Posts by Nina Rees

 

Nina Rees

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KIPP Leads the Way

(Originally published in U.S. News & World Report)  This week, KIPP, the renowned national charter school network, celebrates its 20th anniversary. The celebration will be held on the heels of KIPP’s receipt of the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, an annual award that goes to the public charter school network with the highest student performance and graduation rates, and the most success in closing racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.

I first came across KIPP when I was working at a think tank in the late 1990’s. One of my colleagues and mentors, Adam Meyerson (now leading the Philanthropy Roundtable), was on a quest to find high-performing public schools that were overcoming the odds. He wanted to give policymakers ideas for how to replicate these models. The product of this work led to the publication of a short book called “No Excuses,” which featured 21 schools with at least 75 percent low-income students who were scoring at the 65th percentile or higher on national exams…read more here.

Nina Rees

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July Newsletter

I had a fantastic time at the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas earlier this month. It’s so energizing to be with the people who are on the ground every day working in America’s charter schools. We can never say thank you enough to the teachers and school leaders who show up before sunrise and head home after sunset, and who take time away from their own families so that they can change the lives of the children from other families.

With the 50th anniversary of the signing of the federal Civil Rights Act just behind us, I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity. Not just the diversity of America’s student body today, but the diverse learning environments charter schools offer to millions of families. I wrote about this in my U.S. News & World Report column. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I hope you’re enjoying the summer!


What Happens in Vegas…

We are just back from a fantastic National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas where we had a record 4,800 attendees. Sal Kahn, Frank Luntz, and Campbell Brown inspired us to think bigger about using technology to bring world-class instruction to all corners of the globe and to never give up on our work to ensure all children have access to a great public school. Steven Michael Quezada of Breaking Bad fame opened the conference with a heartfelt story about his own experience in an underperforming public school and how it has motivated him to become involved with charter schools that engage students from all types of backgrounds.

 

It was our best conference yet—and we thank each of you for joining us. Education Week put together a fun roundup of the conference in 13 tweets—each tweet captures the essence of the conference in 140 characters or less.

We hope you will mark your calendar for next year’s conference, June 21-24 in New Orleans. When we convene, New Orleans will have just finished its first school year as an all-charter school district and it will be great to see first-hand how charter schools have dramatically improved the lives of so many students.

If you were with us in Las Vegas, please be sure to take our attendee survey if you haven’t already. The feedback you offer will help us make next year’s conference even better. Also, if you would like to receive a copy of Frank Luntz’s presentation, be sure to sign up for one of his focus groups here.


KIPP Wins Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools

For the past three years, at the National Charter Schools Conference, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has awarded a high-performing charter school network with The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. The prize honors the public charter school network with the most outstanding overall student performance and graduation rates, as well as the ability to close achievement gaps among low-income and minority students. The winner receives $250,000 to put toward college-readiness efforts for low-income students, such as scholarships, a speaker series, and campus visits.

KIPP Schools won the prize this year and it comes at no better time. This year marks their 20th anniversary—an entire generation of students has now had the opportunity to attend a KIPP school. KIPP has 141 schools across 20 states, and serves 50,000 students. In recent years, KIPP closed 21 percent of its racial achievement gaps in middle school reading, math and science. KIPP narrowed 65 percent of its racial and income achievement gaps in elementary school reading, math and science.

Congratulations to KIPP Schools! Because of their efforts, tens of thousands of students have gone on to brighter futures and many more are on their way. Click here to see a video highlighting the work of this year’s three finalists.

Pictured in photo (left to right): Steve Mancini, Director of Public Affairs at the KIPP Foundation; Bruce Reed, President of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation; Carissa Godwin, Director of Development at KIPP Delta Public Schools; Eric Schmidt, Principal of KIPP Courage Middle School; Nina Rees


Charter Schools Hall of Fame Welcomes Three New Members

Also at the conference, three new members were inducted into the Charter Schools Hall of Fame: Eva Moskowitz, founder of Success Academy Charter Schools; Chester “Checker” E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation; and The Doris & Donald Fisher Fund. Hall of Fame members include schoolteachers and leaders, thinkers, policy experts, and funders that have paved the way for the success and growth of public charter schools. You can read more and watch a short video about the work of each of the inductees here. Congratulations and thank you to Eva, Checker, and the Fisher Fund!


Two new members join the National Alliance Board of Directors

I am pleased to announce two new members of the National Alliance board of directors: Jeb Bush, Jr., and Moctesuma Esparza.

Jeb Bush, Jr., is managing partner for Jeb Bush & Associates, LLC and president of Bush Realty, LLC. He has been involved with education reform efforts through the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Moctesuma Esparza is CEO at Maya Cinemas North America and is an award-winning producer, entertainment executive, entrepreneur and community activist. Moctesuma founded the Los Angeles Academy of Arts and Enterprise Charter School and has been active in education reform efforts in Latino communities for decades. We are grateful to both Jeb and Moctesuma for joining our board.


Education Insiders Support Charter Schools

Last month, Whiteboard Advisors released the results of a poll of high-level “insiders” in education about their views on charter schools and recently introduced Senate legislation, backed by the National Alliance, to reauthorize the federal investment in charter schools. Ninety percent of the insiders polled want to see the Senate take action on the bill, but only 3 percent think it will actually happen. Also of note, 87 percent of the insiders polled viewed charter schools positively. That’s great news for all the school leaders and teachers in the trenches working hard every day to improve student learning.


New Report on Special Needs Students in Denver Charter Schools

Last month, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) released a report that found students with special needs are less likely to leave Denver, Colorado charter schools than traditional public schools. They also found charter schools are less likely to classify students as special education, and more likely to declassify them. These findings are really important in light of the on-going (and unfounded) criticism by charter school opponents that charter schools push out students who are hard to teach. Click to read the report, Understanding the Charter School Special Education Gap: Evidence from Denver, Colorado.


See You in September!

We’re going to take a break from producing this monthly newsletter in August and look forward to updating you on our work again in mid-September. Have a great summer!

Nina Rees

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Learning the Facts of Financial Life

(Originally published in U.S. News & World Report) Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently offered a compelling speech pushing American students to learn about money and finance in school. “Young people, to be successful, to secure retirement, to take care of their families, and to not be in poverty, have to have a level of financial literacy that 30, 40, 50 years ago maybe wasn’t required,” Duncan said. “Today it’s an absolute necessity.”

This is important for several reasons.

First, when tested for financial literacy in 2012, American teens scored below average and far short of those in countries like China, Australia and New Zealand, according to the results of a recently published Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development survey…read more here.

Nina Rees

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Diverse Schools Bring Many Benefits

(Originally published by U.S. News & World Report)

After a long weekend of celebrating America with fireworks, food and family, I was thinking about what Independence Day means to today’s generation. I immigrated to this country as a child, thanks to parents who wanted me to have access to all the opportunities America offers. And I’m forever grateful for the risks they took to get our family here.

I was motivated to get involved in education reform because in some communities, low-income students don’t have access to the high quality education needed to succeed in today’s competitive global marketplace. It’s not for lack of trying. Ever since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago, and then the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the federal government and state governments have been trying to give every child a solid foundation for an exceptional life…read more here.

Nina Rees

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Graduating Against the Odds

(Originally published in U.S. News & World Report) June is graduation season and this year, in particular, it’s nice to take a step back from often contentious debates over Common Core, teacher tenure, school choice and an array of other education reform issues, and recognize those students who have overcome the odds by graduating from high school and being the first in their families to attend college.

For instance, there are students like AB Bustamante. Bustamante just graduated from Uplift Peak Preparatory High School in Dallas – the first member of his family to graduate from high school. Throughout his years at Uplift, he also worked part-time to help his single mom pay the bills. Dedicated to hard work and excellence, he not only graduated high school, but secured acceptance to the United States Naval Academy. This summer, he will head to Annapolis with his sights set on becoming a Marine Corps Officer and one day working in public policy…read more here.

Nina Rees

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Education Is A Primary Issue

(Originally published by U.S. News & World Report)

Public charter schools and other education reforms have proven to be pivotal issues in several primary elections from coast to coast, with more to come this summer and fall.

In California, incumbent State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will head into a November runoff with Marshall Tuck. Tuck was the first head of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a body set up by former mayor Demcoratic Antonio Villaraigosa to help improve some of the city’s most struggling schools. Tuck is also a former president of Green Dot Public Schools, a widely acclaimed network of charter schools.

The upcoming general election battle will be fierce, with Torlakson benefiting from heavy support by the powerful California Teachers Association, the state’s largest union. Tuck brings a track record of educational innovation in a state that has proven open to reform. And as the Los Angeles Times noted in endorsing him, Tuck successfully worked with unions at both the Partnership for LA Schools and Green Dot. While the superintendent position holds little policy-making power, the race will be an important barometer of the popularity of charter schools and other education reforms in California…read more here.

Nina Rees

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‘Brown’ at 60: Time to Fulfill the Promise

(Originally published by U.S. News & World Report)

Just as the nation marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which officially barred segregation in public schools, we have new evidence that schools are failing to give all students the best start in life.

Results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as “the nation’s report card,” show that the performance of high school seniors in reading and math has stagnated in recent years. Only 37 percent of seniors are reading at grade level and only 26 percent of seniors are doing math at grade level. Even worse, the achievement gap between white and black students in reading has widened since 1992. In math, there’s been no improvement.

The stark reality is that despite two decades of education reform efforts, high school students on the whole aren’t registering better results. The effects are potentially catastrophic…read more here.

Nina Rees

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Separating Common Core Fact From Fiction

(Originally published by U.S. News & World Report) The Common Core State Standards and their assessments continue to capture headlines. As a parent and an education reformer, I am often asked what I think about these standards. The fact that I get asked about this in settings other than work is an incredibly healthy sign. After all, education policy belongs to all of us – parents, teachers, education researchers, taxpayers, employers and policymakers – and our schools benefit from informed discussions that lead to the best outcomes for students. But in the debate over state education standards, we can’t let the facts get caught in the crossfire. Here are a few facts about the Common Core State Standards…read more here.
Nina Rees

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March Update

I just wrapped up two days in New York City at a series of meetings with journalists and others to talk about the role of charter schools in American education. It’s an interesting time to be in New York, in light of the significant media attention and political backlash that Mayor Bill de Blasio has received after his decision a few weeks ago to revoke three charter school co-locations, including one for a school that is already open and teaching children. Success Academy’s Harlem 4 middle school is teaching children so well, in fact, that it is one of the top-performing middle schools in the entire state. While I wish Mayor de Blasio were embracing charter schools, instead of closing them, it has been a true pleasure helping New York’s charter school community share its success stories. In case you’re not familiar with what’s been happening in New York, these short clips from CNBC’s Kudlow Report and MSNBC’s Morning Joe capture what’s at stake. Best regards, Nina Nina Rees President & CEO National Alliance for Public Charter Schools T. 202.289.2700 www.publiccharters.org  

Support Grows for Charter Schools on Capitol Hill

Last week the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on charter schools where five witnesses testified on the progress charter schools are making in closing the achievement gap, helping more children graduate from high school and go on to college, and sharing best practices with their school district counterparts. The chair of our board, Deborah McGriff, testified, along with Lisa Graham Keegan, the chair of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, Alan Rosskaam, the CEO of the Breakthrough network of schools, David Linzey, Executive Director of Clayton Valley Charter High School and Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, Chief of Innovation and Reform at Denver Public Schools. You can read their testimonies and watch footage from the hearing here. Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee praised charter schools—which is good news because bipartisan support will be critical to expanding the federal Charter Schools Program so that more charter schools can open and high-performing networks can grow. There is talk that the U.S. House will vote on a bill to revise the Charter Schools Program this spring. We will work with members of the House to ensure the guiding principles outlined in our publication “Free to Succeed” are included in any bill that is considered. The Charter Schools Program is the only source of federal funding dedicated to charter schools. Right now the program is funded at $248 million dollars—less than 1 percent of the federal money spent on K-12 education. We are asking Congress to fund the program at $330 million. Congress is making funding decisions this month, and if you’d like to see more high-quality charter schools open and serving children, please take just a moment to send a letter to your members of Congress.

Our Work in States

The National Alliance continues its work to help pass strong charter school laws in states that either do not have a charter school law or where the law is weak. We are working actively in Kentucky, Nebraska, and Oklahoma right now. Oklahoma has had a charter school bill on the books since the ‘90s, but the law has allowed charters only in major urban areas. As a result, only two-dozen charter schools have opened. This year we are working with lawmakers to expand the law to allow charter schools to open in any community where there is a need and demand from parents. We expect to have a hearing on the bill by the end of this month. In Oklahoma, charter schools are working, and we want see more of them!

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In Kentucky, the state Senate education committee is expected to vote soon on a bill to allow a charter school pilot program. While the bill doesn’t create the strong law that we would prefer, it is a step in the right direction. A charter school bill has been introduced in Nebraska the last several years, but hasn’t gained much traction until this year. This year’s bill would allow five charter schools to open in Omaha. At a recent legislative hearing, dozens of local charter school supporters came to testify in support of the bill. This is the first year that we have seen widespread grassroots support for bringing charter schools to Nebraska, so we are encouraged about the bill’s prospects.

Charter Schools are Working in Los Angeles, Too!

A new study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that the typical student in a Los Angeles charter school learns more in a school year than a typical student in a district school. Charter students gain the equivalent of 50 additional days of learning in reading and 72 additional days of learning in math. For low-income minority students, the learning gains were even more impressive. Low-income Hispanic students, for example, gained 58 additional days of learning in reading and 115 in math. Considering the average school year is 180 days, that means they are gaining another half-year’s learning in math. You can read more about the CREDO study here.

Save the Date for National Charter Schools Week

The first full week of each May is National Charter Schools Week, when we celebrate the accomplishments of our teachers, school leaders, and students, and thank the policymakers who have helped make charter schools a possibility. Mark your calendar for May 5-9 to join the celebration in your community. More details will be coming soon about events being planned and how you can get involved.

Will We See You in Vegas?

The National Charter Schools Conference is just three short months away and we’re putting the finishing touches on planning. This year will feature inspirational keynote talks from Sal Khan, Steven Michael Quezada, and others, along with more than 100 breakout sessions with practical content that you can take back to your school or organization. The conference is taking place at the fabulous Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas and we hope you’ll register today.

Support the National Alliance

The National Alliance is the voice of the charter school community in Washington, D.C., and in states that don’t yet have charter schools. To fulfill our mission we need your support. Please consider making a tax-deductible gift to the National Alliance today. Thank you!
Nina Rees

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Monthly Update

President’s Day is just around the corner; so it’s a fitting time to reflect on how important presidents have been for charter schools. The federal Charter Schools Program was authorized as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1994, with the support of President Clinton. It was expanded under President George W. Bush; and has grown even more under President Barack Obama. It’s a rare issue in these polarized political times that enjoys such bipartisan support. But it’s easy to see why-who can argue against the success charter schools are having in preparing some of our most disadvantaged children for college and the workforce. With charter schools getting increasingly better over time, here’s hoping they continue to be a priority to future presidents. Also, I wanted to let you know I will be on the Fox News show Fox & Friends tomorrow morning (2/14) at 7:20a.m. Eastern time. I hope you’ll tune in. Enjoy the long weekend! Best regards, Nina Rees Increasing Federal Support for Charter Schools Yesterday more than two-dozen leaders of state charter school organizations teamed up with the National Alliance’s federal affairs team to meet with more than 100 members of the U.S. House and Senate and their staffs. From Hawaii to Idaho to New York, these charter community leaders were all delivering the same message: federal support for charter schools is critical. The federal Charter Schools Program is the only federal money dedicated to supporting the creation of new charter schools and the expansion of proven, high-quality charters. We are asking Congress to increase the federal appropriation for the Charter Schools Program to $330 million in 2015. In the coming weeks, we will be reaching out to you to ask for your help in this effort. We will be rallying charter school advocates from across the country to contact their Representatives and Senators to ask for more support for charter schools. The Department of Education only spends $248 million on the Charter Schools Program, less than 1 percent of its budget. With nearly 1 million names on charter school waiting lists, we believe Congress can do better for our students. We will need your help to make a difference. Progress in the States The ranking showed that a dozen states made significantly positive changes to their laws in the last legislative session by making it easier for high-quality charter schools to open, closing the funding gap between charter students and their peers at district-run schools, and bringing more accountability and transparency into the charter approval and closure processes. Minnesota is hanging on to our top-ranked spot by a thread; and Maryland became the lowest-ranked state. You can see how your state ranked here. One reason we do this annual ranking is to identify states whose laws need to be improved. This year, our top priority state for improving its charter law is Oklahoma, ranked 36 out of 43. We are working with the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and others to eliminate the barriers to opening high-quality charter schools in the Sooner State. Oklahoma has had a charter school law on the books since 1999, but the law primarily limits charter schools to the two urban areas in the state-Oklahoma City and Tulsa. We believe children in other communities deserve high-quality school options too and are working to ease the restrictions in the law to allow charters to open in any community where there is a need. Charter School Impact on College Outcomes and Future Earnings A new study by Mathematica Policy Research shows that students who graduate from a charter school in Chicago or Florida have a better chance of entering and finishing at least two years of college. But the truly groundbreaking finding is that charter high school graduates in Florida actually go on to have higher earnings in early adulthood compared to their peers. While much more research into this question will be done over time, the initial results show that high-quality charter schools can have a positive impact on life outcomes beyond K-12 education. More Charter Schools and Students than Ever Sometimes we don’t need research to tell us charter schools are making a difference; sometimes we just need to look at what’s happening in communities from coast to coast. This school year, more charter schools opened their doors than ever before and a record number of students enrolled in them. Yesterday we released the state-by-state details on the number of charter schools open this school year and the number of charter school students. Nationwide, there are now more than 6,400 charter schools and more than 2.5 million charter students. That’s 100% growth in the number of charter school students since the 2008-09 school year. What’s more, 288,000 new students are enrolled in charters this year, the largest single-year enrollment jump we have seen since we started to collect these figures. See your state’s numbers here. There’s Always an Outlier… The 10 largest cities in America have many things in common, among them, they all have Democratic mayors. Nine out of ten have embraced charter schools as critical partners in meeting the educational needs of disadvantaged students. Who’s the outlier? New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio. Mayor de Blasio is making aggressive moves to limit the number of charter schools in New York City and take away their funding. Mayor de Blasio recently announced he is redirecting school building funds dedicated for charter schools to fund pre-school programs; he is putting a hold on 33 new building-sharing agreements between charter and district schools that were slated to take effect this coming school year; and he has said he may start charging charter schools rent if they use a public school building, even though no other public schools in the city pay rent. What happens in New York City matters-it has one of the largest concentrations of charter school students and some of the very best charter schools in the country. We continue to work with our partners in New York to show Mayor de Blasio how important charter schools have been in creating opportunities for the very families he was elected to serve. Like ‘Breaking Bad’? Then Don’t Miss the National Charter Schools Conference. If you were a fan of the hit series Breaking Bad, you won’t want to miss the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas June 30-July 2. Real-life charter school parent and Albuquerque school board member Steven Michael Quezada, who played DEA agent Steven Gomez in the show, will offer his insights on how charter schools have worked for his children and being a school reform activist. In addition to hearing from inspirational speakers like Steven Quezada and Sal Khan, the conference will feature more than 100 breakout sessions offering practical, actionable tools applicable to you, and plenty of time to network with your peers from charter schools around the country. Register here today. We Need You! The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the only national organization dedicated solely to advancing the charter school movement. By advocating on behalf of charter schools, their students, parents, and leaders at the federal level, serving as a clearinghouse of information, and working to pass charter school laws in states without them and strengthen laws in states with weak ones, we are helping to make more high-quality public schools available to all American children. But we can’t do it without you. Please join us by making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you!