Breaking Through to a Quality Education for Urban Children

Ten-year-old Roberto had failing grades and discipline problems in his Cleveland, Ohio, school, but his mother had high hopes for him — a quality education that met his particular needs and would help him to be college and career ready. Fortunately for her and Roberto, an expanding network of charter schools in Cleveland, Breakthrough Charter Schools, offered a nurturing environment in its Near West Intergenerational School, one of five new charter schools resulting from an OII Charter Schools Program (CSP) grant awarded to Breakthrough Charter Schools. Roberto’s story is the subject of a CBS News report that aired in late May.

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Breakthrough Schools was one of nine charter management organizations (CMOs) to receive grants totaling $25 million in 2011 from OII’s Charter Schools Program’s grants for Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools. The grants are for up to five years and are assisting Breakthrough Charter Schools and the other eight CMOs to plan for and implement the expansion of existing high-performing charter schools by increasing school size or adding grades as well as to replicate those same schools by opening new schools based on a successful model. In Cleveland, the Near West Intergenerational School is one of the new replication schools, along with four others, two of those modeled after Citizens Academy and Village Prep, mentioned in the CBS report.

In announcing the 2011 grant awards, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a press release, pointed to the fact that “every one of [the] grantees serves a student population that is majority low-income and virtually all exceed the average academic performance for all students in their states.” The wisdom of investing in the expansion and replication of existing high-performing charter schools was confirmed recently by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) in its report, “Charter School Growth and Replication Study,” which “found that charter schools, as they age or replicate into networks, are very likely to continue the patterns and performance set by their early years of operation.” Breakthrough Charter Schools was noted in the CREDO report for being among the highest-performing urban charter school networks reviewed nationwide.

Why the high scores and student success in the Breakthrough Charter Schools network? Alan Rosskamm, Breakthrough’s CEO, says their schools demonstrate that “there’s nothing wrong with the children. … in the right environment they can thrive.” And that’s true for Roberto, where a nurturing environment and multigenerational approach to learning made the difference between failure and success. “The only way out of poverty,” according to Rosskamm, “is to provide our children with a quality education.”