Why does a highly-educated university town (Madison) need a charter school?

Greg Richmond:

Richmond: Madison is a university town. It is highly educated and pretty solidly middle class. Why does it need One City?

Caire: Madison has been harboring an achievement gap, that they knew about, since they first learned about it in 1965. Back then, there was a 27-point difference between black and white students in reading. That was in a Master’s thesis written by a woman named Cora Bagley, whose work was cited in a report called, “The Negro in Madison.” It was reported on again in 1965 by Dr. Naomi Lede who was responsible for the National Urban League’s assessment of whether or not a chapter of the Urban League should be established in Madison.

But there wasn’t a push to do anything about it until more reports came out in the 1970s that said, not only do we have an achievement gap, we also had a large gap in high school completion rates where only 44% of African-American students graduated with their senior class.

Madison had a surge of African-Americans that came to the university in the 1970s and many were activists. These students began living and teaching in the community and they took on social and economic disparities along with the NAACP and the Urban League. But the activism would die down because the school district would throw some money at it and, out of graciousness, people would wait and see. And then 5 years later it would come up again, and again, and again.

In 1991 or 1992, there was a report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute titled, “Dual Education in the Madison Metropolitan School District” that said there were two school districts, one serving black students and one serving everybody else.

About 5 years before that, I myself was part of a data set that showed disparities. I graduated from high school in 1989 and was a sophomore in 1987 when the Urban League looked at sophomores’ course taking patterns.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.