More than 1.2 million students drop out of high school every year in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A number this startling is indicative of major ills that have infected the American public education system.
Charter schools — schools that receive public funding but do not have to adhere to public regulation — should be seen as a viable solution to the problems that those who are a part of American public education face today. Instead of the bureaucratic regulation that conventional district schools face, charter schools give teachers and administrators the freedom to attack problems in alternative ways while still receiving state and federal funding.
Take USC’s very own Hybrid High, which opened for the first day of classes Tuesday. Hybrid High is a charter school developed by the Rossier School of Education in an effort to reduce the rate of students dropping out of high school in the South L.A. area.
Charter schools are formed when a community applies to the local school district for a charter that allows a school to operate independently from the district. Additionally, charter schools like Hybrid High can be started by organizations and agencies to alleviate strain on existing schools. When a school becomes a charter, it often sees greater student achievement than when it was under district regulation. For example, one-hundred percent of students at the Urban Education Institute in Chicago were accepted to college in 2012, compared to a citywide average of 35 percent.
Hybrid High’s mission is to provide students who would ordinarily drop out of school a place where education is more accessible. Teens in South Los Angeles often come from impoverished families and are therefore required to hold a job to help out. Family, employment and education frequently conflict, and it is common that students in these situations choose to support their family over their own education.
Instead of the traditional 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday routine seen in most public schools, Hybrid High is open for 12 hours a day, seven days a week and is in session year-round. Additionally, Hybrid High allows students to access coursework online. This creative approach is a bid to provide students who are employed or taking care of siblings the opportunity to complete their education at times convenient for their schedules and at their own pace.
This set-up is impossible under traditional district education, which is the product of a different time. Largely designed in the 1940s, America’s early public schools were engineered to efficiently educate students by applying district-wide standards. It’s clear that what might have worked well in the 1940s does not, though, work today.
Today, the best course of action is to let individual schools choose how to educate their students. Individual schools know exactly what their students need — needs that might not be clear to anyone not immediately connected with the students.
Schools such as Hybrid High are examples of this hyperlocalized approach to education. Rather than continuing to hold schools to obsolete practices, the best course of action for public education is to continue the trend toward implementing charter schools and letting those who are closest to the root of the problems get to work on solving them.
Matt Tinoco is a freshman majoring in international relations.