the fact that I had instructors and leaders who looked like me, believed in me, and pushed me beyond measure. I knew all along the way that the experience was at once fun, eye-opening, and challenging. I knew, too, that there were things that should be improved about my school, and I was allowed to vocalize them at any point. What I didn’t know was that all of these aspects of my experience would change my life forever; nor did I know that this life-defining experience would be at the center of such a contentious debate—even well into my adulthood. My passion for the conversation is the reason for Charting New Voices. I’m very grateful for the ability to create a space for people like me to tell our own stories and share our own perspectives for change. I hope as we move forward in these conversations, we prioritize those most impacted: alumni and students.
First and foremost, to the hundreds of alumni across the country who filled out this random survey and poured out your hearts, thank you. To the alumni who agreed to be video participants, panelists, or thought-partners, thank you. To the alumni who may not have had the opportunity to participate but care and want to see change in the way we have these discussions, thank you.
To Next100 and The Century Foundation for countless hours of work to make Charting New Voices look great, read well, and impact the right people. Thank you for prioritizing the voices of the people most impacted in all of our work and thank you for always making space for us to grow.
To my charter school team and family, thank you for not only making me someone who can push back and pull forward, but creating programs and teams to ensure all alumni can do this. Thank you for being the inspiration for this project. To my forever KIPP Through College advisor, Ms. Gest. Thank you for always encouraging me to speak up and speak loudly. Everything, always in your memory.