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Andrew Schantz

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Startups and Charter Schools: How Some Fresh Ideas Can Help Address the Challenges Schools Face

I recently had the opportunity to attend the first of 16 Challenge Cup events hosted by 1776, a startup incubator here in D.C. that the National Alliance has partnered with to help connect innovators and educators. When I entered the room where the startup showdown would commence, the energy was contagious. Hundreds of startup enthusiasts (including D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray) were gathered together to identify and celebrate promising startups tackling big challenges in four categories: education, energy, health, and cities.

While listening to 60-second pitches from the ten startups in the education category, I was intrigued by the way each of them had the potential to help public charter schools better serve students. Here are just a few examples of some of the challenges charter schools face and the ways these innovative startups may help provide much-needed solutions.

Funding
Charter schools receive 70 cents to the dollar for per-pupil funding when compared to traditional public schools. As a result, finding funds to pay for special projects to enhance learning can be a challenge. Enter edbacker: a service that allows educators to raise the money they need for important education-related projects, programs, and events. This platform could help charters raise necessary funds to continue offering high-quality, innovative learning opportunities for students.

Teacher Collaboration
Nearly 70% of charter schools are single-site schools and do not belong to a regional or national network. Educators at these standalone charter schools do not always have access to a diverse group of peers to help them hone and improve their skills. That’s where KickUp comes in. This on-demand support network for teachers allows them to find thought partners, mentors, and inspiration within and outside of their network. Teachers can post a challenge they’re facing in the classroom to a closed, secure network. Expert-appointed members of the network address those challenges via video session or mobile chat.

Parental Engagement
Students learn concepts in the classroom differently today than their parents did, so it can be difficult for parents to be involved in their child’s learning at home. Homework Unlocked is coming to the rescue. This online resource library of videos, quick-reference guides, dictionaries, and audio podcasts allows parents to learn the content that their children are learning in school, and in turn help them out with their homework.

Have a solution to an education problem you’ve identified? Check out five guidelines for innovation success from Nina Rees in her latest U.S. News Opinion column here.

Andrew Schantz is the communications and marketing coordinator for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Andrew Schantz

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5 Ways to Make This Year’s National Charter Schools Week the Best One Yet

We still have a few days to go before National Charter Schools Week kicks off, but there are plenty of things you can do to start the celebration early and get in the #CharterSchoolsWeek spirit!

  1. Change your profile picture to one of our official Charter Schools Week badges! Whether you’re a charter school parent, student, administrator, or advocate, we have a badge for you!
  2. Invite elected officials to your school. National Charter Schools Week is the perfect opportunity to show off the great things that are happening in your school. Use our guide to plan a visit for local, state, or federal elected officials. And be sure to let us know if you need any help setting one up by contacting us here.
  3. Tell us why you love charter schools! Print out a template, take a picture or video, and share it with us on social media using #CharterSchoolsWeek.
  4. Set a calendar reminder for Wednesday, May 6 from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET for the #CharterSchoolsWeek tweetup! We’ll be sharing some tweets that morning for you to use, but in the meantime, click here to get the conversation started.
  5. Know a charter school student who loves to write? Encourage them to submit an entry for the first-ever Charter Schools Week Student Essay Contest! Get the details and submit essays by Friday, May 1 at 11:59 p.m. ET by clicking here.

Lastly, are you planning an event for Charter Schools Week in your state or community? Be sure to let us know!

For all the latest news and updates, follow us on Twitter and like our page on Facebook.

Looking forward to celebrating with you next week!

 

Andrew Schantz is the digital communications and marketing manager at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Andrew Schantz

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California Charter Schools Association: Portrait of the Movement

In late August, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) released its fourth annual Portrait of the Movement, a report that tells the story of what has happened in California’s charter school movement over the past five years, why it has happened, and what can be done to ensure continued growth and momentum. 

Trends highlighted throughout Portrait of the Movement, Five Year Retrospective: A Charter Sector Growing in Numbers and Strength indicate that tens of thousands of California’s students are being educated in better performing charter schools than just five years ago.

The California charter schools movement is large and diverse and now serving over half a million public school students. This number is growing every year and more importantly, these students are making significant improvements in academic performance. That performance has been driven by the growth of quality schools and the closure of underperforming schools.

Our research shows that charters have made improvements in academic performance during a time of explosive growth in enrollment, and during a severe funding crisis in California that disproportionately affected charters. We’ve highlighted many of the key findings from the report on our website.

I am delighted that CCSA’s research, recent findings from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes and the National Alliance for Public Charters Schools, as well as other national data all continue to point in the same direction – that charter schools are performing incredibly well, especially with historically underserved students. Even better, they’re improving over time.

Jed Wallace, president and CEO, California Charter Schools Association

Andrew Schantz

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Charter schools fuel the conversation at SXSWedu

Last week I joined 5,000 education pacesetters, practitioners, and professionals at SXSWedu – the world’s premier education innovation conference. Throughout the numerous sessions I attended and the countless people I connected with, one thing stood out – charter schools were the talk of the town in ATX.

For instance, when asked about breakthrough ideas happening in Chicago during a panel titled “Redesigning School as We Know It,” Ben Kutylo from Chicago Public Education Fund was quick to list several charter schools that had broken the mold of traditional school design. He mentioned Intrinsic Schools in particular, which has completely reinvented the physical makeup of a school. Picture Google-esque open floorplans and funky furniture. No neat rows of desks that you typically see in a school. (Edsurge just published a profile on the school if you want to learn more). Kutylo’s fellow panelist Johnathan Tiongcho from Alliance College-Ready Public Schools spoke about the ability of his schools to utilize diverse classroom models that are tailored for delivering instruction most effectively. The unique culture and focus on student-centered learning truly makes Alliance schools a place where students want to be.

The larger school choice community also had a strong presence at SXSWedu. Howard Fuller, civil rights leader, chair of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and founding board chair of the National Alliance, led an empowered discussion on his life’s work. He spoke about his belief that an education system that utilizes a variety of choices – including charter schools – will benefit our nation’s children by giving them access to what best suits their needs. Our friends from the American Federation for Children hosted a session where Chairwoman Betsy DeVos offered several “inconvenient truths” about education reform. DeVos highlighted the importance that families have a choice in where their children attend school because a system in which student needs are front and center ultimately leads to better outcomes.

Another panel discussion featured Tom Torkelson, founder of IDEA Public Schools alongside Mary Wells from Bellwether Education Partners, and Superintendent of Schools for Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD Daniel King. They led in an informative conversation about how charter schools and independent school districts can become effective partners for the benefit of students they serve. While Torkelson pointed out, “there is no reason for districts and charters to not have these kinds of partnerships,” Wells noted that in order for district-charter partnerships to be successful, there has to be buy-in from everyone involved. And more importantly than being a win-win for the schools themselves, they need to be a win for students.

Finally, during Wednesday evening’s keynote session, Emily Pilloton of Project H gave an inspiring talk about how her organization uses architecture as a lens for teaching youth to be leaders and builders of the future. Currently, her program is housed at Realm Charter School in Berkley, Calif., and gives students the ability to apply core subject knowledge to building “audacious and socially transformative projects.” If you want to get a better idea of the great things that Project H is doing, be sure to check out the documentary that tells the story of the program’s first year.

While the makeup of conference attendees ranged from founders of ed-tech startups to classroom teachers and school leaders, one thing was clear – regardless of their background, SXSWedu attendees recognized that the charter school movement continues to be a true force of innovation. It’s clear that the role of the charter school movement has played in instrumental role in shaping the conference, and will no doubt continue to do so for years to come.

SXSWedu is a true celebration of creative solutions to solve some of education’s largest problems, and it’s exciting to see charter schools at epicenter of this conversation.

Andrew Schantz is the digital communications and marketing manager at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Join us at the National Charter Schools Conference to pick up where SXSWedu left off. Network with thousands of attendees, participate in engaging breakout sessions, hear from inspiring keynote speakers, and discover how charter schools are creating a chance for every child. Find out more information here.

andrewatsxswedu

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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
  • “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
  •  “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
  • “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.