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New report reveals charter school success

caines | 4/26/2012, 5 a.m.

Inner city principals sound off

Fahreed Khan and Rebecca Dinda are the principals at two county charter schools: Theodore R. and Thelma A Gibson in Overtown and Downtown Miami Charter. Gibson has 286 Pre-K 8 students; Downtown Miami has 656 Pre-K 6 students. Both schools provide instruction to mostly-minority students and they say that charter schools are absolutely necessary. When I came to Gibson 1 years ago, we had four months to prepare for the FCAT and a lot of our students had never taken such an examination before they werent prepared, said Khan, 42, whose most school grade is a D. I was told that if we didnt improve, the state would shut us down. The next year we gained 120 points which was among the highest improvements in the state, especially in math. We created after school and Saturday tutorials and attacked our students weakest areas. Now we have kindergarteners that can read and their parents are amazed. We are 95 percent Black and based in Overtown where there are much higher levels of poverty. The key is raising the expectations those of our parents and of our children. Too many public schools have continued to receive tax dollars and shown nothing for it. Downtown Miami is a B school that is 60 percent Black and 30 percent Hispanic. Our goal is for 90 percent of our students to reach grade level in math, reading, writing and science and while there has been improvement we wont be satisfied until that goal is reached, Dinda said. Students who performing or predicted to perform below grade level are required to remain for an extended school day, 120 students attend our Saturday school and we require our students to read outside of school. When you provide choice, students, parents and teachers have made a conscious decision to become a member of the school community and are therefore more invested in the process. And we are held strictly accountable for results both financially and academically despite receiving only 68 to 71 percent of the funding received by district schools. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com