Booker T. Washington Academy

Last month schools, families, communities, and advocates across the country celebrated National School Choice Week, a week dedicated to informing, inspiring, and empowering families to discover the Kindergarten through 12th-grade education options available for their children.

There is added value in increasing high-quality school choice options for families in any community. With over 30 years of experience in education, including more than 25 years leading schools, I know that access to high-quality education is a birthright for all children. 

I currently serve as the Executive Director of Booker T. Washington Academy (BTWA), a kindergarten through 8th-grade charter school in New Haven, as well as the CEO of Elevate Charter Schools, a newly formed charter management organization. 

BTWA is a CT State Department of Education recognized School of Distinction serving 450 scholars, most of whom are from under-resourced and economically disadvantaged communities.  Despite these obstacles, our scholars have performed at or above state averages in reading and math each year since the school’s opening in 2014.  This success is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the school’s faculty and staff and their commitment to ensuring all students have access to high-quality educational opportunities. 

At BTWA, we serve students and their families from the New Haven community, and we focus our approach on one primary goal – academic growth. One of our three core overarching goals is “academics.” We believe every student at BTWA should have the capacity to read, write, think, discuss and problem-solve. We pride ourselves in preparing our students with these transferable skills, not just to succeed in the classroom, but to achieve their future college and career objectives.

We intend to bring the same level of commitment from BTWA to the families of Danbury with the opening of the Danbury Charter School. Elevate Charter Schools was created to oversee the development of the proposed Danbury Charter School. In addition to expanding educational options for students, Danbury Charter School will also focus on innovative and culturally responsive instruction to improve overall student achievement.

These opportunities and options are made possible because of school choice. Families that enroll their children in schools of choice, like Booker T. Washington Academy or Danbury Charter School, are exercising their right to choose the best educational path for their family. This choice is made based on the right fit for their child. For parents, the ability to choose the educational path of their child should be a decision based on an alignment with the mission, vision, and philosophy of that particular school. Our most critical goal must be to prepare our students for their future as best as we can. 

The reality is schools of choice hold a tighter line because we understand the powerful impact of academically preparing students for the next step in their life – high school, college, trade school, etc. – whichever is the right fit for them. 

In Connecticut’s charter schools, more than 65 percent of students come from low-income households. Charter schools work to understand where students and their families most need tangible approaches to longer-term academic success. We identify a challenge within a student’s educational portfolio and immediately address it. We pride ourselves on being proactive, instead of reactive to academic needs as they arrive. 

The beauty of school choice allows educators to collaborate with families to ensure students are best prepared for a bright and fruitful future. If school choice had been available during my and my siblings’ school careers, I am certain that our outcomes would have been limitless. It is for this reason that I fight so diligently to ensure all students have access to the best-fit quality education for them, whether in New Haven, Danbury, or across the country.

John Taylor is the Executive Director of the Booker T. Washington Academy.