Charter Schools Bill Passed by Mississippi House Education Committee
According to the Hattiesburg American and other media outlets, on Tuesday a public charter schools bill was passed by the Mississippi House Education Committee – the same panel that killed a similar bill last year. Forest Thigpen, executive director of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, said the bill “addresses almost every major concern that had been expressed over the last year and ought to be palatable to the large majority of the state, and hopefully that will be reflected in a strong majority vote for the bill on the house floor.” Questions of school funding, administrator qualifications and allowing for-profit companies to manage charter schools are expected to dominate debate on the House floor. Rep. Gary Chism anticipates the bill will ultimately be made law if the Senate, which passed its own charter schools bill by a wide margin, moves closer to the House version. “If it gets through the House, it will be by a narrow margin.”
Sources: Hattiesburg American, Daily Journal, Clarion Ledger
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Ball State Revokes Charters of Seven Indiana Schools
According to the Muncie Star Press and other media outlets, Ball State University announced it would not renew the charters of seven low-performing Indiana public charter schools. Two additional schools withdrew their charter renewal applications. The nine non-renewed schools may appeal or seek other authorizers, but will likely close, affecting 3,900 students. Three other charters were given three-year extensions of their contracts, tied to performance conditions. Four additional charters were granted five-year contract renewals. Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, commended Ball State University for establishing clear standards, carefully analyzing each school’s performance, and making thoughtful decisions about renewals. “Supporting the growth and development of new, excellent charter schools requires the courage to hold all schools accountable, and to close them when they fail. While school closure is never easy, Ball State’s actions today will ultimately give more children in Indiana the chance to attend a great school,” he said.
Sources: Muncie Star Press here and here, Journal Gazette, WIBQ
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Editorial: An Opportunity to Shape Washington State’s Charter Schools
A Yakima Herald editorial encourages Washington state residents to weigh in during the Board of Education’s public comment period on the rules that will govern the establishment of the state’s first public charter schools. “With about 6,000 schools operating in 41 states, there is plenty of experience on which to tap for latecomers like Washington. The national consensus is many of them work, many of them don’t, and a key is oversight by the school districts and state agencies. Right now is the public’s chance to weigh in on what could bring creative and innovation improvements in our state’s schools — if they are done right.”
Source: Yakima Herald
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Editorial: Eliminate Massachusetts’ Cap on Charters in Low-Performing Districts
A Boston Herald editorial encourages Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to end the cap on the public charter schools in low-performing districts. Patrick favors increasing taxes in order to funnel hundreds of millions of new education dollars into narrowing the achievement gap between affluent and needy communities. Eliminating the cap on charters “wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime and, if enacted, could have darn near the same impact.” A pending bill would eliminate any cap on charters in districts where schools measure in the bottom 10 percent statewide in student achievement. Charters in those communities would not count against the statewide cap. “[T]he Massachusetts Charter Public School Association notes that more than half of the 29 school districts that rank in the bottom 10 percent — including many of the ‘Gateway Cities’ where Patrick cites the need for attention — are at or near the pointless cap, while 35,000 kids still sit on waiting lists for admission.”
Source: Boston Herald
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Editorial: Alabama Lawmakers Should Not Give Up on Charter Schools
An Anniston Star editorial encourages Alabama Governor Robert Bentley not to give up on public charter schools legislation. “Charter schools allow organizations an opportunity to reach students through alternative methods of education with public money. Twelve months ago, creating charter schools in Alabama looked like low-hanging fruit for several reasons. The majority of states have some form of charter schools, which became fashionable about 20 years ago. The lessons for creating a system that works are well-established. Plenty of scholarship exists for best and worst practices.” However, a charter schools bill failed to pass in the 2012 session, and appears to no longer be a high priority for Bentley or legislators. “History shows us that regardless of the policy, turning a bill into a law frequently takes more than one speech, one draft of the legislation or one Statehouse session.”
Source: Anniston Star
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Op-ed: Will D.C.’s Mayor Step Up For Charter School Children?
In a Washington Examiner op-ed, Friends of Choice in Urban Schools Executive Director Robert Cane encourages D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to treat public charter schools, which educate 43 percent of the city’s students, fairly in his upcoming budget proposal. “Among students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch, D.C. charter students pass the city's standardized reading and math tests at higher rates than their peers in the traditional system…District charter high schools have a graduation rate 27 percentage points higher than the city's open-enrollment high schools. Partly because of this, charter high school students also are much more likely to be accepted to college than their peers in city-run high schools. Polling reveals that six in 10 District voters believe public school funding should be equalized for all D.C. students, as the mayor promised. The mayor has taken some important steps to bring government policy in line with public opinion. Will he finish the job?”
Source: Washington Examiner
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Nashville Charter Middle Schools Outperform District
According to the Tennessean , fifth-grade students at two Nashville public charter schools outperformed their peers at district middle schools in every subject, and beat the state average in a number of subjects last year. The two schools, Liberty Collegiate Academy and Nashville Prep, are new schools opened last year with support by the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, and are among the highest performing charter schools in the state. Both schools have a larger percentage of students from low-income families than district schools. “We’re pretty pleased with the result so far, and we’re excited about the next group of new leaders,” said Justin Testerman, chief operating officer. The incubator was created by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean in 2010 to help attract high-quality charter operators to Tennessee and to support local leaders starting charter schools. The incubator is on track to help develop eight schools in Nashville and eight in Memphis in five years.
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Nashville School Board Discusses How to Imitate Charter School Success
According to the Tennessean , Nashville school board members discussed how district schools can imitate the success of the six highest-performing middle schools in the city, which are public charter schools. “Tell me what we need to do,” board Chairwoman Cheryl Mayes said. “Does it start with principals, the teaching staff or does it start with the students? We have to do it even if we have to do it one school at a time.” Board member Sharon Gentry had one recommendation. “Our schools do not have the climate, the expectations of charter schools,” she said. “Until you establish a culture of expectation of consistently high performance, you are not going to get there.” Board member Elissa Kim agreed, saying: “Culture is so critical. When you see it, it is palpable, you can sense it, you can see it.” Mayes also said that the autonomy charter schools have to make site-based decisions is another critical factor.
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Charters Adjusting to Common-Core Demands
According to Education Week , public charter schools face academic, financial and administrative challenges in implementing the new Common Core standards, but some may adapt easily. Cleveland’s Intergenerational School founder Catherine C. Whitehouse said charters have “a leg up” on adapting to the common core because they are “nimble." At California’s San Carlos Charter Learning Center, Stacy Emory said her school’s project-based approach aligns well with the common core’s emphasis on covering fewer topics in greater depth. National Association of Charter School Authorizers Senior Adviser Nelson Smith said large networks might adapt more easily, but independent charters “really need some special attention to make sure they're aware of the changes coming down the pike and getting ready for them." Justin O'Connell of the Arizona Charter Schools Association said: "This is a heavy lift for all schools, and we've got to figure out ways to make it so that they're not all trying to reinvent the wheel," he said.
Source: Education Week
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In New York City, Charter Schools Face Different Rules for Closing
Schoolbook explored the different processes that the authorizers of New York City’s public charter schools – the city’s Department of Education (DOE) and the State University of New York (SUNY) – use to evaluate and close low-performing public charter schools. “Decisions to phase out or close district and charter schools are difficult ones,” said D.O.E. spokesman Devon Puglia. He added that city officials consider “rigorous, multi-year analysis of student performance.” In the past decade, the Department of Education has closed five of the 74 charters it controls, or 7 percent. SUNY has closed four schools since 2001. Alex Medler, vice president of policy and advocacy for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, said the best charter regulations are clear to the public and to the schools, so they know what to expect.