By Lynette Monroe, Program Assistant, NNPA ESSA Awareness Campaign
Rebecca Francis, like most dynamic leaders of our time, recognized a problem and created a solution. As a former behavioral counselor, fourth grade teacher, and international high school psychology and English literature instructor, Rebecca Francis’ professional resume alone qualifies her to lead in the field of education. But her personal experience as an adolescent in the Bay Area, traveling 45 minutes across town to attend a higher performing school in a more affluent neighborhood, sparked the passion she needed to lead effectively.
Now Francis is looking to expand her passion for equity in education to Houston, Texas. Drawing from her studies at the Purpose Preparatory Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, Francis is proposing a new, independent, PreK-5 public charter school in the Bayou City. Through a Building Excellent Schools Fellowship, she is designing and founding Elevate Collegiate Charter School, slated to open Fall 2020.
Francis has visited over 25 high-performing schools across the nation to learn what it takes to make award-winning, high-quality public charter schools. She believes charter schools offer an alternative option to parents and students who are not satisfied with the options available to them. Although she supports traditional public, neighborhood schools, Francis recognizes the reality that all schools are not created equal and that traveling far away from home can inhibit children’s social development.
“As a little girl, traveling long distances in pursuit of a higher quality education I thought, ‘What is wrong with the school in my own neighborhood? Why does something like this not exist closer to my home?’” Lessons reiterated as a professional, “then, as an educator it became more clear that children on different ends of the income spectrum were receiving vastly different education experiences” Francis said.
Elevate Collegiate Charter School seeks to provide an accessible high-quality option to underserved students in Houston. Their mission is to equip all pre-kindergarten through fifth grade scholars with the academic knowledge and character development necessary to set forth confidently on the path to college. Elevate Collegiate Charter School strongly believes that they are not just responsible for providing a college preparatory education to students, but also to help instill the character traits necessary for them to be positive members in their class, school, and community.
Increased access to opportunity is a major goal of Elevate Collegiate Charter School. “We see education as a tool that all children need to unlock their greatest potential.” Francis says, “To better serve minority and low-income students this charter school will feature double literacy blocks, which we hope will promote advanced literary skills, and an increased prioritization of computer science. In the eight largest tech companies, African Americans make up less than 5 percent of the workforce. So, our challenge is also to figure out innovative ways to infuse coding, robotics, and basic computer software to light that tech spark in the curriculum.”
Title IV, Part C, of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), entitled, “Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools,” supports the increased accessibility of high-quality public charter schools. State entities can even receive grants from the federal government to open and prepare for the operation of new charter schools. ESSA defines a high-quality charter school as an educational institution that shows evidence of strong academic results or growth and has no significant issues with fiscal management or procedural compliance. ESSA gives states more flexibility to states to decide how to incorporate charter schools into their accountability systems, but most state charter school laws hold charter schools to the same standards as their traditional public school counterparts.
Why Houston? Rebecca is an alumna of the University of Houston where she earned Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in African American Studies. Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the nation and there are currently roughly 22,000 students on alternative school option waiting list.
Elevate Collegiate Charter School seeks to provide the individualized learning support towards mastery that ESSA encourages. It will do so by hiring teachers with experience teaching underserved populations and who have the passion to do so effectively and consistently.
To learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the innovative opportunities it affords to Black students check out nnpa.org/essa.