Virginia Governor Calls for Public Charter School Expansion
According to the Washington Post, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell called for an expansion of public charter schools in his State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday. “We still have one of the weakest public charter schools laws in the country,” McDonnell said. “The best public charter school operators in the nation will not come here because we make it nearly impossible for them. We need new charter school laws that demand excellence, set clear standards, and welcome the best charter schools into our communities.” McDonnell asked lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment to allow the state Board of Education to authorize charter applicants. He also asked that lawmakers eliminate the requirement that local school boards apply for authorization from the state Board of Education before opening a charter school. “These ideas will make it much easier for proven charter schools to open up,” he said.
Source: Washington Post
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Kansas Legislature Expected to Address Charter Law
According to the Kansas City Star, state lawmakers are expected to push this session to make it easier to establish public charter schools. Kansas’ charter school law is considered weak because it requires local school district approval. Fewer than 3,000 students are enrolled in 17 charter schools – down from 38 charters a decade ago. More than half of charter schools are virtual schools. “Our charter schools right now are basically charters in name only,” said Walt Chappell, a former State Board of Education member from Wichita. “If a school is credible and has a curriculum and teachers that are qualified, let’s give them a chance to survive. Let’s not slam the door before they can even get started.” Chappell supports loosening restrictions on charters and making them easier to open and operate.
Source: Kansas City Star
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North Carolina Board of Education Passes Virtual Charter School Policy
According to the Progressive Pulse, the North Carolina Board of Education on Thursday passed a new policy allotting virtual public charter schools a lower per-pupil funding amount than other public charter schools. In addition, virtual schools will be required to maintain high graduation and low student withdrawal rates, and to keep a ratio of one teacher for every 50 students. N.C. Learns applied to open a virtual charter school in North Carolina last year; the Board of Education, which authorizes charter schools in the state, took no action on the application. The matter is now tied up in the appellate courts. Two other virtual charter school operators – Connections Academy and N.C. Virtual Academy – have sent letters of intent to the state Department of Public Instruction for schools that would open in 2014.
Source: Progressive Pulse
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Baltimore Charter Schools Undergo Rigorous Evaluation for Renewal
According to the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore school district officials recommended granting three- and five-year contract extensions to all but three of 18 public charter schools seeking renewal. The schools’ academic performance, climate, financial management and governance were evaluated in what Alison Perkins-Cohen, who oversees the district's office of new initiatives, called the district’s most rigorous assessment to date. "We believe the renewal process is essential to charter accountability and that the recommendations demonstrate that the vast majority of charter schools are successfully fulfilling their individual missions and effectively educating students," the Coalition of Baltimore Charter Schools said in a statement. One city school board member expressed reservations about granting schools five-year contracts. "It's extremely important that they understand that they don't have five years to do what they want and that we still want to see improvement," said city school board Commissioner Jerrelle Francois. "Five years is a long time in the life of a child."
Source: Baltimore Sun
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Arizona Charter School Purchasing Policies Will Stand
According to the Arizona Republic, a meeting held Wednesday by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools concluded that the state’s charter schools will be able to retain their flexible spending practices. The meeting with charter school officials came in response to an Arizona Republic investigation that found that some charter school board members and administrators did business with their own schools, which is legal, but some say leads to conflicts of interest. The investigation found at least 17 such contracts totaling more than $70 million over five years, involving about 40 school sites. The state board has provided nearly 90 percent of Arizona’s 535 charter schools with exemptions from state purchasing laws. At the meeting, charter school officials told the state board that more regulations would impose costly burdens on the schools. No board members suggested policy changes. "We'll continue to operate as we have," said DeAnna Rowe, the board's executive director, after the meeting.
Source: Arizona Republic
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Addressing Social-Emotional Needs at a Bronx Charter School
An Education Week story on how schools are addressing students’ social and emotional needs highlighted the Children's Aid College Prep Charter School in the Bronx borough of New York City. Children’s Aid specifically recruits children from across the city who are homeless, in foster care, and in extreme poverty. The school started last fall with 132 kindergarteners and 1st graders, and plans to add a grade each year up to 5th. In addition to teachers, the school has full-time life coaches, who bridge social services and instruction. "When you approach these kids from the deficit model of 'they have all these problems,' that seeps into everything you do," said Drema Brown, the vice president of education for Children's Aid. "We look at it as promise; we make sure every adult in the building understands those vulnerable areas as opportunities to practice our skills as professionals, and not as problems."
Source: Education Week
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Chicago’s Perspectives Charter School Builds Around School Culture
Education Week profiled Chicago’s Perspectives Charter Schools, where co-founders Kimberlie Day and Diana Shulla-Cose designed the flagship school building to reflect the school culture. According to Day, "students buying into community and being a citizen has more of an impact on individual safety than any metal detector has.” Students and all staff members are trained in a set of 26 principles called "A Disciplined Life," which addresses self-perception, communication, and productivity. The school culture has “allowed us to go into a community where the graduation rate was 35 percent and have a graduation rate of 85 percent," Day said. The building is designed in a triangular shape with a large “family room” in the center. "Having the triangular shape where everything's connected means you can literally see the whole school. It makes it really easy to have a pulse on the school," said teacher Patti Buckland.
Sources: Education Week here and here