By Anthony Potts
Vinson Fellow’s research project helps gauge charter schools’ impact
As a first-year student in college, I very recently emerged from my formative K-12 education. I always prided myself upon seeking stimulating avenues to learn, and although I was fortunate to have the opportunities and guidance to do so, I recognized many of my peers did not have the same experience. This spurred me to study Georgia charter systems, where flexibility is prioritized and greater resources are available. In particular, as a Vinson Fellow this semester I wanted to study teaching innovations, which are often the touchstones of charter school success, and how these specific programs have affected student performance.
Using Charter System Foundation conference reports, I developed a list of successfully implemented teaching innovations and the specific impact that they had on school system achievement. The list was scored using measures of student growth, parental involvement and financial stability. After gathering and sorting the innovations, five categories became apparent:
Tutoring/mentoring to coach students towards graduation, taking college entrance examinations, and having proper interview etiquette.
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focuses to provide technology exposure and accustom students to new world developments.
Vocational training to give students employable skills and practical training;
Online instruction to better meet the needs of students.
Summer instruction to bridge the learning gap that occurs with no school over the summer.
The categorization of innovations allows for greater structure in the innovation creation process, providing schools with a tested template of methods to best teach students. In addition, achievement scores of school systems in the Charter System Foundation report usually failed to meet state expectations, thus indicating that charter systems may need to develop more effective innovations or be held to a more appropriate set of accountability standards.
My research project was guided by my faculty mentor Russ Cook. Dr. Cook has been an incredible resource for me throughout the process. I struggled to narrow my interests to a manageable topic, but his open and relaxed guidance pushed me towards my current and useful study of charter school innovations. Serving a long career in the public education system, his breadth of knowledge and insight was invaluable for getting a handle on the convoluted development of charters in Georgia.
Anthony is an Honors freshman from Oconee County with a dual major in economics and philosophy. He is a UGA CURO honors scholar and member of the UGA Roosevelt Institute. As a community leader, he assisted in the coordination of Rolling Ridge Running Club for at-risk youth, instituted a summer math club that tutors and mentors local children and became the youngest columnist for The Enterprise newspaper in Oconee County. Anthony is also conducting research on S&P/Fortune 500 company growth.