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Event: It’s Time for Public Charter Schools in Kentucky

Today, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) joined with Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Black Alliance for Education Outcomes (BAEO) in Louisville, Kentucky to host an event celebrating the launch of the Kentucky Charter Schools Association. The summit on public charter schools featured U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, Kentucky State Sen. Mike Wilson and Rep. Brad Montell, members of the faith community, and parents and students. Here are some of the best sound bites from the event:
  • U.S. Sen. McConnell: “If our schools are failing, our Commonwealth fails with them. Students, parents, and communities across Kentucky must demand schools that put students first, produce results, and reward outstanding teachers. Public charter schools can do that.”
  • U.S. Sen. Paul: Freedom from bureaucracy enables public charter schools to innovate.
  • Sen. Wilson: “Charter schools are a great tool…why wouldn’t we want it in our toolbox?”
  • Rep. Montell: “Education is the great equalizer, and it all starts with a ‘no excuses’ mentality.”
  • Nina Rees (NAPCS):  “I can take you to charter schools that are proving the impossible and prove that poverty will not determine your destiny.”
  • Natasha Kamrani: “We (DFER) disagree with the elected officials who sat on this panel on so, so many things. But we agree on charter schools.”
  • Shree Medlock: A recent BAEO survey of black families found that 71 of respondents support charter schools. We need charter schools in Kentucky now.
  • Lisa Grover (NAPCS): “Allowing teachers the ability to innovate and tailor lessons to address students’ needs is a key component of charter freedom.”
Although the panelist represented a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, they all agreed on the power and importance of public charter schools to give Kentucky families educational options. We will continue our work in Kentucky to try to make it the 43rd state and the District of Columbia with a charter school law. Starlee Rhoades is the vice president of communications and marketing at the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools Learn more: Op-ed: “Passing charter school law will widen opportunities,” Nina Rees ( president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools) and Joe Williams (president of Democrats for Education Reform) Follow @KYcharters on twitter & tweet #KYcharters

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Using Charter Schools to Strengthen Rural Education

Bellwether recently released a new report on the promise of charter schooling in rural America—and the very real challenges facing it. The paper is part the ROCI initiative, a two-year project on rural education reform funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. We went into this project knowing relatively little about rural charters. It turns out that this is partially because there are so few of them. There are a mere 785 rural charter schools, and only 111 of them are in the most remote rural areas. High-performing charter schools have accomplished great things for many inner-city kids, so we wondered whether they could do the same in rural areas. The need is great. There are 11 million students in rural public schools, and kids in rural America are more likely than their peers in any other geography to live in poverty. Only 27 percent of rural high school graduates go on to college, and just one in five rural adults has earned a bachelor’s degree. But bringing public charter schools to these communities is knottier than we imagined. First, “rural” defies a simple definition. As one scholar put it, the term includes “hollows in the Appalachian Mountains, former sharecroppers’ shacks in the Mississippi Delta, desolate Indian reservations on the Great Plains, and emerging colonia along the Rio Grande.”  What is good for one rural community may not be for another. Second, since many rural areas are isolated and sparsely populated, a new schools strategy faces numerous obstacles, such as enrolling enough students, acquiring facilities, and recruiting teachers and administrators. Third, it’s often the case that a rural district-run school is the largest employer in the area, the hub of local activities, and one of the few visible public investments for miles. As a result, the existing district school is woven tightly into the community’s fabric. New charter schools are often seen through narrowed eyes. But our research also gave us reason for encouragement. There are numerous examples of successful rural charters, from KIPP’s cluster in the Mississippi Delta to the Upper Carmen Charter School in Idaho. There have been heartening instances where charter schools enabled a community—threatened by a consolidation effort—to maintain a local school, preserving the community and its heritage. The paper is sprinkled with facts that we found fascinating, often surprising, and occasionally frustrating.
  • Very few charter management organizations (CMOs) operate in rural areas.
  • Of the nation’s 10 most rural states, 7 have no charter law.
  • States without one of the nation’s 50 largest cities are more likely to lack a charter school law, and, when they do have one, it’s more likely to be rated poorly by both the National Alliance and Center for Education Reform.
  • Some state charter schools laws have provisions that make starting a rural charter nearly impossible or prohibited.
  • Rural charter schools get substantially less funding than district-run schools and face high costs related to transportation and buildings. 
The report makes a number of recommendations related to teacher preparation and certification, technology, charter caps, funding, and transportation. There are clearly a number of policies that states ought to revisit. But a big takeaway from this project is that better policy alone won’t expand the public school options available to rural kids. Charter school advocates need to better understand rural communities, their strengths, and their challenges. And given the differences among rural communities, different approaches are going to be needed for deciding if, when, where, and how a new charter school should emerge. Andy Smarick is a partner at Bellwhether Education Partners and author of A New Frontier, Using Charter Schooling to Strengthen Rural Education.  Juliet Squire is an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners. Click here to view the National Alliance’s recent video, The Story of Rural Charter Schools.
Nick Fickler

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Media Round Up

NAPCS in the News
  •  “Charter School Enrollment Climbs 13 Percent,” Nina  quoted, Budget &Tax News , Mar. 5
  •  “Obama’s Budget Boosts Preschool, Access To Top Teachers, But Freezes Many Education Programs,” Nina quoted, Huffington Post, Mar. 4
News to Know
  • “More Support for New York City’s Charter Schools,” New York Post, Mar. 7
  • “New Jersey Renews 10 Charters, Revokes Two; Launches ‘Renaissance’ Charter in Camden,” Star Ledger, Mar. 6
  • “New York Governor Pledges Support to Charters,” New York Times, Mar. 5
  • “Commission Approves Maine’s First Virtual Charter School,” Portland Press Herald, Mar. 4
  • “New Orleans Goes All In On Charter Schools. Is It Showing The Way?,” Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 3
Audience Favorites Facebook— 194 children, 194 dreams. Don’t let NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio close Success Academy Harlem Central. #SaveThe194 Twitter— Great image from @Fam4ExcSchools, shows impact of @BilldeBlasio‘s latest move against #NYC charters. #SaveThe194 pic.twitter.com/9wLlYduYxs You can stay up to date on all the developments in the public charter school sector by subscribing to our regular news updates…Sign up here.
Nick Fickler

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Media Round Up

NAPCS in the News
  • “Pitbull’s school: star promotes a radical idea for at-risk kids,” Nina quoted, Washington Post, Feb. 21
  • “Gloria Romero: Charter schools surging in US, California” National Alliance paper mentioned, OC Register, Feb. 19
News to Know
  • “Eva Moskowitz, New York City’s Educational Reform Champion,” Wall Street Journal, Feb. 18
  • “Lawmakers Need to Unburden Mississippi Charter Schools Board,” Clarion Ledger Editorial, Feb. 19
  • “States Struggle to Hash Out Funding Formulas for Virtual Charter Schools,” Education Week, Feb. 20
  • “Brooklyn Legislator Calls for State Help with Charter Facilities,” New York Post,Feb.21
Audience Favorites Facebook— Great new survey from The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. Read out take here: http://bit.ly/1haJqo7 Twitter— Did you know charter schools added 288,000 new students this school year? bit.ly/1m7mFrK You can stay up to date on all the developments in the public charter school sector by subscribing to our regular news updates…Sign up here.
Nick Fickler

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Media Round Up

NAPCS in the News
  • “3 Things That Should Be Done to Help Rural Schools,” op-ed by Nina Rees (President & CEO), U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 11
  • “Texas adds 52 charter schools, 4th most nationwide,” National Alliance mentioned, Houston Chronicle, Feb. 12
  • “Charter schools: California leads nation in school openings, students,” Nina quoted, San Jose Mercury News, Feb. 13
  • “Killing the golden goose,” National Alliance mentioned, The Economist, Feb. 14
News to Know
  • “Charter Schools Are Working, But New York’s Mayor Wants to Stop Them,” Economist, Feb. 14
  • “Charter School Student Population Tops 2.5 Million,” Education Week, Feb. 13
  • “Raising the Bar on San Diego Charter Schools – Again,” Voice of San Diego, Feb. 12
  • “Study: Charging Rent Would Lead to Charter School Decline,” National Review, Feb. 11
  • “The War on Charter Kids,” Fox News, Feb. 10
  Audience Favorites Facebook— Thanks to the work of dedicated teachers, school leaders, and community members across the country, more than 2.5 million students now attend nearly 6,500 charter schools. That’s 288,000 new students this school year! Read more here to find out how your state did: http://bit.ly/1m7mFrK Twitter— Did you know charter schools added 288,000 new students this school year? bit.ly/1m7mFrK You can stay up to date on all the developments in the public charter school sector by subscribing to our regular news updates…Sign up here.
Nick Fickler

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Media Round Up

NAPCS in the News
  • “Why the GOP Should Get On Board With Preschool,” op-ed by Nina Rees (President & CEO), U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 3
  • “Preferential treatment: Fed eases rules to admit disadvantaged students through lotteries,” Nina quoted, Watchdog, Feb. 3
  • “Threshold staff, students celebrate school choice,” National Alliance mentioned, Ionia Sentinel-Standard, Feb. 4
News to Know
  • “Charging Rent for New York Charters Hits Wrinkle,” Wall Street Journal, Feb. 7
  • “Editorial: A Bad Deal for D.C. Charter Schools,” Washington Post, Feb. 6
  • “Charter School Inequality,” Houston Chronicle, Feb. 5
  • “De Blasio Says He Won’t Allow Co-Locations for Charter Schools,” New York Post, Feb. 4
  • “Washington State Approves Its First Batch of Charter Schools,” Education Week, Feb. 3
  Audience Favorites Facebook— Can attending a charter high school help you go to college and make more money? Our latest blog post has the answer Twitter—Study: #charterschool students earn more than traditional public school peers cc: @MathPolResearch bit.ly/1k7I16f  You can stay up to date on all the developments in the public charter school sector by subscribing to our regular news updates…Sign up 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. 

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Thoughtful, Committed Citizens

Attending the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference each year has become a priority for the leadership at our K-12 charter school in Boulder County, Colorado. We have found that these three days in the summer allow our leadership team to spend extended, focused time together reflecting on issues of key importance to our organization. This year’s conference in New Orleans will be our fourth, and because of the wide variety of sessions and speakers featured each year, we continue to add to the list of staff members who attend.  

The conference serves many purposes for our school. The opportunity to participate in conversations about national charter schools legislation and funding always leads to deeper, more nuanced discussions of what’s happening in our own state. Workshop sessions targeting the challenges and opportunities unique to charter schools have enhanced and informed decisions we’ve made with regard to technology, teacher evaluation, media relations, and communication, to name a few. At the same time, the chance for us to share our own experiences and expertise by facilitating breakout sessions helps raise our school’s profile and leads to expanded networking and relationship building with other charter leaders around the country. Finally, the conference consistently features speakers doing critical work on the cutting edge of education, charter or otherwise. Their keynote addresses inspire important conversations among our school’s leadership team and between charter leaders across our state and across the nation.

Being part of the charter school movement means being part of a solution to the many troubled aspects of education. It means creative problem solving and innovating against all odds. It means coming to the table with an open mindset and the knowledge that Margaret Mead was right when she said that it only takes “a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens to change the world.” Attending the National Charter Schools Conference each year reunites and reinvigorates that small group of committed citizens, which is why it is and will continue to be an important priority for the leaders of our school.

 

Megan Freeman directs the Center for Professional Development at Peak to Peak Charter School. She leads workshops in best practices and consults with schools and universities throughout the state of Colorado.  She can be reached at megan@CPDcolorado.org.

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Want to start a charter school and don’t know where to begin? We’re here to help.

Each year, the National Charter Schools Conference serves as a great resource for both veterans and those new to the charter school community. It is a great place to meet with people dedicated to improving lives of children around the country and to learn best practices and helpful tips to improve the quality of your school.

This year’s operations strand will feature great information that will help your school chart a course for success, with sessions on topics like how to effectively engage your community and finance your facility.

Are you applying to open a charter school but a little overwhelmed about where to start? Or have you received a charter and plan to open soon? Maybe you’re in your first year of a new school and hitting some roadblocks along the way. If you’re in any of these situations, plan on attending a roundtable discussion I’ll be leading at NCSC15.

“Three Phases of New Schools: Application, Pre-Opening, First Year” will give you a comprehensive look at what you need to know to start a charter school. The session will bring together experts in a variety of areas. From the initial application process to finance, academics, board governance, media and communications, and staff hiring, we will have you covered.

For instance, you’ll hear from Charlene Reid, Executive Director for the Bronx Charter School for Excellence (BCSE) – a nationally-recognized Blue Ribbon School that has been selected to share best practices with a neighborhood district school in the Bronx. BCSE students are proving that zip code doesn’t determine academic success. Charlene is a friend, but also a role model for other school leaders. If you want to hear a success story, you’ll definitely want to hear from her.

I feel strongly about the charter school movement and have been working with schools for 17 years. I’ve guided hundreds of new schools through the opening process and can tell you without a doubt what you need to know. 

Most importantly, I want you to know you’re not alone. We’re here to help. And we want you to succeed.

A new charter school can literally change a child’s life. That’s why this work is so important and why I sincerely want to impart the best information to new applicants early on. And what better city than New Orleans to share that information.

We hope to see you in June!

 

Jill Shahen is Managing Director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network

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High School Winner – National Charter Schools Week Essay Contest

Leila from Western Sierra Collegiate Academy in California won the high school category of the 2015 Charter Schools Week essay contest! Read about why she loves her charter school: 

As people become increasingly aware of the unique learning systems offered by non-traditional institutions, the amount of students enrolled in charter schools continues to grow. Parents nationwide choose to enroll their children in charter schools for a variety of reasons; however, I love my charter school because of its welcoming campus culture, wealth of student opportunities, and heavy emphasis on college preparation.

At Western Sierra Collegiate Academy (WSCA), students are immersed in a rich campus culture that fosters great individual learning and growth. Enjoying high student diversity, WSCA is home to students from many different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Whereas diversity has sometimes led to social issues at other schools, at WSCA it is these very cultural differences that make us a stronger and more unified student body. Having attended WSCA for four years, I have definitely been on campus long enough to say that the people at my school truly feel like family. I am extremely grateful to have been able to thrive in an environment that not only respects but wholeheartedly welcomes individuality. When I go to school, I see students who are unafraid to be themselves and express their opinions, and I believe that WSCA’s positive campus culture is what makes this possible.

In addition to fostering a rich social environment, WSCA also offers numerous student opportunities unavailable at other schools. Because of WSCA’s open-minded mission statement, students have the rare chance to participate in competitions on a smaller-scale, potentially opening up doors for the future. Kids are also encouraged to start clubs according to their interests. Because of this, I have been able to found and lead my high school’s community service club and gain valuable leadership skills. Other clubs supported by WSCA include: computer club, international dance club, yoga club, and Pokemon club. Students also have access to extra-learning enrichment sessions and student tutoring should they need any further help in a specific area.

Finally, perhaps WSCA’s most defining quality is the emphasis that is placed on college preparedness. Students are encouraged to challenge themselves with rigorous AP classes and regularly attend the monthly college informational night to learn how to build college transcripts and start early preparations. At the College and Career Center, students can arrange a meeting with the college counselor to discuss future plans and make long-term goals for success. Whenever a senior receives a college acceptance letter, their name and school of acceptance goes on display on the big bulletin board so everyone can share their excitement. Counselors and faculty interact with students on such a personal level (often waving “hello” in the hallways, or asking about their day) that genuinely makes each student feel valued and important.

Western Sierra Collegiate Academy is truly a special school, and I love being a WSCA student for many reasons. However, although the list of WSCA pros is vast, without a doubt, its rich campus culture, broad range of student opportunities, and college-geared mission are primary reasons to love my charter school.