For charter grads, college is in the cards

As parents, we all want the same things for our kids: security, happiness, and the chance at a better life. The key to all those things is a college education. That’s why I was so excited when my daughter received her diploma from Match Charter Public High School earlier this month. Graduating with a 3.8 GPA, inducted into the honors society, and with plans to attend Wentworth in the fall, Aiyana is the picture of success, with college in her sights and a bright future ahead.

I’m proud of her for her accomplishments, but she’s hardly the exception. At Boston’s public charter schools, 98 percent of graduating students have been accepted to college, including every single member of Aiyana’s class at Match –despite the fact that many are first generation college students.

Even though I tried to give Aiyana, a smart girl, but shy, everything she needed, I wasn’t always so sure how she’d make it. You see, until fifth grade, she attended Boston Public Schools, and when we learned that she was going to have to attend a middle school in Mattapan with a lot of problems and a poor track record, I thought, “There’s no way my daughters will be going there.”

But what options did I have? We couldn’t afford to send her to private school. There was no guarantee she could get into an exam school. I was also concerned about whether she would get the personal attention she needs. Aiyana wasn’t particularly social then, and she had always thrived in smaller settings.

It was then that I learned about the opportunity provided by charter schools – free public schools open to all kids, but with limited seats available because the state caps the number of charter schools that can open – leaving thousands of families without the opportunity to choose the best public school for their children.

We got lucky. Aiyana was accepted to Match, which had just opened its middle school the year before.

The first thing I noticed about Match was the individualized instruction – two hours of tutoring every day in math and English to bridge the gap where so many kids fall short. Indeed, most kids at Match come in as much as two grade levels behind their peers. And sure enough, that kind of intensive learning environment was exactly what Aiyana needed to succeed.

Now my younger daughter, Akira, is having the exact same experience as a ninth- grader, despite the fact that she couldn’t be more different than her sister. Outgoing and confident, before Akira was even accepted to Match, she gave the principal a firm look in the eye and announced, “I’m going here.” And because she does, she, too, will have the same opportunity to set her sights on a college education.

Unfortunately, too few children in Massachusetts have that opportunity. Right now, due to the cap on public charter schools, nearly 34,000 kids across the state, including 18,000 in Boston alone, are stuck on a wait list, hoping to get into a school like ours, where children receive an exceptional education, parents are engaged, teachers are committed, and everyone is focused on the same fundamental goal: college.

As a parent, I am passionate about efforts to lift the cap on public charters – because I believe the Match community made that goal a reality for my daughter. Every child in Massachusetts should have the opportunity to get a great education, not just those lucky enough to live in a great school district. And this November, voters will have a chance to help make that happen.

A few months ago, I asked Aiyana how she felt as she approached the end of the school year and her time at Match. She didn’t hesitate: “I’m going to miss it.” After all, she loved the culture and her class had become really close since the ninth grade. But with a diploma under her belt and a quiet confidence as she pursues a career in mechanical engineering, there’s no stopping her now. And there’s no looking back.

Ms. Weekes Tulloch works as a parent organizer for Families for Excellent Schools.