Keeping the Promise: One Charter School’s Experience
Samuel Yigzaw, PhD
Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views (06/10)
“Keeping the Promise” is a wealth of information for anyone involved in education, particularly at an administrative level. This book shares the details, both positive and challenging, that are involved when venturing into unknown territory, such as the charter school movement. Dr. Yigzaw openly discusses the challenges that HigherGroundAcademy faced as they opened their doors and ran into obstacles.
Dr. Yigzaw shares the experiences of working to find the best curriculum program for HigherGroundAcademy, as well as faculty and staffing. He found that using a specific computerized curriculum, tailoring it to their school using real world issues, and applying it to the standards was very effective for their students. The faculty was also a critical piece of instruction. Initially, they found it difficult to attract highly qualified teachers, which created a problem even with structured curriculum. Teachers were drawn to the bigger districts. As the charter school movement expanded and improved, higher quality teachers were seeking out employment at HigherGroundAcademy. Having strong, qualified teachers greatly improved the classroom experience for the students because even with the best curriculum, without good instruction, it is often lost. Dr. Yigzaw recognized this and sought out strong teachers.
Accountability is discussed as well. He mentions two kinds of accountability, the first being through regulation, which is micromanaging schools, and their resources. The second type of accountability is sustaining the good schools while reducing the bad ones through data analysis. No Child Left Behind falls under the second accountability standard, which has mixed reviews. Dr. Yigzaw is of the opinion that while he believes it is important to have standards and accountability, the current system in place needs improvement.
I recommend this book because it clearly shows the growth one school can have by taking a risk, staying aware of the needs of the students, and making necessary changes for improvement. Dr. Yigzaw admits to not being where they want to be yet, but they are heading in that direction. This is a great book for someone looking to follow the footsteps of starting a charter school because he or she can learn valuable lessons from the experiences of one charter school. “Keeping the Promise” is also useful for educators in general, offering insightful commentary about school policy and what have been effective practices for HigherGroundAcademy.