Charter Blog by Author



Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

What Parents Want—And How Charters Can Provide It

Last week, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a groundbreaking study, What Parents Want: Education Preferences and Trade-offs. In collaboration with market-research firm Harris Interactive, Fordham attempted to segment American parents into distinguishable groups based on their educational values and desires.

Surprisingly, Fordham and Harris found that parents’ must-haves don’t vary greatly: everyone wants high-quality instruction in core subjects and STEM fields; they want their kids to learn to think critically and to communicate strongly; and they want schools to instill good study habits.

But some parents also prefer specializations and emphases that are only possible in a system of school choice.

  • Pragmatists (36 percent of K-12 parents) value schools that offer vocational classes or job-related programs
  • Jeffersonians (24 percent) value instruction in citizenship, democracy, and leadership
  • Test-Score Hawks (23 percent) look for schools with high test scores
  • Multiculturalists (22 percent) want their kids to learn to work with others of diverse backgrounds
  • Expressionists (15 percent) want schools that emphasize art and music instruction
  • Strivers (12 percent) want a pathway to a top-tier college

Interestingly, if not surprisingly, Expressionists and Strivers are currently more likely to send their kids to charter schools than traditional public schools. (Arts-focused charters and “no excuses” charters are common throughout the country.) Some of these other niches, however, may not be well-served by charter schools, or by any schools. Could charter authorizers and entrepreneurs be doing more to create career and technical schools? Those focused on citizenship and leadership? Those with diverse student populations? It appears that there are “market opportunities” waiting to be tapped.

Check out the study for much, much more.

Take this quiz to find out what group you’re in.

Michael J. Petrilli is the executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

What is a public charter school?

During National Charter Schools Week, we celebrate achievements in the school house and the state house. These achievements could not have been possible without the commitment of teachers, leaders, parents and advocates from all parts of the country. We asked some of these individuals to tell us why they are a part of the charter schools movement.

As executive director of the Public Charter Schools Alliance of South Carolina, Mary Carmichael gets asked all the time about charter schools.  Here’s her answer to the most basic, but most important question: What is a public charter school?

It is a community where teachers are empowered to foster a lifelong love of discovering and applying new knowledge.

It is a community where families have the opportunity to see their children flourish in a learning environment aligned to their needs.

It is a community where school leaders are educational entrepreneurs allocating resources and developing a faculty of instructional innovators to advance the mission of the school.

It is a community where boards are held accountable for being excellent stewards of public funds and improving students’ academic achievement.

What is a public charter school?
Public charter schools embody our American ideals of independent, innovative thinkers and doers.  They are public schools with the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for improving student achievement.

National Charter School Week is an exciting time to be joining charter school leaders from across the country in Washington, D.C. to celebrate 20 years of innovation in public charter schools and to share knowledge on how to transform public education for all children in all of our communities.

What is a public charter school?
It is a community where we all can make a difference in the life of a child and impact in our collective future.



Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Interview with CRPE’s Betheny Gross on Blended Learning Model Innovations

Blended learning is an innovative education model that combines online and traditional instruction. The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to study the financial implications of a range of blended learning models. I caught up with Dr. Betheny Gross, CRPE’s senior research analyst and research director, to talk about the study.

Q: What is the framework of the study?
 There are two parts to the study.  One is to continue to develop a classification of blended [learning]. People take different approaches to blended learning. Many of the approaches are similar, but with their own take depending on different theories of action about teaching and learning.

Some people go into blended thinking they need to radically personalize [education] for each student, and the best way we can do that is to harness technology. There are others that think about how best to optimize teachers by maximizing opportunities for kids to have in-depth discussions with teachers who are addressing their specific needs and goals. A way to do that is to have some of the instruction and curriculum happen over technology.

Part of the work we’re doing is thinking through theories of action…what type of school do they imply in terms of teachers and technology, and then costing it out. In our observation of schools that are implementing these models, we’re asking and commenting on questions such as: What does the resource allocation look like? What resources are needed for start-up and for continuation [schools]? How are resources distributed throughout the building? Do traditional revenue structures correspond or not to the way these schools need to structure their resources?

Q: What is the motivation of the study?
A: A lot of people are looking to blended as something that’s a new and a vital piece of our progress in education. They’re seeing it as an opportunity to expand the capacity and productivity of teachers in schools. There’s a lot of energy behind it right now, and a lot of development going on in the field to make sure that there’s good research to support that development.

Q: What do you hope to find out?
A: What we want to understand is how resources are used, and the extent that we see a new distribution of labor and technology for the delivery of instruction. We also want to understand how schools pursuing this work can do it in a sustainable way. This is a challenging question because so many of the schools engaging in blended learning received substantial start-up grants. And we know that there are and can be rather substantial startup or transition costs, especially if it requires a big investment in network and fiber.

Q: What role do public charter schools play in blended learning?
A: Public charter schools are called on to be our innovators, to be our incubators. They have both the incentive and opportunity to really explore these models because of their ability to optimize resources in schools.

I think there are a lot of incentives for charters. It’s not lost on anybody in the charter sector that they have to be very careful with budgets, which tend to be very tight. This is an opportunity to think through how technology can optimize their resources.

With the freedom public charter schools have around resource allocation, they really do have the opportunity to go out and rethink the whole school from top to bottom. They don’t need to have 15 classrooms with a teacher and 30 kids in them. They don’t need to think about [getting] into spend-it-or-lose-it arrangements. They can think about how to structure their spending; how to reconfigure their revenue and expenditure flows; and different ways to structure pay for teachers.

This is all within their reach–they don’t have many of the traditional revenue or expenditure constraints that district schools are now slowly unpacking. Charters can move very quickly. It’s not a surprise that a lot of the schools in our study are public charter schools.

Q: What role do you see blended learning playing in the future of public education?
 I think it depends on what we find in these early studies, and there are also impact studies going on. I anticipate, although I don’t have any particular evidence to back this up, that we are going to see it more and more. I think that it’s an approach that addresses a lot of resource challenges that we are facing.

I think it’s also an approach that’s very respecting of the fact that kids are brought up interacting with information differently than we did when we were kids. It tries to take advantage of that, and meet kids where they are with how they work with and think through information. And in that sense, it has a lot of great potential.

Q: What is the timeline of the study?
A: The study is a 19 month study starting from last December. An interim report will come out sometime in the fall, and then the final will be out the following summer.





Photo: Dr. Betheny Gross, Senior Research Analyst and Research Director at the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE)


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Research Shows Presence of Public Charter Schools Leads to Improvements in Traditional Public Schools

When a public charter school opens in a neighborhood, there are several impacts that are worth consideration: Will the charter school create pressure on neighboring traditional public schools (TPS) to make changes in their organization, instructional strategies, or outreach to families that may lead to improvements in student achievement? New research presented at the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) 38th Annual Conference suggests that traditional public schools do in fact respond to the presence of public charter schools. Yusuke Jinnai, a Ph.D candidate in Economics at the University of Rochester, examined the impact of opening public charter schools on achievement levels for students at a neighboring traditional public school in North Carolina. A few interesting findings from the study:

  • Public charter schools generated “a positive and significant direct impact on student achievement” in math and reading at nearby traditional public schools.
  • About 25 percent of this direct impact can be explained by low-achieving students switching from traditional public schools to charter schools, leaving higher-performing students at traditional schools.
  • The larger portion of the impact was due to direct competitive effects. In other words, the presence of public charter schools encouraged TPS to make improvements for remaining students that lead to increases in student performance.

Using student-level North Carolina panel data from 1997 to 2005, the study is innovative because it focuses on gaps in grades between charter schools and TPS in North Carolina. Oftentimes, a charter school will open with a single grade level and expand their grade range in subsequent years. Jinnai uses this gap to tease out the direct impact charter schools have on TPS students in overlapping grades and indirect impact on non-overlapping grades. Previous research estimated the impact of charter schools on TPS for all grade levels, regardless of whether charter schools served students in all grade levels.

Jinnai shows that the introduction of charter schools generates a positive and significant direct impact on student achievement: an increase of 0.033 standard deviations in math and 0.017 in reading for neighboring TPS students. While these gains are small in comparison to the impact of experienced teachers or per-pupil expenditure on achievement, they are larger and more accurate than previous competitive-effects studies due to the distinction between direct and indirect impact.

Public charter schools in North Carolina attract lower performing students, but they are showing academic success. In 2010, 77 percent of public charter schools made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). In contrast, 57 percent of traditional public schools made AYP in 2010. With North Carolina lifting their 100-charter school cap in 2011 and receiving 70 new charter applications for the 2014-2015 school year, there is potential for significant learning gains for all public school students.

Jinnai’s new paper debunks the myth that the success of public charter schools comes at the detriment of neighboring traditional public schools. In North Carolina, public charter schools contribute to education reform by serving low-performing students and encouraging high standards of performance for nearby traditional public schools.

Boston Collegiate


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Public Charter Schools Rank Among Top Public High Schools in the Nation

The rankings are in!  Every year, U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Post, and Newsweek rank public high schools across the nation. Despite public charter schools making up only 6 percent of public high schools nationwide, they have been historically well represented on these lists, and 2013 is no exception.

The table below presents the public charter schools that were ranked in the top 100 on at least one of the lists, as well as the public charter schools ranked in Newsweek’s top 25 Transformative Schools list. Five public charter schools were listed in the top 100 on the three major lists: Peak to Peak Charter School, Signature School Incorporated, Uplift Education – North Hills Preparatory High School, Westlake Academy, and the American Indian Public High School, which was also ranked as the second best Transformative School in the nation.

The U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools list had 28 public charter schools in the top 100, up from 17 last year. The report also ranked three public charters in the top 10. The Washington Post’s Most Challenging High Schools list also put 28 public charter schools in their top 100, and four in their top 10. In Newsweek’s America’s Best high Schools list, there were 13 public charter schools in the top 100, with two BASIS charter schools reaching their top 10.

Newsweek also came out with their Transformative High Schools list, which takes students’ socioeconomic status into account by looking at schools that serve a high percentage of students who receive free- or reduced-price lunches. Sixteen public charter schools were on the list, making up 64 percent of the nation’s top 25 Transformative schools. All top five schools were public charter schools.

School Name State U.S. News & World Report, Best High Schools Washington Post, High School Challenge Index Newsweek, America’s Best High Schools Newsweek, 25 Transformative High Schools
Haas Hall Academy AR 83
BASIS Scottsdale AZ 5 3
BASIS Tucson AZ 2
BASIS Tucson North AZ 7
Northland Preparatory Academy AZ 77
Sonoran Science Academy – Davis Monthan AZ 53
Sonoran Science Academy – Tucson AZ 96
Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High CA 95 4
Alliance Gertz-Ressler High CA 6
Alliance Huntington Park College-Ready Academy High CA 10
Alliance Marc & Eva Stern Math and Science CA 23
American Indian Public High CA 38 1 11 2
Animo Jackie Robinson High CA 21
Animo Leadership High CA 13
Animo Oscar De La Hoya Charter High CA 11
Animo Pat Brown CA 18
Hawthorne Math and Science Academy CA 89
Lennox Mathematics, Science and Technology Academy CA 39
Magnolia Science Academy CA 45
Northcoast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy CA 72 25
Pacific Collegiate Charter CA 11 56
Preuss School UCSD CA 30 29 1
Summit Preparatory Charter High CA 82
University High CA 42
Peak to Peak Charter School CO 58 70 49
Charter School of Wilmington DE 62
Archimedean Upper Conservatory Charter School FL 26 54
Doral Performing Arts and Entertainment Academy FL 86
International Studies Charter High School FL 15
Somerset Academy Charter High School FL 7
Gwinnett Charter School of Advanced Mathematics, Science, & Technology GA 3 10
Coeur D’Alene Charter Academy ID 59 89
Noble Network of Charter Schools – Noble Street College Prep IL 15
Signature School Inc IN 23 8 12
Benjamin Franklin High School LA 55
Sturgis Charter Public MA 31 64
Raleigh Charter High School NC 77 40
Albuquerque Institute of Math & Science NM 42
Harding Charter Preparatory High School OK 75
Corbett Charter School OR 70 4
Early College H S TX 97
Eastwood Academy TX 56 50
Harmony Science Acad (El Paso) TX 71
Harmony Science Academy – North Austin TX 46
IDEA Frontier College Preparatory TX 60
IDEA Quest College Preparatory TX 83
KIPP Houston H S TX 65
Uplift Education – North Hills Preparatory High School TX 51 82 41
Uplift Education – Peak Preparatory High School TX 24 5
Uplift Education – Summit International Preparatory TX 23 51 14
Uplift Education – Williams Preparatory High School TX 28 3
Westlake Academy TX 41 20 52
YES Prep – East End Campus TX 18
YES Prep – North Central Campus TX 46 89 17
YES Prep – Southwest Campus TX 66 83



The U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools list evaluates over 21,000 public high schools in the country. Their ranking is based on students’ performance on state-mandated assessments, minority and economically disadvantaged student performance, and Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exam results to determine preparedness for college-level work.

The Washington Post’s Challenge Index is calculated by the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) tests given at a school in 2012, divided by the number of graduates that year. Also included are the percentage of students who come from families that qualify for lunch subsidies and the percentage of graduates who passed at least one college-level test during their high school career, indicators called equity and excellence for the Challenge Index.

Newsweek’s America’s Best High Schools ranks schools based on six components: graduation rate (25 percent), college acceptance rate (25 percent), AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student (25 percent), average SAT/ACT scores (10 percent), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10 percent), and percent of students enrolled in at least one AP/IB/AICE course (5 percent). Their ranking system focuses on high schools that have proven to be the most effective in turning out college-ready grads.

Newsweek’s Transformative Schools ranking used the Newsweek’s America’s Best High Schools score and multiplied it by the percentage of students who are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches, a leading indicator of socioeconomic status. The overall ranking for each school is based on the graduation rate, college-bound rate of grads, AP participation, and test scores.


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Public Charter Schools with True Autonomy and Accountability Positively Impact Student Achievement

A recent thread in studies about public charter schools and student achievement is that broad analyses often mask the key features that explain why some charter schools outperform traditional public schools (TPS). A paper by Hiren Nisar from Abt Associates follows this idea by highlighting the impact of school autonomy on student performance. He finds that students in Milwaukee public charter schools that operate with more autonomy from traditional public school regulation (called non-instrumentality charter schools) outperform their counterparts in less-autonomous public charter schools (instrumentality charter schools) and traditional public schools.

In Milwaukee, both instrumentality and non-instrumentality schools have more budget and curricular flexibility than traditional public schools. However, there are key differences in operational autonomy:  instrumentality public charter schools operate as a part of traditional school districts, they face little risk of closure, and they hire unionized teachers. When looking at achievement over all charter school students compared to TPS students, Nisar found little significant difference in performance. However, not all public charter schools are subject to the same policies, and those differences have significant impacts on student achievement levels.

Nisar breaks down these differences by examining how a school’s instrumentality status relates to students’ reading proficiency. He finds that “students at a non-instrumentality charter school would be reading at a grade higher from their counterparts in an instrumentality charter school in two years, and their counterparts in a TPS in three years.” He also finds that African-American students perform better in non-instrumentality charter schools than any other type of public school. When looking at low achieving students, he estimates that attending a public charter school of any type would eliminate the reading achievement gap in two years.

Aside from the encouraging empirical findings, there is a broader takeaway from Nisar’s paper – as he puts it, “the details of charter school policies matter.” In Milwaukee, public charter schools that operate autonomously from traditional school districts, and therefore face a greater risk of closure, perform better. As NAPCS President & CEO Nina Rees said, “The charter school idea is predicated on the notion that in exchange for autonomy and freedom from bureaucratic rules, schools would face closure if they fail to meet their academic goals.” The tradeoff of enjoying more autonomy for greater accountability in the form of school closures is a basic tenet of charter schools, as well as a keystone of the NACSA’s One Million Lives campaign. This paper offers a strong suggestion that autonomy and accountability for public charter schools are essential policies that go hand in hand with learning gains for students.

Milwaukee students






Image by Mike Di Sisti originally published in the Journal-Sentinel online Nov. 18, 2012


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

NCSC July 3: Last chance to Attend Great Sessions!

Even though it is the closing day of the National Charter Schools Conference, July 3 will still be a day full of eye catching sessions. In the morning from 7:45 AM – 8:45 AM there will be a networking breakfast held before the sessions. Here are a few sessions to look out for on Wednesday:

NASA STEM Education: Bringing NASA’s BEST (Beginning Engineering, Science and Technology) into the classroom- July 3rd, 8:00 AM-10:30 AM

The NASA’s BEST (Beginning Engineering, Science and Technology) project provides professional development for educators and curriculum support resources with a space exploration theme. The NASA educators will be explaining the hands-on, problem solving activity to design and build a Mars Rover and its landing system to arrive intact and upright on the remote surface. NASA will be introducing the Engineering Design Process in STEM for elementary and middle school classrooms. The presenters for the session will be Leslie Garrison (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), Michelle Graf (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), Susan Hoban (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), Catherine Kruchten (NASA), and Alexis O’Malley (NASA).

NCSC day 3






Closing Session - July 3rd, 10:45 AM-12:00 PM

Amanda Ripley will be the closing session speaker. Amanda Ripley is an award-winning author and investigative journalist. She currently serves as a Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow at the nonpartisan New America Foundation where she has written several recent feature stories about school reform, kids, and teachers. Ripley has built up an impressive body of work over the course of her career including a dozen cover stories for Time, features for The Atlantic and a variety of other leading publications, and her upcoming book The Smartest Kids in the World.

In addition to writing, Ripley has briefed at the Pentagon, the Senate, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the Peace Corps and FEMA. She will draw on both her storytelling and public policy expertise in our brand new Closing Session this summer. We’re excited to have her and know that hearing her take on the charter school movement will be a great way to wrap up this year’s National Charter Schools Conference.

NCSC Amanda Ripley


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Behind the Mic: Armando Pérez, 2013 National Charter Schools Conference Speaker

Armando Pérez, also known as Pitbull, is a man who goes beyond expectations. Mr. Pérez is more than an international music superstar; he is a civil leader within his community. Recently, Mr. Pérez was featured on The Today ShowNPR, and Good Morning America discussing his endeavors to start a charter school in his hometown of Miami, Florida.

In fall 2013, Mr. Pérez is opening Sports Leadership and Management (SLAM) public charter school for middle and high school students who wish to pursue a career in athletics. The school’s mission is to “provide an innovative, in-depth educational program preparing students for secondary studies and beyond through an emphasis of sports-related career preparation.” SLAM’s vision believes in providing “Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships” in its educational programs to produce college bound and career-oriented graduates.

At the National Charter Schools Conference, we’ll have a stellar lineup of keynote speakers that can attest to the conference-wide theme, “Delivering on the Dream.” Our goal is to equip our attendees with the tools they need to help their students turn their dreams into reality. Mr. Pérez’s story of growth from childhood in an impoverished Miami neighborhood to helping found a public charter school is an indicator that this conference is set to inspire.

Join us at the 2013 National Charter Schools Conference from June 30-July 3 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. Register today (March 9th-June 7th for regular registration rates) on the conference website. If you have any questions about the conference please email or call: 1-800-280-6218.















Armando Pérez, also known as Pitbull


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Countdown to National Charter Schools Week (2 days to go)

National Charter Schools Week (NCSW) is just around the corner—May 5th-11th. During National Charter Schools Week, we celebrate achievements in the school house and the state house. These achievements could not have been possible without the commitment of teachers, leaders, parents, and advocates from all parts of the country. Check out our toolkit for ways you can participate in NCSW!

During NCSW, we present the Champions for Charters awards to recognize public officials for leading a major public charter issue or initiative, serving as a highly visible public charter school advocate, and consistently supporting charters as a quality public school choice option. As we countdown to NCSW 2013, let’s draw inspiration from a past Champion for Charter recipient.

2010 Champion for Charters – U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-CO-2nd)
Congressman Polis introduced the bipartisan All Students Achieving through Reform Act (All-STAR), H.R. 4330, to support the expansion and replication of high-quality public charter schools that close the achievement gap. It is a key proposal and recognized as the most important piece of federal charter school legislation proposed since the original Charter Schools Program in 1994. Throughout his public service, Rep. Polis, who founded and served as superintendent of charter schools serving at-risk students, has worked hard to ensure that public charter schools are treated fairly and have equal access to education dollars.

“The All-STAR Act is about making the very best educational practices at America’s leading charter schools available to more students,” said Polis. “It’s as simple as finding what does and doesn’t work, funding the best schools, and giving every student the best possible education. This bill will provide hope and opportunity to tens of thousands of additional children at new or expanded charter schools.”


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Countdown to National Charter Schools Week (4 days to go)

National Charter Schools Week (NCSW) is just around the corner—May 5th-11th. During National Charter Schools Week, we celebrate achievements in the school house and the state house. These achievements could not have been possible without the commitment of teachers, leaders, parents and advocates from all parts of the country. Check out our toolkit for ways you can participate in NCSW!

“In my 14 years at Jumoke Academy, a public K-8 charter school in Hartford, CT, I have seen what can happen when committed teachers and school administrators confront the high needs of a low-income and minority population head on. Jumoke was founded in 1997 by my mother, Thelma Ellis Dickerson, a lifelong advocate for education reform and former president of the Hartford Board of Education, to eliminate the achievement gap for the city of Hartford. It was her fervent belief that, ‘if we provided a safe, supportive but rigorous learning environment for children, staffed with high-quality teachers who challenged students to learn at the highest levels, we could change the face of public education in the city of Hartford for the absolute better.’”

Michael Sharpe, CEO of Jumoke Academy, President of the Connecticut Charter School Association, board member of the National Charter School Leadership Council, founding member of Legacy Protect and Family Urban Schools of Excellence