This week, we celebrate National Charter Schools Week, May 3-9, and this year marks the 20th anniversary of Louisiana’s charter school law. Today, we celebrate 134 charter schools, serving over 70,000 students across our state.

Most of you are aware of the amazing academic gains Louisiana’s charter schools have made, typified by the recent CREDO study that concluded area public charter schools significantly outperform their conventional public school counterparts, equating to an additional 40 school days in math and 28 in reading over the span of a school year.

But there is more to a charter school than just improved academic outcomes. Charter schools have redefined what community engagement looks like in public education.

I am the board chairwoman for Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy and have had the distinct pleasure of being involved with the school from its initial development. A solid team of local business and industry partners have worked with the principal, teachers, parents and students to grow and expand the school.

Today, we are proud that JCFA proudly serves communities on both the east and west banks. Our mission is to provide a learning environment that allows our students to develop their potential; to prepare for post-secondary education and/or the workforce; and to utilize the resources of community agencies, organizations and institutions to their academic and personal needs. Our students may be deemed by others as those most at-risk for not completing high school, but we know that each of our students can and does achieve their educational goals in the right environment.

Our school joins the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools in celebrating our successes, while working to inform Louisianans that charter schools are indeed free, public schools. People like you — everyday activists and parents — are the key that make this new direction in public schooling work.

So during Charter School Week, I hope you would explore our school or another like it. Attend one of our board meetings or visit our website, jeffersonchamber

Kristine H. Strickland

board chairwoman, Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy

New Orleans