Posts by Nora Kern

 

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.”
Nora Kern

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What Works in U.S. Charter Schools Translates Across the Pond

Former head of the New York City Charter Schools Office Michael T. Duffy, recently wrote an article comparing similarities between the models and challenges faced by British Free Schools and U.S. charter schools. Free Schools, a policy centerpiece of the Conservative-Liberal coalition in the UK, enable parents, teachers, charities and businesses to set up schools in England. The first free schools are slated to open in September 2011. These schools will be taxpayer funded, free to attend and have open enrollment, but are not administered by local authorities. Sound familiar? The UK Department for Education has been doing its homework on U.S. charter schools, especially on the quality front. Its webpage about applying to open a free school states, “We want to ensure only high-quality applications are approved. We know from the United States that the best charter schools are in states with a rigorous approval process.” Drawing upon his extensive experience as a charter school leader, Duffy offers lessons learned from the U.S. charter school movement that can apply to the Free Schools model. He observes:
  1. Parental choice, properly harnessed, is a driver for change and better schools
  2. Given effective schools, children from poorer communities can succeed academically
  3. Those that benefit from the status-quo will be fierce in defending it
  4. Developing suitable premises is a challenge: be adaptive and recognize the spill-over effects
  5. Newly formed schools can be laboratories of innovation
  As the free schools movement begins in the UK, time will tell if the U.S. charter model can be successfully adapted to the British context or gets lost in translation.
Nora Kern

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Holding Charter Schools to a Higher Standard Is a Good Thing!

New York City is drawing attention for its recent decision to close three underperforming schools that make up the Believe High School Network, as well as the ‘C’ graded Peninsula Preparatory Charter School. James Merriman, C.E.O. of the New York City Charter School Center, penned an eloquent explanation of why these closure decisions by the city’s Education Department are so critical to living up to the charter bargain of increased autonomy in exchange for greater accountability for student achievement. We’ve long stated the power of school choice when parental decision is based on academic quality and the importance of local enforcement of school quality. Through the NYC Education Department’s decisions, the city is one step closer to providing public charter schools that are truly high quality to its children and families. Why Failing Charters Must Be Closed By JAMES MERRIMAN At their core, public charter schools are about one simple trade-off: a charter school receives more autonomy to operate in the way its staff thinks will provide the best results for students. In return, it accepts greater accountability for the results it achieves academically and operationally — with the understanding that if a school fails, it will be closed. That is why charters get a license to operate for five years at a time — and have to make the case that they should be renewed. Because accountability and autonomy are what charters are about, the decisions this week to close one poorly performing charter school, only conditionally renew another and provide notice to three others that they will be closed shortly unless they clean up their acts, is exactly the right move to ensure charters fulfill their promise to students and their role in the larger public education system. The decisions also show not just what chartering is at its heart, but also how complex, and even difficult, chartering actually is. …To read the full editorial, click here.