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!


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Overcoming the Odds: Yasbad’s Story

Yasbad Senior PicNot only was Yasbad acclimating to a new country when moving to America from Ethiopia, the then middle school student was also getting to know his immediate family. Up until that point, Yasbad had been raised by other family members. In a new country, with a new language and customs, Yasbad was also getting to know his father.

Access to a better education prompted the family move, but Yasbad faced his share of challenges as he started school in America. He knew little English and was constantly bullied. With no one to talk to, he spent much of his free time in the library reading. For him, that extra time paid off. He quickly improved in school and is now looking forward to attending college.

This month Yasbad will graduate from Aspire Alexander Twilight Secondary Academy in California.  “Aspire has made me realize that no matter how different others are from me, I should respect them and their differences from me,” he says. “I have become more tolerant of others. Because of Aspire, I am ready to face any challenge that comes my way, and I am ready to help others with theirs.”

Yasbad is the first in his family to attend college, and will go to California State University-Chico next fall, where he plans to continue learning about the world around him. Yasbad hopes that by earning a college degree, he will be better prepared to give back to the important people in his life.

This blog post is part of an ongoing series during the month of June celebrating #30DaysofGrad. Click here to read other graduation stories from charter school students and schools across the country.

Todd Ziebarth


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To achieve a strong charter sector, start with supportive laws

Senior VP of State Advocacy and Support Todd Ziebarth has a guest blog at Flypaper as part of their “Charter School Policy Wonk-a-Thon,” in which Mike Petrilli challenged a number of scholars, practitioners, and policy analysts to take a stab at explaining why some charter sectors outpace their local district schools while other are falling behind. Here’s an excerpt of Todd’s response:

The short, but unsatisfying, answer to Mike’s question: It’s complicated.

Since we released our first rankings of state charter school laws against our model law in 2010, we’ve been asked about the relationship between a state’s ranking in our report and the results of that state’s charter schools—so much so that we’ll be releasing a new report in a couple of months that begins to tease out this relationship in each state entitled The Health of the Public Charter School Sector: A State-By-State Report. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts about this relationship.

Supportive laws are necessary but not sufficient

First, to quote directly from our model law,

It is important to note that a strong charter law is a necessary but insufficient factor in driving positive results for public charter schools. Experience with public charter schools across the country has shown that there are five primary ingredients of a successful public charter school environment in a state, as demonstrated by strong student results:

  • Supportive laws and regulations (both what is on the books and how it is implemented);
  • Quality authorizers;
  • Effective charter support organizations, such as state charter associations and resource centers;
  • Outstanding school leaders and teachers; and,
  • Engaged parents and community members. 

While it is critical to get the law right, it is equally critical to ensure these additional ingredients exist in a state’s charter sector.

Some states with supportive laws (those that show up high in our annual rankings) have implemented them well and have therefore achieved strong results. Conversely, other states with supportive laws that show up high in our rankings have implemented them inconsistently—and have therefore achieved uneven results.

To read the rest of Todd’s response, visit Flypaper



Rashaun Bennett


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Congratulations Horizon Honors High School! 100% of Seniors Graduate

Kondapi_ManuThere was much to be celebrated on May 27, 2014, as 78 students—100 percent of them—at Horizon Honors High School received their diplomas.

Not only has the school excelled by achieving a 100 percent graduation rate, the student have also excelled by earning a combined total of $5.7 million in college scholarships.

Of the 78 graduates, 16 of them have attended Horizon Community Learning Center since kindergarten. Nancy Emmons, principal at Horizon Honors, says, “Being a smaller community, we have personal relationships with kids and families who we get to know on an individual basis. Along with their families we get to celebrate these amazing accomplishments. They get into great colleges and do amazing things.”

During the commencement ceremony, the school’s valedictorian, Manu Kondapi, addressed the graduating class. Manu will be attending Harvey Mudd College next fall, an elite liberal arts college focused on science, math, and engineering.

Seventy-two percent of Manu’s classmates will enroll in a four-year university next fall. Seventeen percent will attend a community college with plans to transfer to a university, 8 percent will continue at a community college or tech school, 2 percent will join the military, and 1 percent of the class will immediately join the workforce.

Congratulations Horizon Honors Class of 2014! You have bright futures ahead!

Rashaun Bennett is a communications intern with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

This story is part of an ongoing series in the month of June highlighting the success of charter school graduates and schools across the country. Click here to view the latest from #30DaysOfGrad.

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.

Katherine Bathgate


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194 Children. 194 Dreams.

Far too many students don’t have the educational opportunities they deserve, but one school in Harlem, New York is changing that. Success Academy Harlem 4 is one of the top-performing schools in the entire state, but instead of supporting their remarkable success, Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to shut down their school.

Who will be hurt by his decision? These kids:

Harlem 4 Ad NYT

Add your voice to the thousands of parents and families trying to keep this NYC school open. Sign their petition here.

Katherine Bathgate is the Senior Manager for Communications and Marketing at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 

Nora Kern


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What is De Blasio thinking?

Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told four charter schools they would lose their school buildings, leaving at least 700 children without a school this coming school year. One of the schools is already open and serving children—with achievement scores that make it one of the highest performers in the city and state. Three others were scheduled to open this fall, one of which may still be allowed to do so, but only with reduced enrollment.

Mayor de Blasio’s decision has left many scratching their heads, especially when we look at how well public charter schools are serving the Big Apple’s students:

This research confirms what many parents and students on the ground already know–that charter schools work. It’s time that Mayor de Blasio takes a look at the research himself, maybe then he would reconsider his approach to helping the city’s most vulnerable youth.

Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Lisa Grover


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Omaha community fights for public charter schools in Nebraska

Nebraska is one of only eight states that do not allow public charter schools, but that could soon change. Last week, the Nebraska Education Committee considered a bill, LB 972, to allow a pilot program of five public charter schools in Omaha. The public hearing on the bill attracted dozens of supporters, many of whom said that parents should have more public school options, especially parents of low-income children and those struggling in the current public school system.  The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools weighed in with a letter of support for the bill.

Senator Scott Lautenbaugh (R-Omaha) introduced this year’s charter school bill after a different charter school bill was killed last year in the Education Committee. Senator Lautenbaugh proposed the five start-up public charter schools open in Omaha as a way to present an effective and proven way to educate students from the metro’s high poverty areas.  Speaking in support of this approach, Willie Hamilton, a member of Omaha Black Men United, stated: “If you’re rich, your kids are doing well in school. If you’re middle class, it’s a toss-up, but mostly poor kids, they are at a big risk for failure.” Hamilton was among several Omaha  community leaders that helped organize a busload of local supporters to take their concerns to the State Capitol for Tuesday’s standing room only hearing. Many more supporters waited for hours in line for the chance to speak in favor of the bill.

Opponents of the bill stated that Omaha Public Schools needs more time to improve lagging test scores and graduation rates without the “distraction” of public charter schools. Teacher union representatives echoed this opposition, saying that Nebraska needs more time to hammer out charter school guidelines. “There’s always an excuse for not doing the next thing,” said Senator Lautenbaugh. “The opposition will never relent on this issue, but you have to give kids a chance.”

We are hopeful that the legislature will pass this bill soon. Nebraska parents should not have to wait yet another year for high-quality public charter school options.

Lisa Grover is senior director for state advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


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Media Round-Up

NAPCS in the News

“Uh oh: De Blasio’s war on charter schools begins,” Nina Rees (President & CEO) quoted, Daily Caller, Feb. 28

“Opinion: De Blasio Declares War On Charter Schools,” Starlee Rhoades (VP for communications) video interview, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28

“New York’s de Blasio boots charter schools from city space,” Nina Rees quoted, Fox News, Feb. 27

“Major Charter School Chain To Lose Space Under New De Blasio Plan,” Nina Rees quoted, Huffington Post, Feb. 27

“New N.Y.C. Mayor Rescinds Co-Location Agreement With Some Charter Schools,” Nina Rees quoted, Education Week, Feb. 27

“The Good and the Bad in de Blasio’s Education Plan,” Nina Rees op-ed, U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 25

News to Know

  • “Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative to Put Minority Boys on Road to Success,” CBS News, Feb. 28
  • “Do Chicago Charters Expel Too Many Students?” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 27
  • “Omaha Community Pushes For Charter Schools at State Capital,” Omaha World-Herald, Feb. 26
  • “Alaska Should Build On Success of Public Charter Schools,” Anchorage Daily News, Feb. 25
  • “New York City Chancellor Meets with Public Charter School Leaders,” New York Times, Feb. 24

Audience Favorites

Facebook— You know why YOU support charter schools. Take a look at a few of our top reasons why Congress should too: http://bit.ly/OD6PGE

Twitter@ninacharters@billdeblasio is taking away the most valuable thing we can give to our kids – a quality education.” http://bit.ly/1pzymXg

You can stay up to date on all the developments in the public charter school sector by subscribing to our regular news updates.

Kim Kober


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5 reasons to support charters schools in 2014

Right now, members of Congress are deciding how to spend money for the upcoming fiscal year and we need to make sure they know that public charter schools are a priority. That’s why we’re asking you to contact your members of Congress, tell them that the federal Charter Schools program is important to you.  Need some motivation? Here are my top five reasons to support public charter schools in 2014:

  1. Growth. The federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) has helped open more than 90 percent of new charter schools in the past five years. There are now more than 2.5 million students attending nearly 6,500 schools.
  2.  Innovation. Public charter schools have the freedom to find new and creative solutions to meet the unique needs of the students in their communities. In Santa Ana, California that means students at El Sol Science and Arts Academy can learn easier through a dual language immersion curriculum. In Wichita, Kansas agriculture is incorporated into the curriculum at the Walton Rural Life Center.
  3.  Academic Performance. Fifteen out of 16 independent studies published since 2010, four national studies and 10 regional studies all found positive academic performance results for students in charter schools compared to their traditional school peers. Last year, CREDO released a study that found that a charter school education had a positive impact for many subgroups, including Black students, students in poverty, English Language Learners (ELL), and students in Special Education. For ELL Hispanic students, attending a charter school resulted in 50 additional days of learning in reading and 43 additional days of learning in math.
  4. Geographic Reach.The federal Charter Schools Program serves students in all educational settings–55 percent of the nation’s charters are in urban areas, 21 percent in suburban, and 16 percent in rural. Public charter schools serve a high percentage of students in a diverse array of cities including large cities such as New Orleans and Detroit as well as rural Hall County, Ga.
  5. Demand. Across the nation,public charter school waitlists approached one million names during the 2012-2013 school year. Families looking for options within the public school system are turning to public charter schools to find the best fit for their child’s education, but without additional funds charter schools are unable to meet parental demand.

Now it’s your turn–why do YOU support public charter schools?


Kim Kober is the coordinator for government relations and federal policy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.