Tennessee Lawmakers to Consider Statewide Charter Authorizer
According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, a bill being crafted by the Tennessee Charter Schools Association would allow a statewide entity to authorize public charter schools. Matt Throckmorton, the charter association's executive director, said the bill will be before legislators soon and is designed to take the politics out of the charter school approval process. Of the 42 states with charter school laws, 13 and the District of Columbia have some kind of a statewide authorizer. In about half, charter operators can appeal decisions only after applications have been rejected by local school districts. Terence Patterson, education program officer at the Hyde Family Foundations, said a statewide charter authorizer "is a national best practice" and that its merits "should certainly be evaluated in the context of Tennessee." Brent Easley, director of the state chapter of Students First, said: "Tennessee's lack of an alternative nondistrict authorizer hinders the state's ability to provide parents and students high-quality educational choice."
Source: Memphis Commercial Appeal
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Texas Lawmakers Aim to Ensure Quality, Increase Access to Charter Schools
According to the Austin American-Statesman, Texas Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick is calling for a single state entity to authorize and oversee charter schools and for an additional 20 charters to be allowed annually beyond the statewide cap of 215. “What we need is a new way of approaching authorization, follow-up and closure,” Patrick said. In 2011, 8.5 percent of charter schools received the state’s top rating, compared with 4.4 percent of traditional public schools; 17.6 percent of charters were deemed “unacceptable”, compared to 4.9 percent of traditional schools. David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association, supports making it easier to close failing schools. The Texas Education Agency has created a new senior adviser position for charter school turnaround. “The idea here is to take schools that are struggling…and provide them with resources to help them provide greater teaching quality to their students so they can succeed,” said Education Commissioner Michael Williams.
Source: Austin American-Statesman
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Study: Average Michigan Charter School Student Outpaces District Peers
According to the Detroit Free Press, a study released today from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that the average Michigan charter school student in Michigan is showing more growth than his or her school district peers. Michigan charter school students on average gain an additional two months of learning in reading and math. In Detroit, charter school students gain on average three months of achievement for each year they attend a charter school. "These findings show that Michigan has set policies and practices for charter schools and their authorizers to produce consistent high quality across the state. The findings are especially welcome for students in communities that face significant education challenges," said Margaret Raymond, director of the center, in a press release. The study analyzed the academic performance of 85,650 charter school students from 273 of Michigan’s 280 charter schools.
Source: Detroit Free Press
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Ball State University Reviews Charter Schools; Some Could Close
According to Northwest Indiana Times, the Office of Charter Schools at Indiana’s Ball State University is reviewing 20 of the public charter schools it sponsors and may close some. Bob Marra, executive director of Ball State's Office of Charter Schools, said Friday that "decisions will be made very shortly." Teams of evaluators visited schools during the fall, reviewing academic performance, governance and finances. According to Marra, the emphasis is on academics, "But you can have stellar academic performance but still have financial or governance issues and still be closed." Ball State officials have until March 1, but plan to make decisions sooner, to give parents and students time to make other arrangements if a school’s charter is not renewed.
Source: Northwest Indiana Times
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In D.C., Businesses and Public Charter Schools Work Together
In a Washington Times op-ed, United Bank regional Vice President Tom Nida and D.C. public charter school founder Linda Moore describe the “mutually beneficial opportunities” that the public charter school sector has opened up for partnerships between public schools and area businesses. Moore’s school, the Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, partners with Ritz-Carlton for activities ranging from career education to community service. Stokes’ acclaimed wellness program – which includes an organic garden, a school chef who prepares healthy meals, and an after-school fitness program – is assisted by a partnership with Whole Foods, which donates food, cookware and experts such as fishmongers who speak to students about sustainable fishing. “Charters’ freedom to set their own school curriculum and culture create opportunities for area business collaboration, enabling schools to connect unique aspects of their program with relevant local corporate partners…These rewarding business partnerships help the school to provide a high-quality public education to many low-income students.”
Source: Washington Times
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Oklahoma Charter School Seeks to Save Cherokee Language
The Muskogee Phoenix profiled Oklahoma’s Cherokee Immersion Charter School, a K-8 school whose purpose, according to Principal Holly Davis, is “to save the Cherokee language.” Candessa Tehee, whose three children attend the school, said her oldest child started as fourth-grader and was conversant in Cherokee by the end of his first year. According to Tehee, Cherokee is complex, making English comparatively an easier language to learn. The Cherokee syllabary has 85 letters, compared to the 26 letters in the English alphabet. Verbs in Cherokee can be conjugated in hundreds of different ways. In 2011-2012, its first year as a charter school, the school earned a C on the state’s A-F report card system, based on test results and attendance. Davis called the C grade “tremendous”, given that “there is no English instruction in our school’s younger grades, and we gave them this test in English.”
Source: Muskogee Phoenix