About one year ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Notebook
bemoaning the enthusiasm of an Inquirer story
about MaST, a charter school with two campuses in the Northeast that provides a great instructional program with extensive enrichment opportunities for a predominantly middle-class white student body. I was critical that the poorest big city in America, with an 80+% minority student population in public schools, provides no such opportunity to low-income minority students. But a year later, thanks to the Charter Schools Office and the School Reform Commission, half the seats in the newly approved MaST III charter school will be set aside for students from North Philadelphia zip codes and a transportation plan will be required for kindergarten students.
I hope this dramatic step forward is the beginning of a sustained journey toward educational equity in both charter and District schools. High-performing charters must be required to set aside seats for more low-income kids of color, and high-performing District schools, especially high schools with selective admission, must fill their hundreds of currently empty seats with students who complete a rigorous summer enrichment program to improve their skills.
On the 50th anniversary of the report of the Kerner Commission, the Philadelphia story is increasingly a tale of two cities, one white and economically secure and one black/Latino and poor. The MaST policy should be the first of many opportunities to bridge the divide.