When Kevin Jackson learned about a grassroots effort to convert his daughter’s middle school to a charter, he became newly hopeful about improving student achievement. In recent years, the Manatee County school has mostly been stuck at a “C” letter grade or below.
“I am so excited for my community and for the parents,” he said. Lincoln Middle School “has developed a negative stigma as far as the area. Now we get an opportunity to compete with the best.”
Jackson said the charter school would have more flexibility to create programs tailored to students’ needs. About 44 percent of the school’s population is Latino, he said, and every student is on free and reduced lunch.
“A charter would allow us to venture outside the box to give our Hispanic population different resources,” he said.
If the change takes place, Lincoln will join 22 other schools that also converted to charters with a majority vote from parents and teachers.
Florida law allows parents and teachers to convert any traditional public school to a charter by petition. But that rarely happens. In some places, administrators and teachers have faced retaliation for aiding conversion efforts, even though the law protects them.
In Manatee County, however, at some key officials support the change. Their district is home to one past charter conversion, and it looks like a success. Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication did well as an elementary school, and it’s set to add middle grades this fall.
At Lincoln, the principal, a teacher and parents argue such a change will enable the school to better serve its population while providing more autonomy and accountability.
A call to change
Concerns about Lincoln’s performance prompted teachers and parents to come together to lobby for change. Nearly 70 percent of students perform below grade level. Continue Reading →