Chartering School Change

President Bush and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. pose for a class photo as they visit the Harlem Village Academy Charter School in New York, Tuesday, April 24, 2007. AP

They are young, gifted and bright.

"Education is my birthright! Education is the path to freedom," students at Harlem Academy Charter School chant.

On Tuesday morning in Harlem, President Bush heard their pledges and saw their passion.

Housed in one of New York City's toughest neighborhoods, seventh-graders at Harlem Village Academy earned one of New York state's highest math scores: 95.7 percent.

These are children who just a few years ago were failing, CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

"One of those students was Kevin Smith. His mother says when Kevin came to the Harlem Village Academy in 2003, he struggled. Now she says he can do it with his eyes closed — that's a math student, right," President Bush said while speaking at the school.

Kevin's goal: become a lawyer tomorrow. Dress like one today.

"I know if I want to be a lawyer, I have to wear suits. I can't go into a courtroom with some jeans and a shirt," he says.

So if you want to be the man, you have to dress like the man?

"Yes!" Kevin says.

"I actually think that all the kids, regardless of the fact that they might be born into poverty, have absolutely the same potential as any other child," says Deborah Kenny, the founder of Harlem Village Academy.

At the academy, kids go to school 10 hours a day, five days a week — and sometimes on Saturdays.

Kenny brought a business plan to the classroom.

"Use business principles of accountability and autonomy and holding people accountable for results, so, for example, I could show you by student, by standard who needs extra help and who doesn't on a given day," Kenny says.

It's one of a variety of techniques used in charter schools in 40 states across the country. That's more than a million students in nearly 4,100 schools — with mixed results.

Still, parents like Lucy Myers believe in it.

"Ever since he started, it's been like up, up, up, up up," says Myers, who adds that she saw a change in her son "right away."

The debate over charter schools vs. public schools is a long one. But not here. Not for these children who no longer simply have dreams — they have direction.
  • Christine Lagorio

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