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How Different Schools Shaped Two Students’ Lives

This is a story about Ivan Cantera and Laura Corro, two students who shared a relationship in middle school but ended up in separate directions after graduating from high schools. Ivan attended Santa Fe South High School, a charter school, and Laura enrolled in Capitol Hill High School, a large public institution in the same neighborhood. This fall, Ivan will enter the University of Oklahoma on a prestigious scholarship. He plans to be the first Hispanic governor of Oklahoma. Laura, however, is still unsure where she is headed after high school. She has not taken any college entrance exam.

The different paths taken by Laura and Ivan were shaped by many external and internal factors, but their schools played an important role. Both schools serve the same poor Hispanic community in Oklahoma and follow federal and state requirements for curriculum and standardized exams. Charter schools, however, are backed up by powerful supporters such as the Wall Street bankers and the Obama administration. They have less restriction on subject such as rules, regulations, and statues that apply to other public schools in exchange for promise of achieving standards set forth in the school’s charter.

While neither school can select specific type of students, charter schools have the ability to close admission once they are full. Public schools must welcome anyone who wishes to enroll. On average, Santa Fe South charter high school enrolls about 490 students per school year and Capitol Hill public high school enrolls about 900 students. School day at Santa Fe South is 45 minutes longer, graduation requirements are more rigorous, and attendance policy is a lot tougher. Santa Fe South teachers are on a one year renewable contract which allows the schools to easily remove incompetent teachers. At Capitol Hill public high school, bad teachers are harder to fire due to the formation of a strong worker union.

Ivan, who was a former gang member and drugs addict, was encouraged by his teachers and counselors to aim higher in life. On the first day of high school, he was assigned to an advisory group where he was encouraged to study hard in school, attend college, and be successful in life. The small charter school has turned Ivan’s life around.

Despite being class president and a very hard working student, Laura Corro had no plan to enter college. Part of it was because she did not receive the same inspirational encouragement as Ivan did in his prestigious charter school. However after some consideration, she started on an application for an art school with rolling admissions in California. Over the summer, she plans to continue working full time in order to save up for school.


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