Local Example of a Successful Charter School
Written By: Karen Schroeder | Posted: Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
Many parents are seeking an ideal alternative to public schools. Their objection is not the institution of public education, but the frequent absence of high academic and behavioral standards. Taxpayers re- sent social and political ideologies corrupting the educational system. Wildlands Science and Research Charter School repre- sents an alternative for many parents and students.
A close knit educational community, small class sizes, individual responsibility, work ethic, and accountability are among the core values emphasized at Wildlands. Lead teacher and acting administrator, Paul Tweed explained that academic excellence and high behavioral standards are a key component for the success of this science and research-based charter school.
"When students feel empowered to succeed, they do. When student questions turn into research projects, student enthusiasm increases as do academic out- comes." explained Mr. Tweed.
Their Five Year Progress Report presented in May of 2010 provides test results showing an average yearly academic growth of 2.5 years, which is impressive progress for any teacher much less an entire educational facility.
Mr. Tweed explained that small class sizes, research based curricula, unconventional classrooms, close knit school environment, and active parental participation are factors in their success.
Academics focus on mastery of basic skills in math, science, and grammar. Students are seen as individuals and their interests and talents are respected and encouraged by the educators. While the curricula will prepare students for a college education, much respect is given to the talents required by those who wish to make con- tributions to an ever-changing economy.
Students who prefer technical college, welding schools, and a variety of post secondary educational options are encouraged. Mr. Tweed explained, "When the interests and talents of each student are respected, the student excels."
Clare, a student, has no favorite area of science. "If it is fun and science," she volunteered, "I like it." The mobile lab bus, on-sight observatory, access to the Astronomy Club, and the geothermal heating and cooling of the building enrich the "fun and science"experiences for these students. When the Beaver Creek Reserve becomes the classroom, the relevance of each learning experience is enhanced.
Foreign dollars that help fund many state charter schools are used to replace academic curricula with social and political agendas making some charter schools a questionable alternative to public education. Wildlands Science Research School receives 100% of its funding from the Augusta School District.
According to the school district, "The funding is based 100% on full-time enrollment and set annually by the amount received from the State of Wisconsin through state aid payments made to local public school districts."
This funding resource and the fact that charter schools are subject to fewer federal and state regulations have created a close knit educational environment that enables students to excel academically. Truancy and graduation rates are not an issue because each student has chosen Wildlands Science Research Charter School. While part of the Augusta School District, Wildlands is located in the Beaver Creek Reserve.
Therefore, community service activities include maintenance projects for the Reserve. Creating new trails, signs, or rebuilding an original log home develop practical skills and respect for their school.
Students also clean the classrooms, vacuum the hallways, and serve lunches to classmates. These responsibilities promote students' recognition of their direct accountability for every aspect of their educational experience.
It seems that Wildlands has found a formula for success: respect the individual talents of students, provide academically focused curricula, set high behavioral standards, encourage parental involvement, and students will excel.
Karen Schroeder is the President of Advocates for Academic Freedom and an education consultant for political candidates. She has thirty-six years of teaching in public schools and Master Degrees in Special Education and Learning Disabilities.