Posts by Nora Kern

 

Nora Kern

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Record Breaking

The Guinness World Records was founded on the premise that collecting the superlative facts of the world would help us understand our place within it. Today, the NAPCS releases its annual report of the public school districts with the biggest and fastest growth in the charter school sector. A Growing Movement: American’s Largest Charter School Communities finds that a record number of public school districts—six—have at least 30 percent of their public school students enrolled in public charter schools. In addition, an all-time high of 18 school districts have more than 20 percent of their public school students enrolled in charter schools.  Los Angeles, the Robert Wadlow of districts with the highest number of public charter school students enrolled, again tops the list with 79,385 students. To provide a sense of scale, the number of students enrolled in public charter schools in Los Angeles, alone, would place the city’s charter schools in the top 45 of the 100 largest school districts in the United States. For more exceptional findings from the report, including the “Top 10” districts with highest number, percentage and annual growth of public charter school students, click here.
Nora Kern

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The Indy 1,000,000

The Mind Trust is looking for teams of great people to start public charter schools in Indianapolis, and they’re offering up to $1 million for folks who can make it happen! For more information, check out The Mind Trust’s Charter School Incubator page. If you’re interested in learning more about charter schools in Indiana (or nationally), you can find detailed information about network operators, school performance, growth and more on our data Dashboard.
Nora Kern

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D.C. Study Deserves Cheers NOT Jeers

On her WaPo blog, Valerie Strauss bemoans the D.C. government’s recent commission of a study by the Illinois Facilities Fund, which examines how D.C. neighborhoods are served by the public education system. According to the related article, D.C. has more than 40 traditional schools with less than 300 students apiece. The study will be used to help officials decide which schools should be closed and where new ones, especially public charter schools, might be opened. Sounds like an effort toward rational stewardship of public funds, right? But here is the underlying horror, according to Strauss: “The study is the strongest signal yet that Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) is prepared to treat charter schools — which are publicly funded but independently operated — as full partners in a reform effort that was heavily focused on traditional schools during the tenure of his predecessor, Adrian M. Fenty (D).” After a series of twist and turns that careen around every refutable charge against public charter schools, Strauss comes to this conclusion: “The question is not whether some charter schools are better than some traditional schools. Some are. The real issue is that many fear we are setting up a two-tier public education system.” While Strauss is correct that some charters are better than traditional schools, others aren’t. And low-performing charters should be closed. The goal isn’t a two-tiered system: it’s a good school for every child. While Strauss may not see this, clearly the Mayor’s team does. According to Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright:  “I am very much wedded to quality, and I don’t care where it comes from. We have to right-size the [school system], and we have to be honest about where we’re not providing high-quality schools to our children. And if that ruffles feathers, then so be it.” Chancellor Kaya Henderson agrees:  “If it helps us to better deliver on the promise of a great education for every child in every neighborhood in the city, I’m willing to change the game.” The Mayor’s team understands that quality, accountability and—most importantly—meeting student needs are the goals the D.C. government should be vigorously pursuing. They should be applauded for recognizing that the ultimate goal is to give all children access to a world-class public education system where all schools are great. The “charter” or “traditional” district school label should be beside the point.
Nora Kern

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NYC Charter School Accountability Made Interactive

We mentioned that the New York State Education Department released the 2010-2011 school year Mathematics and English Language Arts test results for third through eighth graders. And now there are additional resources for charter school data enthusiasts. The NYC Charter School Center has released an analysis and interactive feature about the city’s charter schools’ performance. If you’re looking for weighted district comparisons, or breakdowns by management structure, school size, or location, these resources have you covered. You can find more news items about the test results here.
Nora Kern

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Even Superheroes Want to Attend Charter Schools!

A three page preview of the upcoming issue of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1 features the young hero who wants to enroll in a public charter school. Like all students, this rising hero deserves a chance to enroll in a high-performing public school. However, charter school enrollment is based on an explicit number of seats determined by the charter school’s board and authorizer. When more students want to enroll than the school is designed to serve, charter schools are forced to hold admissions lotteries. We don’t recommend radioactive spider bites as an alternative to charter school admission; it would be much simpler for state governments to allow more high-quality charter schools to open to meet parent and community demand.

spider man CS

Nora Kern

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Forget Broadway…Charter Schools are the Place for Great Performances in New York

This week, the New York State Education Department released the 2010-2011 school year Mathematics and English Language Arts test results for third through eighth graders. The results are positive for public charter schools, which continue to have a (dramatically!) higher percentage of students that meet or exceed state performance standards than the percentages of their respective school district. According to analysis conducted by the NY Charter Schools Association (NYCSA):

The New York Charter Schools Association compared results of each charter school to their respective districts and found that students in seven out of ten charters exceeded their district percentage in terms of students meeting state English standards by achieving a level 3 or 4 of the assessment; while students in more than eight of every ten charters outperformed in mathematics.

You can see more of the NYCSA’s analysis of the charter school performance results here. And the WSJ agrees, pointing out that this is more proof that public charter schools are working to close the achievement gap between urban students of color and their socio-economically advantaged suburban peers.
Nora Kern

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Keeping up with the Joneses: Charter Schools in Suburbia

This weekend, the New York Times ran an article about proposed charter schools in suburban areas. While Fordham’sFlypaper blog comments on the choice and financial issues in the article, we’re taking on the “trendiness” issue in the article. The influx of charter schools in suburban areas is framed as such:

Now, educators and entrepreneurs are trying to bring the same principles of choice to places where schools generally succeed, typically by creating programs, called “boutique charters” by detractors…with intensive instruction in a particular area.

But the notion that charter schools are the new kid on the suburban block is false. The NAPCS Dashboard has data on the geographic location of every charter school operating throughout the country since the 1999-2000 academic year. And the data show that charter schools have had a steady presence in suburban areas.[1] The Dashboard data for the four most recent academic years show that the market share represented by charter schools in suburban areas has remained steadily between 21-22% (The highest market share for suburban charter schools was 26.5% in the 2002-03 academic year and the lowest was 21.1% during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years).

The bottom line is that no matter their location or income level, parents want quality options for their children’s education. And instead of putting students into little boxes, suburban parents are, and for more than a decade have been, choosing charter schools.

 

Number of Charter Schools by Geographic Location*

Academic Year City Suburb Town Rural
2009-10        
Charter Schools 2,692 (54.7%) 1,039 (21.1%) 393 (8.0%) 979 (16.2%)  
Non-charter Schools 22,830 (24.5%) 25,770(27.7%) 13,404 (14.4%) 30,852 (30.5%)  
2008-09        
Charter Schools 2,553 (55.0%) 978 (21.1%) 362 (7.8%) 747 (16.1%)  
Non-charter Schools 22,772 (24.5%) 25,939(28.0%) 13,570 (14.6%) 30,518 (32.9%)  
2007-08        
Charter Schools 2,335 (54.3%) 946 (22.0%) 364 (8.5%) 653 (15.2%)  
Non-charter Schools 22,983 (24.9%) 26,028(28.2%) 13,740 (14.9%) 29,680 (32.1%)  
2006-07        
Charter Schools 2,148 (53.7%) 878 (21.9%) 348 (8.7%) 625 (15.6%)  
Non-charter Schools 22,797 (24.7%) 25,999(28.2%) 13,715 (14.9%) 29,661 (32.2%)  
         

*Geographic Location. The NAPCS Dashboard Data used the National Center for Education Statistic’s Common Core of Data to code the geographic location charter schools in our database. NAPCS collapsed the following categories to have four main categories: City: city, large; city, mid-size; city, small; Suburb: suburb, large; suburb, mid-size; suburb, small; Town: town, fringe; town, distant; town, remote; Rural: rural, fringe; rural, distant; rural, remote.



[1] It should be noted that the federal data used to populate the NAPCS Dashboard and used for statistics on suburban charter schools in the NYT article defines “suburban” based on distance from a city, not by connotation of income level.

Nora Kern

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CMO Recipes for Success

A recently released analysis, Unlocking the Secrets of High-Performing Charters, states that while there is no “secret sauce” that explains the success demonstrated by the 18 “no excuses” charter management organizations (CMOs) in the New Schools Venture Fund portfolio, there are common ingredients. Like contestants in Iron Chef, these CMOs all use the same ingredients: a laser focus on literacy and numeracy to establish an academic foundation; a pedagogy favoring direct instruction and differentiated grouping, especially in the early grades; and comprehensive student assessment and performance management systems. But like any good cook, these CMOs add plenty of other seasonings into the pot to create a unique and tailored school culture. If you’re hungry for more details about these CMOs’ recipes for success, you can read the full article here. We at NAPCS strongly support the tremendous work happening in these high performing CMOs, and have aggressively pursued additional funding for the replication and expansion of quality charter schools through the All Students Achieving through Reform (All STAR) Act and the Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act. Additionally, the US Department of Education just announced a new Replication and Expansion for High-Quality Charter Schools grant competition through the Charter Schools Program (Keep an eye out for NAPCS comments on the grant competition’s priorities in Ed Week’s upcoming article on the subject). We hope that these federal funding opportunities continue to be on the menu so more and more students can access high performing charter schools.
Nora Kern

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Education Reform, Clint Eastwood Style

Are you sick of policy rankings that bury their comparisons in endless text?  Well this interactive map from the Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW) is about as straightforward as they come. It sorts  nine reform categories, including standards, data systems and student achievement into three tiers: the good, the bad and the ugly. Charter school laws are one of the categories, and the ICW uses the NAPCS annual ranking of state charter laws against our model law as the baseline for comparison. The 11 states without a charter law are “ugly,” while the top 20 strongest charter laws are “good.” You can click on your state at either the ICW or the NAPCS site (we have an interactive map too!) to see how it measures up nationally. And for those who still crave some additional text, you can find the policy brief explaining the NAPCS Model Charter School Law components and rationale here.
Nora Kern

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Conference Countdown: Qualms about the Common Core

Have you heard talk in recent months about how the push for Common Core adoption might result in assessment or curricular requirements that will stifle charter school autonomy over academic decisions? Are you wondering if these concerns are valid and how they might be addressed? In a mere four days, Rick Hess, Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies for the American Enterprise Institute, will moderate a discussion featuring representatives of both the Common Core and charter school communities. Additionally, Hess will add his own take on the implications (here’s a short preview of his perspective). This featured session, which will commence at 9:00 am on June 23rd, will be of interest to policy wonks and practitioners alike.