Posts by Nina Rees

 

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!
Nina Rees

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Charter Schools Lead the Way on STEM

As originally posted on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog for Education and Workforce
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  Over the next decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the United States will create 9.2 million jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In order to fill these jobs, experts agree that we must adequately train our students in STEM fields. This is a critical step toward securing our economic competitiveness. It’s encouraging to see some of our nation’s best high schools embracing STEM education. Take a look at the U.S. News 2013 list of “best high schools in America” and you will find a number of schools with a strong focus on STEM workforce preparation – and many of these schools are charter schools. On a recent survey, one-fifth of all American charter schools reported that they have a specific STEM or math/science focus, and this number is growing. Among them are the Magnolia Science Academy, a high school in California, and the Denver School of Science and Technology in Colorado. Both are models of STEM-focused education, and both are public charter schools. At Magnolia Science Academy all students take a computer class every day and technology is integrated into core classes. Students learn how to design websites and effectively use the internet and curriculum that is aligned with National Educational Technology Standards. The school also sets a high bar in mathematics. In 2006, Magnolia student Zarathustra Brady became one of six U.S. students on the gold-medal winning national team at the International Mathematical Olympiad. Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST), a cluster of six public charter schools, focuses on bringing STEM education to low-income and minority students. Despite many incoming students performing below grade level, the school’s high standards foster a culture of achievement. Students take algebra-based physics in 9th grade and are expected to complete college-level coursework in science and engineering by the time they graduate. Thanks to its robust curriculum, the schools boast a 100 percent college acceptance rate. These examples are inspirational, but I believe we can do even more. Neither schools nor businesses can tackle this issue alone, but together we are poised for success. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which represents 2.3 million students in more than 6,000 schools, is working with charter schools across the country to connect them with STEM resources and ensure they are working with their local business communities to craft school curriculums that will prepare students for careers in STEM fields. The charter model is unique because it provides schools with the freedom and flexibility to align teaching to our evolving workforce needs. We’re grateful to chambers of commerce for playing such a critical leadership role in advancing STEM education and look forward to building strong alliances with business partners from coast-to-coast to better serve our nation’s students and their communities. Nina Rees is the president and CEO for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
Nina Rees

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National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Monthly Newsletter

It’s well documented that one of the most effective tools to raise one’s earnings potential is to graduate from college. Indeed, those with a college degree typically earn 80 percent more than those with only a high school diploma, according to College Summit, a non-profit group focused on helping prepare students for college. The value of a college degree was a key theme of a recent panel discussion hosted by National Journal, where I joined with Franklin & Marshall College President Dan Porterfield and other higher education leaders to draw attention to the so-called “college wage premium.” During the discussion, I highlighted how countless charter schools are preparing disadvantaged students to graduate from high school and go on to college. Building on that achievement, many charters are now focusing their attention on ensuring their students also graduate from college. They are doing this not just by partnering with universities to better prepare their students for college but also by ensuring that they have the support they need throughout college to continue down the path to graduation. IDEA public schools in Texas is one of these charter schools. Between 2007 and 2012, 100 percent of IDEA’s graduating seniors were accepted into a four-year college or university. The IDEA team tracks their graduates into and through college, offering the support and encouragement that can make the difference between earning a degree or dropping out. In June 2013, IDEA piloted its first Pre-College Institute where students learned the key skills necessary for success in college, including the importance of full-time enrollment. Congratulations to IDEA and all the excellent charter schools that are ensuring demographics aren’t destiny for children in need.   Best regards, Nina Nina Rees President & CEO      
Elections Have Consequences Last week’s elections will have significant consequences for charter schools in a number of states. In New York City, Bill de Blasio was elected mayor. After the results were announced, we issued a statement calling on him to partner with charter schools to share their successful practices with other NYC schools. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in Boston, the race for Mayor came down to two pro-charter school expansion candidates. The winner, Marty Walsh, supports lifting charter school caps in low-performing school districts. We can expect more good news to come from Boston charter schools as more high-quality charter schools are allowed to open their doors. New Jersey and Virginia will likely be a study in contrasts as well. With New Jersey Governor Chris Christie overwhelmingly re-elected, we are hopeful that he will be successful in reforming the state’s charter school laws. He said in his acceptance speech that education reform would be a top priority. In Virginia, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe was elected Governor. During the campaign, he didn’t indicate any support for charter schools or for improving Virginia’s weak charter law. You can read more about the elections and their impact on charter schools here. All Eyes on the Federal Budget With everyone back to work on Capitol Hill, the focus has now shifted to resolving the differences between the U.S. House and Senate budgets; the deadline to reach an agreement is December 13, 2013.  A conference committee, which is chaired by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), is considering broad tax and spending issues that could ultimately determine the level of funding for federal education programs. We are keeping our eye on the committee proceedings for any activity related to funding for the Charter Schools Program and other programs that impact charter schools. California’s Prop 39 before the State Supreme Court In 2000, California voters passed Proposition 39, a law that guarantees charter schools access to empty and under-utilized public school building space. Since then, several lawsuits have been filed to enforce Prop 39. A suit filed by the California Charter Schools Association against the Los Angeles Unified School District will be before the state supreme court soon. The National Alliance filed an amicus brief in the case to illustrate that L.A. Unified’s non-compliance with Prop 39 is needlessly keeping 15,000 children on charter school waiting lists. Better Serving Students with Special Needs A new National Alliance report, Improving Access and Creating Exceptional Opportunities for Students with Disabilities in Public Charter Schools, authored by Lauren Morando Rihm and Paul O’Neill of the newly-formed National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, outlines the complex maze of laws governing special education. The report also recommends best practices charter schools can use to strengthen the recruitment of and services provided to students with disabilities. Charter schools have demonstrated they can take disadvantaged students with unique challenges and help them achieve at high levels. There is no reason charter schools can’t replicate these successes with students with special needs. In fact, we are already on our way. Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) recently found that students with disabilities enrolled in charter schools outperform their peers in math. Charter School Research Frontier Last month, we partnered with Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy & Governance to host a gathering of top education policy analysts, practitioners, researchers and funders to discuss how to speed the development and dissemination of research to support the creation of high-quality charter schools. While research on the academic performance of charter school students remains at the forefront of the agenda; little is known about instructional practices, governance structures of charter schools, and other innovations in the space. We hope that discussion will result in a new frontier of research into charter schools that can identify replicable best practices for increasing student achievement. We will release a report on our findings and share it with you in the near future. Register Now for the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas Registration is now open for the 2014 National Charter Schools Conference. Next year’s conference will be held June 29-July 2, 2014 in Las Vegas. I hope you will join us for three days of networking, professional development, policy discussions, and inspiring talks from some of the country’s thought leaders on education policy. Discounted early-bird registration is open through December 20. Please visit our conference website and register today. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to our conference director, Angela Christophe. Support Charter Schools The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the sole organization dedicated to advancing the charter school movement. By advocating on behalf of the sector 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!
Nina Rees

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National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Monthly Newsletter

I had the good fortune last week to be part of three inspiring education-related events, on two different coasts. In New York, I represented our growing movement at NBC’s annual Education Nation conference on Monday, and the following day I marched across the Brooklyn Bridge alongside an estimated 20,000 charter school parents, students and teachers. A few days later, in Seattle, I attended the Charter School Growth Fund’s annual retreat where I had the honor of spending time with some of the nation’s highest quality charter school operators. See below for highlights from a few of these events – thanks for your continued support! Best Regards, Nina Rees President & CEO
March for NYC Kids  The next mayor of New York City is likely to be Bill de Blasio, and he has committed to a moratorium on charter school growth in the city. De Blasio has called for an end to the city’s innovative practice of co-locating charter schools with traditional public schools that are under-enrolled. He also plans on charging rent to charter schools that use city facilities. We think this would be an enormous step backwards. Girls (3)               New York City has been able to attract and grow some of the nation’s best charter schools thanks partly to the city’s generous facilities finance arrangement. On Tuesday, almost 20,000 charter school parents, children, and teachers marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall to urge Mr. de Blasio to reconsider his plans. I was so glad I could be there to support these passionate people and communities across New York City. You can look at some of our favorite pictures from the march on Facebook. You can find more about this issue in this New York Times story. Education Nation What does it take – as a nation – to ensure students are successfully prepared for college and beyond? This past week, NBC posed this question as the theme of “Education Nation,” a summit the network has hosted for the past four years, attracting some of the brightest minds in education policy to discuss what’s working in our public schools. We posted the profiles of seven charter schools that have the answer. At each school, 100 percent of graduating seniors are accepted into a four-year college or university. I encourage you to share these tremendous success stories as evidence of what can happen when devoted educators are given the freedom to manage their schools with a “no excuses” mentality focused on results. What Does ‘A Good School’ Really Mean?  Under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, states are currently required to report to parents about how their schools are performing. Each state has created its own quality assessment criteria and labels, meaning we now have a wide variety of “quality” assessment strategies. In an effort to come up with a common measure of quality, we recently teamed up with Public Impact to take a comprehensive look at the various approaches in place today. In addition to government assessments, the report also looks at quality assessments and rankings done by private organizations and news outlets, such as the California Charter Schools Association and U.S. News and World Report. You can read the report, Quality School Ratings: Trends in Evaluating School Academic Quality, here. STEM in Charters Last year we surveyed charter schools nationwide and found that nearly 20 percent focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). This is good news given the growing demand for a STEM-trained workforce. In an effort to further promote the topic, the National Alliance recently joined STEMConnector, an initiative aimed at connecting organizations, states and companies working to promote STEM education. You can read more about STEM in charter schools in a recent interview I did with Washington Executive magazine. Conference Session Proposals Being Accepted Now   With a successful 2013 conference behind us, it is time to start planning for next June’s 2014 conference in Las Vegas.  We are looking for excellent speakers, informative sessions, and topics that will be engaging and relevant for attendees. We are also looking for presentations on instructional strategies, leadership, effective operations, state and federal policy, and the latest innovations in the field. This is an opportunity for you to share your great work with more than 4,000 people from the charter school community. I encourage you to submit a session proposal online through October 28. If you have questions, or if you’d like to talk to someone about your idea before you submit a proposal, please feel free to reach out to our conference director,Angela Christophe. Tell Your Story!  StarGroup International is publishing a book next year called Charter Schools: A Choice for Excellence. They are looking for great schools to highlight; parents, students, and teachers to interview; and stories that will help illustrate how charter schools are changing lives. You can read more about what they are looking for here. I hope you’ll take a minute to send in your story or ideas. A book like this can’t come soon enough. Donate Now. Giving is Easy.  The National Alliance is a non-profit organization committed to ensuring that every child in America has a high-quality public school option. To do this work, we need your support. Please consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you!
Nina Rees

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National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Monthly Newsletter

I have just returned from Columbus, Ohio, where I spent the day with some outstanding state charter school organization leaders. I meet with these leaders a few times a year to talk through what is happening on the ground and what’s around the corner for charter schools. I spend a lot of time encouraging my Washington, D.C.-based colleagues to get outside of the Beltway and visit a charter school in their home state. Talking to a local charter school principal or teacher can really demonstrate why we need even more federal support for charter school growth. If you’re ever on the road and you’d like a recommendation for a terrific charter school to visit, please let me know. Best Regards, Nina Rees President and CEO
Federal education spending: more of the same With Congress unable to work through its normal budgeting process, the federal fiscal year will end on September 30 without a budget to begin the next year. At this time, Congressional Leadership is working to pass a continuing resolution, which would fund all federal programs at the current levels through December 15, at which time Congress would have to pass another funding bill. That means the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter School Program and all other programs that provide funding for charter schools will hold steady at current levels. We will begin working with lawmakers in the coming months to break this logjam and try to get funding for charter schools back up to pre-sequestration levels and increased to account for growth in the sector. Back to work for Congress The start of the school year also marks the end of the congressional recess. And this fall, Congress’s education “to do” list includes updating the federal statute governing America’s public schools. If Congress doesn’t act this year, there may not be any action for another four years (owing to the political pressures connected to the midterm elections in 2014 and the presidential election in 2016). With the left and the right agreeing that reform of the law is long overdue, there’s an urgent need for action this fall. President Obama has a role to play, too. National Alliance weighs in on E-Rate reform The National Alliance joined with other education reform groups yesterday in a joint comment letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking for reforms to the federal E-Rate program to ensure that charter schools receive their fair share of funding. The E-Rate program was created in 1996 to give schools discounted rates to connect to the Internet. The same rules that were in place when the program was created are still in force today—even though the technology landscape for schools has changed dramatically. The letter asks the FCC to streamline the application process for schools, to give schools more flexibility in how they use E-Rate funds, and to leave room for the technologies of the future to qualify for the program. You can read the letter here. Will Kentucky be #43? You may remember that last month we joined the Black Alliance for Educational Options, Democrats for Education Reform, and Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul at an event kicking off the effort to pass a charter school law in Kentucky. I’m excited to report that the effort is picking up steam. Last week Hal Heiner, the president of the Kentucky Charter Schools Association, Wayne Lewis, a board member of the Kentucky Association, and Ken Campbell, the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, testified before a joint hearing of the state House and Senate education committees on charter schools. We postedphotos from the kick-off event on our Facebook page and if you have 90 seconds to spare, you should watch this terrific TV news story about last week’s hearing. now           Student Elliott Kelly talks about why he would like to attend a charter school, as Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell listen. Are big changes coming to the Big Apple? The result of last week’s mayoral primary elections in New York City could have a profound impact on one of the nation’s most robust charter school markets. Two Democratic candidates may face each other in a run-off on October 1. Both of those candidates have been openly hostile to charter schools, and the leading candidate, Bill DeBlasio wants to end the city’s policy of allowing charter schools to use public facilities unless they pay rent. No matter who wins the November 5 general election, you can bet it will be a departure from the aggressively reform-minded tenure of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I wrote about Bloomberg’s school reform legacy for U.S. News & World Report. You can also read more about the stakes of the election from our friend Bill Phillips at the Northeast Charter School Network.  Speaking of New Yorkers New York-based charter school critic Diane Ravitch has a new book out today called Reign of Error. The book rehashes many of the arguments we have heard from Ms. Ravitch before, but this book focuses on one in particular: that charter schools have been taken over by for-profit companies that are answering to Wall Street, not parents and communities. This concern is unjustified. Just under 13 percent of charter schools are run by for-profit companies, and four states do not allow for-profit charters; 20 percent are run by non-profit organizations that operate more than one school; but 67 percent are independently operated, non-profit, single-site schools. With no wide-spread evidence that networks perform worse than single site schools (and some of the best schools in the country are part of networks), this is hardly a crisis calling out for more restrictions on charter schools. Diane’s suggestion is to ban for-profit companies from managing charter schools and any organization from managing more than one school. And the survey says… A recent collection of public opinion surveys show that public support for charter schools is at an all-time high. A PDK/Gallup poll found that 70 percent of respondents supported charter schools and EdNext found similarly high support. This is significant. Charter schools enjoy support from voters and policymakers from all parties at the local, state, and federal levels. And, with one million names lingering on charter school wait lists nationwide, we know parents want more of what we have to offer. By keeping our eye on the ball of opening more high-quality charter schools around the country, public support should keep climbing. Study finds no evidence of “coaching out”new study of a large, urban school district with more than 60 charter schools examined seven years of student transfer data and found no evidence that charter schools are pushing out their lowest performing children. This is the second empirical research study to find the same result. It would be great to see more studies examine this issue, so that this oft-repeated myth can finally be put to rest. Don’t wait for charter school news Each day we post original, insightful commentary on our blog. We also distribute relevant charter school news stories each weekday and a weekly round up on Fridays, and you can sign up for either of those emails here. You can also follow the National Alliance on Twitter at @charteralliance, or become a fan on Facebook to get the latest. Are videos your thing? Then subscribe to our channel on YouTube. And, for my take on pressing education reform issues, check out my weekly blog on USNews.com or follow me on Twitter at @ninacharters. Support the National Alliance The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is working to increase support for charter schools at the federal level and to pass and strengthen charter school laws around the country. To build on this work, we need your help.Please join us by making a tax-deductible contribution today.