Posts by Kim McCabe


Kim McCabe


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Parents Taking Big Risks for School Choice

Washington D.C. has cracked down on parents from Maryland and Virginia who lie about where they live so that their children can attend D.C. schools. Education Watchdog reports that D.C. officials conducted 70 investigations for residency fraud last year. The stakes are high for these parents: those who commit residency fraud face up to 90 days in jail and may be required to pay back tuition, which can come in at $15,000 per year.

Why would parents be willing to take this kind of risk? Most likely, due to a lack of school choice in their home school districts. While Washington has a healthy school choice environment—about 76 percent of students in D.C. attend a school other than their assigned school—the city’s suburbs offer few options for families. Parents who feel that their child’s school isn’t the right fit can either pay for a private school education or they can move. For most families, those aren’t options.

Perhaps that’s why 70 percent of Americans support charter schools. They don’t think it’s right that a student’s education, and their future, should be tied to their zip code. All students, regardless of where they live or how much money their parents make, have the right to a high-quality education at a school that works for them. Some students are thriving in arts-focused charter schools while others succeed in a bilingual program.

One-size education does not fit all and the growing number of parents taking great risks to access school choice for the sake of their children’s futures agree. Likely, there are many more families that, while unwilling to break the law, wish they had more options. We know that’s the case for the more than one million student names on charter school wait lists.

You can make a difference for these families without options. Join the charter schools action network to make sure that charter schools continue to grow and give families real school choice in public education.


Kim McCabe is the Advocacy Manager at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Kim McCabe


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Charter Schools Make Strong Showing in US News Best High School Rankings

In April, U.S. News & World Report released its 2014 Best High Schools Rankings, and 24 public charter schools are among the top 100. Three of those public charter schools made it into the top 10: BASIS Scottsdale (#2), Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology (#3) and BASIS Tucson North (#5).

U.S. News teamed up with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to produce the 2014 rankings. Public high schools were evaluated by their students’ performance on state-mandated assessments, minority and economically disadvantaged student performance, and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exam results to determine preparedness for college-level work.

Public charter high schools are consistently over-represented in the top 100 of the U.S. News Best High Schools Ranking. This year, nearly one-quarter of the top 100 high schools are public charter schools, despite charter schools making up only 6 percent of all public schools in the country.

A full list of the top public charter high schools ranked by U.S. News is available on their website.

Congratulations to these charter schools recognized as the top public high schools in the nation!

Kim Kober is the federal policy and government relations coordinator for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Kim McCabe


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National Alliance testifies before Congress on the importance of the federal Charter Schools Program

Earlier this month, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing, “Raising the Bar: The Role of Charter Schools in K-12 Education,” to highlight the growth of charter schools, their positive impact on K-12 education across the country, and the role of the federal Charter Schools Program. The hearing allowed members of the charter school community to showcase the ways federal policy can impact charter school growth, encourage best practices, and foster district-charter collaboration.

Deb McGriffFive charter school leaders from across the country were invited to testify, including the National Alliance’s Chair of the Board, Dr. Deborah McGriff.

In her testimony, Dr. McGriff stressed the importance of the federal Charter Schools Program. “I don’t believe the public charter school sector’s growth to meet parental demand for educational options would have occurred the way it has without the presence of dedicated federal funding. Let me say that again to be perfectly clear: while public charter schools are inherently local, the movement would not have achieved its current success had it not been for the federal Charter Schools Program.”

Dr. McGriff was joined by other charter school leaders and advocates who added unique perspectives to the hearing discussion:

  • Board Chair of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) Lisa Graham Keegan focused on they ways the charter school authorizing process has improved, as authorizers build and identify best practices. Keegan emphasized the key role authorizers play to ensure quality, and close low-performing schools.
  • Alan Rosskamm, Chief Executive Officer of Breakthrough Schools, highlighted the organization’s collaboration with the City of Cleveland to strengthen public education for all students. As the highest rated charter network in Ohio, Rosskamm attributed much of Breakthrough’s success to their strong partnerships with families—a defining characteristic behind the mission of public charter schools.
  • Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, Chief of Innovation and Reform at Denver Public Schools, provided the perspective of a school district administrator who works to ensure that district schools and charter school collaborate and complement each other to provide families with quality public school options.
  • David Linzey, Executive Director at Clayton Valley Charter High School, spoke of his work in converting a district public school to a charter school and the high demand for this school – with a waiting list of nearly 400 students for the upcoming school year. Last year, the school experienced the most academic achievement growth for a large high school in the state of California, with a 62 point jump on the state’s API in a single year.

The hearing was a great opportunity for the charter school community to share its most promising practices with the committee.

Board Chair McGriff summed up her opening remarks with a request to Congress: “The number one message that I bring you today is that the CSP is working and that both the Congress and the administration should prioritize funding for the program to help us meet the demands of parents and ensure funding equity for students who attend public charter schools.”

Want to build on Dr. McGriff’s request? Make the ask yourself with a quick email to your members of Congress.


To view an archived webcast and all witness testimony, click here.

Kim Kober is the federal policy and government relations coordinator for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Kim McCabe


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5 reasons to support charters schools in 2014

Right now, members of Congress are deciding how to spend money for the upcoming fiscal year and we need to make sure they know that public charter schools are a priority. That’s why we’re asking you to contact your members of Congress, tell them that the federal Charter Schools program is important to you.  Need some motivation? Here are my top five reasons to support public charter schools in 2014:

  1. Growth. The federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) has helped open more than 90 percent of new charter schools in the past five years. There are now more than 2.5 million students attending nearly 6,500 schools.
  2.  Innovation. Public charter schools have the freedom to find new and creative solutions to meet the unique needs of the students in their communities. In Santa Ana, California that means students at El Sol Science and Arts Academy can learn easier through a dual language immersion curriculum. In Wichita, Kansas agriculture is incorporated into the curriculum at the Walton Rural Life Center.
  3.  Academic Performance. Fifteen out of 16 independent studies published since 2010, four national studies and 10 regional studies all found positive academic performance results for students in charter schools compared to their traditional school peers. Last year, CREDO released a study that found that a charter school education had a positive impact for many subgroups, including Black students, students in poverty, English Language Learners (ELL), and students in Special Education. For ELL Hispanic students, attending a charter school resulted in 50 additional days of learning in reading and 43 additional days of learning in math.
  4. Geographic Reach.The federal Charter Schools Program serves students in all educational settings–55 percent of the nation’s charters are in urban areas, 21 percent in suburban, and 16 percent in rural. Public charter schools serve a high percentage of students in a diverse array of cities including large cities such as New Orleans and Detroit as well as rural Hall County, Ga.
  5. Demand. Across the nation,public charter school waitlists approached one million names during the 2012-2013 school year. Families looking for options within the public school system are turning to public charter schools to find the best fit for their child’s education, but without additional funds charter schools are unable to meet parental demand.

Now it’s your turn–why do YOU support public charter schools?


Kim Kober is the coordinator for government relations and federal policy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 

Kim McCabe


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State charter school leaders visit Capitol Hill

Last week, more than 25 charter school leaders from across the country convened in Washington, D.C. for a day-long meeting to share best practices for growing sustainable charter support organizations, and to meet with their congressional delegations. The meetings, with more than 100 congressional offices, are a critical part of educating members of Congress and their staffs about the importance of the federal Charter Schools Program.

Congress is starting the process of determining its spending priorities for Fiscal Year 2015, so it’s important that they hear from their constituents–charter school leaders, teachers, and parents–about the ways public charter schools provide great learning opportunities for children in their communities. Building these relationships will help ensure federal funding and policies that support charter schools. 

It is important that our nation’s elected officials hear from more than just our state leaders. That’s why, this week we are calling on parents, teachers, school leaders, and charter school supporters from the across the country to reach out to their members of Congress. Here are two ways you can help:

  • Invite your members of Congress to visit your school. Our state leaders began the work of extending these offers last week, but members like to hear from many of their constituents. Consider inviting your members of Congress to an event at your school such as a school play, spelling bee, or science fair. For assistance scheduling a school visit with your member of Congress, contact Pam Davidson at
  • Send an email! Another way to stay in touch is through email. Right now, members of Congress are making decisions about what federal programs are important to them and their constituents. The state leaders paved the road during their in-person meetings last week, but this week we have a great chance to remind them that they have a charter school supporter back at home! Join our efforts by clicking here to send a letter to your members of Congress and ask them to support charter schools in the upcoming year.

Kim Kober is the federal policy and government relations coordinator for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.




Left: State leaders convene at the Office of the Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the U.S. Capitol

Right: Bill Phillips of the Northeast Charter School Network talks to Rep. Cantor as Jed Wallace, California Charter Schools Association, and Andrew Broy, Illinois Network of Charter Schools, look on.

Photo credit: Nora Kern


Kim McCabe


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Public Charter School Events Receive Attention from Federal Lawmakers

Over the past two weeks, the National Alliance has coordinated several events to give federal lawmakers the opportunity to learn more about the public charter schools. Here are just a few key highlights:

Members of Congress Celebrate School Choice Week at D.C. Charter School

NLK_5442During School Choice Week, the National Alliance hosted members of Congress at DC Prep’s Edgewood Elementary Campus to celebrate National School Choice Week. Congressmen Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Tom Petri (R-WI), and Jared Polis (D-CO) toured the school’s Pre-K to 3rd grade campus and observed teacher-led classrooms, small group learning, and students engaged with tablets and computers. DC Prep CEO Emily Lawson spoke with the congressmen about the importance of federal support for charter schools. DC Prep has been named Washington, D.C.’s highest-performing network of public charter schools for the second consecutive year. Network-wide, the school serves roughly 80 percent students from low-income backgrounds.

 Photo: Emily Lawson, Rep. Paulsen, and Rep. Petri speak with a third grade student. Photo credit: Nora Kern

Senate Charter Schools Caucus Hosts Panel on Special Education in Charter Schools

NLK_5302 - CopyOn Tuesday, January 28, the Senate Charter Schools Caucus, co-chaired by Senator Landrieu (D-LA) and Senator Alexander (R-TN), hosted a panel on special education in charter schools. National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees moderated the panel that featured school leaders and a parent from Bridges Public Charter School, a public charter school in Washington, D.C. Nina was joined on the panel by Paul O’Neil with the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) and Alex Medler with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. For more information about the work of the National Alliance and NCSECS, see Improving Access and Creating Exceptional Opportunities for Students with Disabilities in Public Charter School.

Photo: Keesha Blythe, Bridges Public Charter School Director of Student Support Services, explained the challenges specific to classrooms that serve children with high-level special education needs. Photo credit: Nora Kern.

National Alliance Organizes Day on Capitol Hill for State Charter School Leaders

On February 11th and 12th, 25 state leaders from charter support organizations across the country met with more than 100 U.S. senators, representatives, and their staffs to educate them about public charter schools and to advocate for increased funding for the federal Charter Schools Program. During the visits, the state leaders encouraged members of Congress to visit a public charter school in their state. To learn more about this day of advocacy and how you can ask your members of Congress to support charter schools, sign up to receive our newsletters.

Kim Kober is the federal policy coordinator at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


Kim McCabe


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The Federal Budget: What it Means for the Charter Schools Program

Yesterday, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) released their topline budget agreement for Fiscal Year 2014, and the House and Senate are scheduled to vote on it in the coming days. While the specifics for programs funded through the Department of Education are not available yet, here is a short summary of what’s at stake and why we must protect funding for charter schools.

The new FY2014 budget will include overall spending levels for the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). Funding for USDOE is critical, since so many charter schools receive Title I and IDEA funds. And of course, new and expanding charter schools have prospered under the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP), which provides start-up funds and facilities support for new and existing charter schools.

While we wait for more details about how the funds will be allocated in FY2014, the Obama administration is already at work on its FY2015 budget request, which is due the first Monday in February. In November, the National Alliance joined with a coalition of charter support organizations, charter school operators, and national partners and advocacy groups on letters requesting $330 million for the CSP in the president’s FY 2015 budget.

In the coming months, the charter school community will play a critical role in educating members of Congress about the importance of the CSP.  The CSP, which is currently funded at $248.1 million, serves several functions, including new school start-ups, the replication and expansion of successful charter schools, support for facilities, and dissemination activities.

This chart provides an overview of each of these grants within the CSP, their current funding levels, and their purpose:

Federal Charter Schools Program, FY 2013

  • SEA Grants & Non-SEA Grants: Competitive grants are awarded from the U.S. Department of Education to State Education Agencies to make subgrants to charter schools.  When SEAs do not apply or are denied, individual charter schools can apply. Funding is used to help cover charter school start-up costs.
  • Replication & Expansion Grant: Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to nonprofit charter management organizations that have demonstrated success, including improved academic achievement.
  • National Leadership Activities Grant: Competitive grants provide funding for projects of national significance to improve charter school quality, as well as money to disseminate information about the projects.
  • State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grant: Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to states to help cover charter school facilities costs.
  • Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program: Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to public and nonprofit entities that enhance the ability of public charter schools to raise private capital to acquire, construct, renovate, or lease academic facilities.

Federal funding for the CSP is essential in order to ensure new charter schools can open and meet current demand. With nearly one million student names on waiting lists for charter schools, a strong federal investment is critical for the movement. As we continue our work advocating for charter school funding, we urge the charter school community to join our efforts to educate their members of Congress about the importance of the CSP.

Pam Davidson is senior director of government relations at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Kim Kober is the federal policy coordinator.

Kim McCabe


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Two Charter Management Organizations Named Race to the Top-District Finalists

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the 31 Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) competition finalists, including two charter management organizations (CMOs). The 2013 competition will provide nearly $120 million to support strategies developed by school districts (including charter schools that are their own district) that have a direct impact on improving student learning and closing achievement gaps in schools serving high populations of low-income families. The RTT-D’s focus on classroom activities, personalized learning, and the relationships between educators and students is similar to the priorities of many public charter schools—to improve student achievement through innovative learning strategies and engagement between teachers, parents, and students.

Two CMO’s, Rocketship Education and the KIPP Foundation, are listed as finalists in the competition. It’s no surprise given that these organizations easily meet RTT-D’s top criteria for strong vision, proven track records, and successful college preparation for students.

Rocketship’s elementary schools in the Bay Area, Milwaukee, and Nashville are already making progress closing the achievement gap. The Rocketship model promotes individualized student learning and their efforts are paying off. In California, Rocketship continues to be in the top five percent of school districts serving low-income children. The model rotates students through a learning lab each day where students use online adaptive software to tailor their lessons. The Rocketship proposal includes a plan to provide students with computers so that they can work at home and over the summer to prevent learning loss.

KIPP’s TEAM Academy, with schools in Newark and Camden, was also selected as a finalist. At TEAM Academy, everything is earned. Students start each year earning their chair and uniform for doing the right thing, and they soon move on to earning trips and activities. The Academy’s founding principle—that together, everyone achieves more—has become a reality in student achievement. If selected to receive the grant, their plan will allow the charter to develop a personalized college readiness plan for each student to help families manage the path to and through college.
While the final list of this year’s RTT-D awardees has not yet been announced, last year three CMOs–Harmony Public Schools,IDEA Public Schools, and KIPP DC–were awarded funds and set a strong precedent for the inclusion of public charter schools in the grant competition.

By the end of the year, the list of 31 finalists will be narrowed down to five to ten winning applicants for the four-year awards. Funding will range from $4 million to $30 million per awardee, with the amount determined by the population of students served.

View the full list of finalists for the 2013 Race to the Top-District competition.

Kim Kober is the federal policy and government relations coordinator.

Kim McCabe


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Charter School Partnerships among Highest Rated i3 Grant Applicants

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the top 25 applicants of this year’s Investing in Innovation (i3) competition, which will award more than $135 million to expand innovative practices designed to improve student achievement.

The focus on innovation makes the i3 competition a logical fit for charter schools. Funding can provide development for smart ideas that need further research, validation for programs to assess effectiveness and build capacity, or scale-up grants for programs ready to expand at the national level. Previous years’ charter recipients have included the KIPP Foundation, New Schools for New Orleans, The AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation, Aspire Public Schools, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, and IDEA.

This year, two charter-focused programs made the i3’s top 25:

  • The San Francisco Bay Area Seneca Family of Agencies, a nonprofit, special education and mental health services provider, proposes to partner with a mix of charter and district schools, including Education for Change, a charter management organization, and the Lighthouse Community Charter School to implement their Unconditional Education program. Rather than focus efforts on a single counselor or only a handful of staff, the program provides academic, behavioral, and social-emotional intervention training to the entire school community and will serve schools with large percentages of high-risk youth.
  • The University Public Schools, a network of charter schools affiliated with Arizona State University, applied for i3 funds to expand their Gathering, Reflecting, Owning our Work (GROW) project that provides STEM immersion for K-12 students. GROW will give students portable technology for use both in the classroom and at home, and provide meaningful data on the effectiveness of mobile learning.

Other applicants in the top 25 are partnering with K-12 schools, including public charters:

  • The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) in New York City is proposing a parent engagement program partnership with schools located in the South Bronx—including the Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School. Schools in this area are often characterized by high levels of poverty, school failure, and crime. CAS’s Parent Leadership Institute will encourage parents to build peer networks, workshops, and one-on-one training sessions to help families find schools that best meet their child’s needs.
  • Expeditionary Learning partners with schools, districts, and charter boards to boost student engagement and achievement. Their i3 application outlines a program to deliver resources, support, and professional development to teachers at select middle schools in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. With an emphasis on both school culture and academic success, their model has a proven track record to markedly improve student achievement in as little as two years.

The top 25 applicants have until December 11 to secure matching funds required to receive federal funds and final awards will be announced by the end of the year. The i3 competition is a great way to reward innovative, collaborative efforts between charter schools and traditional public schools, and we are pleased to see this year is no exception.

Kim Kober is the federal policy & government relations coordinator at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.