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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

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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

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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 nationalconference@publiccharters.org or call: 1-800-280-6218. Pitbull_blog                           Armando Pérez, also known as Pitbull

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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

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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.”

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Countdown to National Charter Schools Week (6 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! “I feel that parents are a child’s first and most important advocate. Empowering parents with the tools they need to make an informed decision on which path is best for their child is essential to the charter school movement. Charter schools are an option for parents that enhance and challenge a child’s educational experience.” Kwan GrahamParents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina

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Countdown to National Charter Schools Week (8 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! “While ‘innovation’ can be defined and operationalized in numerous ways, we believe innovation is the development of more effective practices and processes that not only result in advancing student achievement, but also instill the habits of mind required for our children to access the college and career pathways of the 21st Century. This is, in fact, our mission and the mindset undergirding the STEM Prep model.”Kristin McGraner, Ed.D., Founder & Executive Director of STEM Preparatory Academy in Nashville, TN.

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Countdown to National Charter Schools Week (5 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! “For me, school was about survival, not education. If I could make it through the day without getting into a fight, I had learned something. Even though I grew up in a middle class suburb, based on district zoning, I had to attend one of the low-performing high schools in my area. That was my only option…I decided to become an advocate for charter schools because I believe that a quality education should be free to everyone and not marginalize students based on zoning rules or circumstances that have no reflection on their ability to learn.”Janel “Jay” Wright, Community Outreach Manager of the New Jersey Charter Schools association

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Making the Most of the National Charter Schools Conference: Five Steps to Networking

Yesterday I told you all about one of our focuses this year, educating tomorrow’s leaders. And today, I’d like to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned from attending a lot of conferences and seeing the National Charter Schools Conference grow over the past few years. With registration rates going up after midnight, I thought it’d be good to tell you a bit about the opportunities we’ve got for you. So, here we go—Jenny’s six steps to networking.

1. Establish Your Networking Goal

NCSCa         You would be amazed at how many people don’t have a goal when they network. You’ve come to a conference to learn something, right? Sometimes that thing can’t be found in the breakout sessions or from the keynotes. But you’re at an event with thousands of other people—surely some of them have been in your shoes! Possible networking goals might be:
  • Meeting someone who also runs the finance committee on their board
  • Learning how other schools schedule professional development days throughout the year
  • Finding a great example of a learning management system put to good use
  • Discovering what that state did to celebrate National Charter Schools Week
Keep your networking goal in mind the whole week, and make sure you’re trying to achieve it. Pro tip: Write one quick fact you learned from a person after getting their card. Especially if they helped you towards your goal!

2. Introduce Yourself

NCSCb       Going up to strangers and introducing yourself brings me the jitters, and I’m sure I’m not the only one! Jumping into a conversation doesn’t need to be stressful—keep a few things in mind:
  • Join conversations of 3 or more people so you know you aren’t interrupting something private
  • Go say “hi” to someone standing by themselves—they might be just as scared as you are!
  • Use your goal to introduce yourself: “Hi, I’m Jenny. Have any of you successfully networked at a conference before? Have any tips?”
  • Pin yourself to the elbow of a strong networker, and use him or her to pull you through the room
You know who are often great and experienced networkers? Our exhibitors! They always know a bunch of people and are super outgoing. Use them to help you navigate a crowd, and you’ll always go home with a pocketful of some great business cards. And while a good drink in hand always helps, be wary of doing the food and drink juggle! Always keep a hand open for shaking hands, and use a table if you’re going to be eating and drinking at the same time.

3. Take advantage of Different Networking Environments

NCSCc       At the National Charter Schools Conference, we provide a lot of different spaces and styles of networking so that you can achieve your goals. Here’s a quick run-down of what we have going this year:
  • Big, Formal Networking: This includes our welcome reception and happy hour with exhibitors. These opportunities are great for you to float around and meet people extremely different from you—learn about what’s going on in their worlds and be open and curious.
  • Mealtime Networking: Breakfast networking sessions, lunch breaks, dine-arounds in DC, people love to get together and share ideas over food. Sharing a table with someone instantly creates a sense of congeniality and relaxes the atmosphere. So don’t be a wallflower at lunch, find the busiest table, sit down, and say “hello!”
  • Breaks: I bet you didn’t know that we make the breaks between sessions a little longer so that you can meet people? Go out into the hallway and see who is loitering. Don’t beeline for the next room, take your time and introduce yourself to a couple of people instead.
  • Spaces: We’re excited to have the Steelcase Collaboration Lounge at this year’s conference, and the exhibit hall is always a place to go to meet up with people. Skip a session and go see who is around in these places. Sit down, strike up a conversation, and see what you learn.

4. The Pass-On

NCSCd       Sometimes you meet someone who can’t help you with your goal, but don’t despair! Find out what his or her goal is and do apass-on. Find someone else who will benefit from meeting that person and make sure to provide an introduction. Even if you’re not interested in dropout recovery, maybe you know someone who is. And who knows? Maybe they’ll return the favor and connect you with exactly who you were looking for.

5. Follow-up

NCSCe         Definitely the hardest and most rarely done part of networking is the follow-up. You’ve gone home to your pile of business cards and now need to sort through them. Don’t just file them in your rolodex, cement those relationships! Pick the top ten most important contacts you made and send them a quick message thanking them for talking with you and saying how you’d love to keep in touch. And then, when you have a question that they might be able to help you with, send them an email! Or maybe you’ve met someone who would get along with a contact—make use of it and send that person along. Your network gets stronger through use, so make sure to exercise that muscle! I hope to see you networking away at this year’s National Charter Schools Conference this summer. If you see me, make sure to introduce yourself and share your goal! Don’t forget that registration rates go up at midnight tonight, so head over to our site to sign up.

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Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders: Updates from the National Charter Schools Conference

Planning for this year’s National Charter Schools Conference is underway, and I wanted to share my thoughts on one of the major topics of this year’s conference, educating tomorrow’s leaders. At midnight tomorrow, March 8th, the advance rate for the conference expires. You can register now to secure this lower rate. Our conference theme is Delivering on the Dream, which speaks to all of our dreams for public charter schools, whether we’re teachers, advocates, school leaders, or support staff. For so many, the dream involves future leadership—students leading change, schools leading communities, and teachers leading schools. Thus, we have chosen educating tomorrow’s leaders as a major thread at the conference.

Keynote Panel

The three speakers at our keynote panel on July 1 have three distinct perspectives to lend to the topic of educating tomorrow’s leaders. After the success of last year’s panel, we decided that we had to have another intense, thought-provoking conversation this year. Dr. Michael Lomax, President and CEO of UNCF, brings to the table a deep understanding of how K-12 education feeds into college and sets students up with the habits of good leaders. NCSC 1a           Leaders like Dr. Craig Barrett are far and few between. As former CEO of Intel, Dr. Barrett will be sharing with us the connections between education, leadership, and workforce preparedness. How can we make sure we are preparing students for healthy and productive lives? NCSC 2         It would be unfair to have this conversation without a strong, school-centered participant. And Ana Ponce, listed as one of Forbes Magazine’s “7 Most Powerful Educators,” has been creating leaders in L.A. for over a dozen years. If you have questions for this trio of great speakers, leave a comment below—we’ll try and get as many of your questions answered by this great panel!

Professional Development

All of our attendees are either current leaders or tomorrow’s leaders, which is why we’re putting a special emphasis on leadership training at this year’s conference. There will still be all the outstanding content related to public charter schools, but we’re adding a few sessions this year to help develop more leaders in our own community. NCSC 3a             Sessions such as Strengthening Your Organization Through Strategic Planning: The Good, the Bad, and the Measured, led by Lisa Diaz and Marisol Logan, will prepare all attendees for the challenges of bringing an organization through change. Leadership Development and Sustainability: The Foundation of Successful, Stable Schools will walk you through steps to make both yourself and your teammates better leaders. What professional development goals do you have that the conference will help you achieve? This is just a taste of some of the great things we have planned for this year’s conference! Don’t miss out on the lower rate for registration before March 8th, and keep an eye on both the blog and the conference homepage for more exciting updates about this year’s conference!