Posts by Nora Kern

 

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.
Nora Kern

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Conference Countdown: Quality Authorizing

National Charter School Conference (NCSC) attendees are just five days away from an informative session on the importance of quality authorizing. Join Charter School Hall of Fame Inductees Josephine Baker (DC Charter Public School Board) and Jim Goenner (National Charter Schools Institute) for a discussion about the ways authorizing can be a catalyst for getting more great schools for our children through encouraging promising start-ups, supporting growth and replication, and ensuring schools that fail to perform get turned around or closed to protect the integrity of the charter model. This featured session, which will take place at 3:45 pm on June 22nd, will highlight the importance of the relationship between authorizers and school operators through the incubation and oversight of charter schools.
Nora Kern

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Conference Countdown: Lessons from Veteran Charter School Leaders

In just one week, National Charter School Conference (NCSC) attendees will have the opportunity to gather lessons learned from leaders some of the most established and highest performing charter networks in the country. Charter School Hall of Fame Inductees Mike Feinberg (Co-founder of KIPP), Yvonne Chan (Principal of Vaughn Next Century Learning Center) and Don Shalvey (Founder of Aspire Public Schools) will share their experiences with issues of school growth, academic performance, engaging families, and working with charter school board and staff. This featured session, which will take place at 10:45 a.m. EST on June 22, should provide valuable takeaways for anyone involved with charter school operations, whether in a new or established schoolP.S.—Have you heard about our latest keynote speaker?).
Nora Kern

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New Keynote Speaker Announced for 2011 NCSC!

The NAPCS is thrilled to announce that President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States, has just been added to the star-studded keynote speakers lineup at the 2011 National Charter Schools Conference (NCSC). For some background on his charter-related activities, the Clinton-Gore Administration supported the growth of public charter schools, which increased from only one charter school in in 1992, to over 2,000 schools in President Clinton’s second term! While in office, President Clinton commemorated National Charter Schools Week, increased funding for the Charter Schools Program, and released an Executive Memorandum directing the Secretary of Education to develop guidelines for businesses and faith-based organizations to help charter schools succeed. If you haven’t already signed up for the NCSC in Atlanta, from June 20-23 (What are you waiting for???), register here.
Nora Kern

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Wisconsin Public Charter Schools Gain Access to Public Buildings

This week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed SB 20 into law, an important piece of legislation that will increase public charter school access to surplus district school buildings in Milwaukee.  What is most significant about SB 20 is that it transfers the ownership and decision-making about these surplus buildings from the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to the City of Milwaukee.  Not surprisingly, MPS has been extremely resistant to providing charters approved by entities other than MPS with access to MPS buildings.  The City of Milwaukee, on the other hand, is one of three charter authorizers in Milwaukee, and has expressed its desire to put these abandoned buildings to their original purpose – educating the city’s schoolchildren, no matter which type of school is serving them. This legislation is notable because only a handful of states and school districts have policies and practices that promote the use of available district facilities by public charter schools.  Through legislation such as SB 20, charter school students will have a much better shot at the quality facilities they deserve and taxpayer monies will be used more effectively.  You can learn more about the facilities challenges charter schools face, as well as innovative ways that seven school districts are sharing public education facilities with charter schools, here.
Nora Kern

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The Truth About Myths

Paul Farhi’s recent WaPo piece, “Five myths about America’s schools,” has created a swirl of opposition in the blogosphere (seeherehere, and here for starters). To add a little more fuel to the fire, I’ll briefly weigh in on “myth #4: Charter schools are the answer.” Farhi raises a point of contention that charter schools are “siphoning off” more motivated students and parents who have “mastered the intricacies of admission.” Come on…we’re not talking about admission to elite New York City preschools here. By definition, charter schools are to have open-enrollment policies for vacant spaces and a lottery drawing for spaces that open up to students on a waitlist. The admissions process usually entails filling out a form with basic contact information, same as on the first day of a traditional public school. Farhi also charges that the enthusiasm about charter schools is “all for results that are not uniformly impressive.” Like in the traditional school system, there are high and low performing charter schools. Nobody denies this. But the potential of the charter model is space for innovation to develop and grow promising designs and close down schools that are not meeting performance requirements. And to trivialize the exciting results that high-performing charter schools have yielded is as ludicrous as claiming that charters alone will save the education system. As Luke Kohlmoos notes, “Most would say that charter schools are a component of a larger context.  Some charters are good and some are bad.  This myth is arguing against nobody at all.”