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Public Charter School Community Heard During INCS’ “Have Your Say Day”

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) is delighted to spread the word about our successful INCS 8th Annual Lobby Day in Springfield this past Thursday, just ahead of National School Choice Week. We had over 500 parents, teachers, and students travel to Springfield to join forces and advocate for equal funding for charter public school students. Together, we made great progress:

  • We put the final nail in the coffin of House Bill 2660, a proposal designed to starve funding for state-approved charter schools.
  • We built momentum in support of SJR 33, a joint resolution to establish a 6-month charter school funding task force to recommend equity legislation for the 2014 legislative session.
  • We explained to elected officials the critical role charter schools play in creating educational opportunities statewide and why charter school parents deserve to be heard.

This year our theme was Have Your Say Day, and that’s exactly what parents and students did.  We started with an early morning rally at Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy on the South Side, followed with a Springfield kick-off rally in the rotunda of the Illinois Capitol, and culminated with dozens of visits with elected officials representing districts where charter schools and parents reside.

The value of the INCS Lobby Day goes beyond the critical personal connections and myth-busting that occur in every legislative meeting.  The day is also about inspiring participants who are on the front lines of the charter movement every day.  As Lobby Day participant and charter school alumna Dennise Medina put it, “I just wanted my voice to be heard.  Meeting Representative Silvana Tabares was a great honor, as was sharing my story as an  UNO Rufino Tamayo charter school graduate. Thanks to charter schools, I am what I am today: a successful college student.”

Our work doesn’t end here. Over the next few months we will continue our efforts to engage parents and empower them in leadership roles.  Most critically, we are back in Springfield already with a group of parents from Catalyst Charter School continuing the smaller group visits that we’re conducting throughout the legislative session with targeted officials. Lobby Day is a critical event, but nothing is more important than a continuing, consistent presence with elected officials. We will continue to fight until the law treats all Illinois public school students equally.

INCS Rally


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Colorado Students Celebrate 20 Years of Public Charter Schools

This month, nearly 800 students, teachers and administrators gathered at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver to celebrate public charter schools.

The rally, hosted annually by the Colorado League of Charter Schools, had a special theme this year, as 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Colorado Charter Schools Act. In 1993, the state’s first two charter schools opened their doors (The Connect School in Pueblo, and Academy Charter School in Castle Rock) – both schools are still very successful and boast high student achievement.

Over the course of a week, the rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol was brought to life with displays of charter school student artwork from T.R. Paul Academy of Arts and Knowledge (Fort Collins) and CIVA Charter High School (Colorado Springs). In addition, the Capitol was lined with visual statistics highlighting facts and figures about the state’s charter community. For example, “More K-12 students are enrolled in Colorado charter schools than any school district in the state,” and “The average Colorado charter school student receives 15 percent less public funding than the average peer student in a traditional public school.”











The event offered a variety of activities for public charter school students of all ages. Preceding the rally were two student debates (held in the Old Supreme Court Chambers) by middle school students in the Charter School Debate League, as well as various tours of the State Capitol.

The rally itself began with the National Anthem performed by the Belle Creek Charter School band (Henderson, CO) and the Rocky Mountain Deaf School (Golden, CO). During the rally, attendees heard from students, teachers, principals, elected officials and more. The event was high-energy and a fun learning experience for all. Many of the speakers took the stage and revved up the crowd while celebrating public charter schools. “I love charter schools,” “I love charter school teachers,” and other upbeat slogans were chanted in unison by the crowd.

The students proudly waved signs that read, “Thank You for My Charter School,” and “Celebrating 20 Years of Colorado Charter Schools.”










Winners of the 5th annual Colorado Charter School Essay Contest were honored during the rally. Over 1,200 essays were submitted this year, from students across the state. There were four age categories. Click here to learn more about the contest and read about the topics.

Runners Up


  • Shruthi Rajesh, Grade 2, SkyView Academy (Highlands Ranch; Winner of a $250 College Scholarship from S&S Worldwide
  • Hadley Fisher, Grade 3, Excel Academy (Arvada; Winner of a $250 College Scholarship from S&S Worldwide
  • Lauren Kloser, Grade 7, Rocky Mountain Deaf School (Golden); Winner of a $250 College Scholarship from S&S Worldwide
  • Ricardo Galdamez-Escobar, Grade 12, Colorado High School Charter (Denver); Winner of a $500 College Scholarship from S&S Worldwide

A special thank you to Cenpatico for sponsoring the rally and to S&S Worldwide for sponsoring the essay contest.

The next celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Colorado Charter Schools will be at a special luncheon and silent auction event scheduled for Monday, June 3 in Denver. This date is significant as it falls exactly 20 years to the day that Governor Roy Romer signed the Colorado Charter Schools Act. The event will include an awards presentation, a documentary film and featured speaker Chester E. Finn, Jr. Please visit to learn more and to register.



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Moving to a Common System of Choice in D.C.

The growth of public charter schools in Washington, D.C.—coupled with out-of-boundary options for the traditional public school system, and vouchers—have made D.C. one of the most robust school choice environments in the nation. But as executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB), I’ve seen and heard how in the charter sector, the proliferation of options has brought its own problems when it comes to picking and enrolling in a school.

D.C. has 57 charter organizations that operate 102 campuses, each with its own means of enrolling students. Parents said that with so many different application dates, the process was confusing and headache-inducing, leading some to throw up their hands and opt out. It can also act as a subtle barrier to the least advantaged families.

For oversubscribed public charter schools that held lotteries, each school’s lottery was separate, meaning that some families get into many schools, while others into none–with no account taken for a family’s first or second choices. And with uncoordinated enrollment systems, families enroll in several schools and decide at the last minute which to attend, triggering a cascade of students switching schools after classes start, a phenomenon known as the “waitlist shuffle.”

With more than 35,000 students enrolled, or 43 percent of the public school population, our charter schools haven’t been entirely happy with the application and enrollment process either. They have to contend with higher student turnover, phantom enrollment, and mobility in the first month of school that can exceed 10 percent of the student body.

Clearly collective action was needed to address these issues, and it made most sense for PCSB to facilitate. But to make progress, we knew our action had to be respectful of charter school autonomy and voluntary, with charter schools themselves designing and directing the path forward. Enrollment is a charter school’s lifeblood. Only if we moved gradually, without laws, regulations, and mandates, and in a way that was informed by the schools’ perspectives, would this succeed.

The first issue we would tackle was having a single, common enrollment deadline. Our schools had more than 30 separate deadlines for applying—along with different dates for lotteries, notification, and enrollment. Looking at every school’s process, the most common date was March 15. My team and I individually called each school leader to ask for their support. Many schools initially said “yes.” Others signed on when they saw how many of their peers were. In the end, just four or five schools opted out.

The schools joined a working group that became a key forum for addressing other related issues. They agreed, for example, to set a common enrollment deadline of April 12 as a way of minimizing duplicate enrollments. They agreed to share enrollment information as a way to flag dual enrollments that do occur. The facilitator of this workgroup, Abigail Smith, built tremendous trust among the schools. (Two weeks ago D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray appointed Smith to be his Deputy Mayor for Education.) And we had key philanthropic support from NewSchools, which helped launch a media campaign called Your Charter Your Choice, which that put signs at bus stops and ads on the radio and in newspapers, to make sure parents knew about the date.

The April 12 acceptance deadline has just passed, and we’re eager to hear the final numbers. But early data indicate tremendous success. One public charter school saw a 66 percent increase in applications. Another charter school said that this year they saw their highest interest level from parents yet, showing that awareness of the deadline was high. With schools sharing information about their acceptance lists, we expect far fewer duplicate enrollments.

Now the working group is turning its attention to the next issues, a common lottery and common application, for charters and the traditional school system. Many schools are enthusiastic about these next steps; others are understandably more cautious. I’m confident that through the same collaborative process that created the common deadline, we can develop a common system of choice that will work well for parents and for charter schools.

Scott Pearson 3










Scott Pearson
Executive Director
DC Public Charter School Board


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Raising the Bar: Reviewing STEM Education in America

Serving as the CEO of Denver School of Science and Technology Public Schools (DSST), I can readily say that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is an important priority for me. But more importantly, it must be a priority for our nation.

On behalf of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, I recently testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education on how the public charter sector is leading the way in providing students – of all backgrounds–with high-quality STEM education. As we continue to see the trend of public charter school students outperforming their traditional public school peers, policy makers should consider the lessons we have learned–particularly in the field of STEM education.

DSST Public Schools serves more than 2,000 students at six open-enrollment STEM public charter schools on four campuses; our schools are focused on preparing every student to succeed in four-year college with the opportunity to pursue a STEM field of study in college. DSST schools are not magnet schools or in any way selective and as a result, our student body is very diverse. Yet DSST Public Schools operates some of the most successful public schools in Colorado. We are most proud of measures that show growth–meaning, how much did a student learn from the first day of school to the last day of school.

Most importantly, DSST proves, without a doubt, that all students, regardless of race or income, can earn a rigorous STEM high school diploma and attend four-year colleges and universities. Preparing every student to succeed in a four-year college with the opportunity to study STEM is at the center of DSST’s academic program. Every single senior in the history of DSST Public Schools has earned acceptance to four-year college–an unprecedented track record of success in Colorado. Preparing our nation’s students for our highest-need, hardest-to-fill jobs is one of the most important tasks of our public education system. Today, we are not providing our students from low-income families with access to the highest-quality STEM education and the preparation needed to enter critical fields like engineering, computer science and bioscience. We have long reserved STEM education for the gifted and talented, denying our students and our nation’s employers with the opportunity to fill a critical national need.

DSST Public Schools represents an important and growing movement to open up high-quality STEM education to all students regardless of their ethnic, economic or academic background.

If we are to tackle the issue of providing effective STEM education for all students, educators and policy makers should consider some key building blocks of any successful STEM program. First, our schools are uniquely built on the premise that all students deserve access to a high-quality STEM education. A majority of DSST students enter well below grade level in the 6th and 9th grades and could never be accepted into a magnet science program on the basis of a test. Many students are conditioned to believe that science and advanced math “is an extra” and only for “smart kids.” In our schools, these subjects are not extras, but a core subject for all students. All students are required to take a STEM college preparatory curriculum–there is no remedial track in our school.

Our second key belief is that schools must provide a rigorous STEM preparatory curriculum. We believe that the most important factor in a student choosing and ultimately completing a STEM degree is his or her preparedness to succeed at the college and graduate level. Thus we design our curriculum to provide students with the best possible preparation to succeed in STEM fields in four year colleges.

Lastly, we believe the success of any school must be rooted in a strong school culture that focuses on building character and creating an environment that expects all students to be college ready. Students are challenged, but supported in our schools. A peer-driven culture is reflected in each of our schools where going to college is “cool” and expected.

Of course, DSST and our students would not be successful without the dedication and expertise of our outstanding teachers. Teachers at DSST are driven by their unwavering belief in our students, driven by data, and continually reflect on student performance. They receive extensive support, including observations and feedback, peer-driven professional development, and targeted development in new instructional techniques to ensure they are incorporating the best instructional strategies in their classrooms.

For our country to continue to lead the way in the 21st century economy, we must re-double our efforts to provide every child with access to a high-quality STEM education.








Image via DSST website


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Ohio’s charter law remains a laggard

This week, The Charter Blog will feature guest posts from state charter support organizations capturing their reaction to their state’s ranking on the 20 essential components from the NAPCS model law (see Massachusetts and Washington).


Ohio’s charter law remains mediocre despite numerous reform efforts over the last decade. According to the latest “Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of the State Charter School Laws” produced by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) the Buckeye State’s charter school law ranks 27 out of 43 states and the District of Columbia.

NAPCS ranks state laws based on two primary factors: 1) the freedoms and flexibilities state laws provide charter operators; and 2) the quality of accountability provisions for both charter school operators and authorizers. There are 20 Essential Components of the NAPCS rankings and these range from freedoms such as “No Caps on Charters,” “Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemptions,” and “Equitable Operational Funding” to accountability measures such as “Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability” and “Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal and Revocation Decisions.”

Ohio has made some progress – and this is reflected in the NAPCS state rating of Ohio inching up from #28 last year to #27 this year. But, other states are making progress faster. Big charter states, those that have at least 4.5% of their students enrolled in public charter schools, that have made steady progress and improvements to their laws in recent years include number one ranked Minnesota (with 4.7% of students in charters), number four Colorado (with 9.8% of students in charters), number five Florida (with 6.8% of students in charters), number six Louisiana (with 6.4% of students in charters) and number seven California (with 6.7% of students in charters).

These states are serving hundreds of thousands of students under state laws that are superior to Ohio’s in both allowing charter freedoms and ensuring charter performance. Louisiana, for example, jumped from #13 to #6 due to significant enhancements in its laws, such as strengthening the authorizing environment and increasing charter school autonomy. While South Carolina leapt from #25 to #12 because of improved laws related to better authorizing.

The NAPCS rankings make clear that Ohio’s lawmakers can do better by its 113,000 charter school students, while setting the conditions for better charter schools and opportunities for more kids in need of better schools in the future. Specifically, legislative leaders in Ohio can help promote charter school quality by crafting policies that ensure would-be school operators are carefully vetted in advance of opening; that all schools are thoroughly monitored by responsible authorities for their academic performance; and that poor performers exit the market in a timely fashion.

Failed schools should not be able to skirt academic accountability; whether they are traditional district schools, virtual charter schools or charter schools operated either by for-profit management companies or nonprofit ones. But, in return for performance, successful charters should receive equitable funding. Charters in Ohio, on average, receive about $2,200 less funding per pupil than traditional district schools. This disparity is due in large part to charter schools’ lack of access to local revenues and facilities funding. Successful charters should also be able to replicate their successes through innovations like multi-school charter contracts and multi-charter contract boards. If, for example, a high quality charter school board can successfully oversee ten or even 15 great charters in a city there should be no laws preventing this from happening, but there currently is in the Buckeye State.

The states with the best charter schools also have the strongest charter school laws. According to Nina Rees, President and CEO of NAPCS, the national charter school association release their annual rankings so they “can be used by charter school supporters to help them push for laws that support the creation of high-quality public charter schools, particularly those students most in need of a better school option.” Ohio can and should learn from other states when it comes to improving charter school policies and NAPCS makes this easy to do with their rankings and model law. It is smart policy to build on the lessons of higher-performing charter states.

Model law map-3


This blog originally ran on the Ohio Gadfly Daily on January 30, 2013.


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California Charter Leadership Program Teaches Tailored Skills for Success

This guest blog series describes approaches that seek to address one of the most critical issues facing the rapidly growing public charter school movement: its leadership pipeline. The examples from Georgia and California show how partnerships have been developed to create training programs that teach the specific skills public charter school administrators need to run a successful school. If you would like to share additional examples of leadership pipeline programs, post them to @charteralliance or #charterleadership on Twitter.

In 2012, the Charter and Autonomous Leadership Academy (CASLA) sent out a national survey to public charter school stakeholders to determine training needs for charters school leaders. These results presented a strong interest in charter leadership training.  After several years of research and development, the CASLA program has created and implemented an innovative university-based charter leadership program in which participates earn a master’s degree in education (charter leadership) and a state credential authorization.  Just as successful K-12 charter leaders must be entrepreneurial and creative, the CASLA university team successfully navigated the public university institutional system to create an accelerated, efficient, and personalized entrepreneurial program. The CASLA program is based on research, best practices, and creative solutions to meet the needs of charter school leaders in Los Angeles and eventually nationwide.

CASLA is housed at California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), a four-year urban public institution located in the urban city of Carson in Los Angeles County. CSUDH is one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the California State University system. The school is accredited by both the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Since California has a very high percentage of start-up schools (as opposed to conversion schools), CASLA’s innovative program is focused on start-up schools. During our research, aspiring and current charter leaders requested relevant and current content, and alternatives to weekly evening classes in traditional university credential programs—due to the traffic congestion in Los Angeles and responsibilities of charter leaders.  In addition, current charter leaders requested assistance with career options beyond their tenure as charter school leaders.  The CASLA program is addressing the needs.

The CASLA leadership curriculum is designed based on the knowledge, skills, and disposition as articulated by current and former successful charter leaders, as well as small area public school district superintendents.  The CASLA program incorporates sophisticated video conferencing using technology-based instruction to personalize and individualize the delivery and content. Participants attend two weeklong seminars in the summer, and content courses are web-based.  One charter conference attendance is required. Content courses are six weeks in length; field research, extensive reading, and personal reflection are critical components.  Charter case study is a major strand throughout the 15-month credential/certificate program.  The critical internship component incorporates shadowing, field-research, and residency. Current and retired successful charter school leaders teach the content courses.  Participants are grouped in a cohort.  Current charter leaders benefit from web-based certificate programs, on topics such as master schedule development, essential elements of instruction, conflict resolution, improve rigor through effective use of data, etc.

The elements of the CASLA program form a comprehensive system that prepares and supports charter leaders who are committed to improving teacher practice and student achievement.  CASLA school leaders are now leading over 10,343 charter students in the greater Los Angeles area, with 57 percent of our CASLA leaders representing the minority groups of our diverse student population. Over 4,000 charter students have been positively impacted by our field research to improve student achievement. CASLA plans to create national regional centers. We invite inquires.  The CASLA program is the beneficiary of a supportive relationship with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, our California Charter School Association (CCSA), and a federal grant funded through the Office of Innovation and Improvement in the Department of Education.









Image via CASLA website


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Georgia’s CharterLeader Program Addresses Charter Leadership Needs

This guest blog series describes approaches that seek to address one of the most critical issues facing the rapidly growing public charter school movement: its leadership pipeline. The examples from Georgia and California show how partnerships have been developed to create training programs that teach the specific skills public charter school administrators need to run a successful school. If you would like to share additional examples of leadership pipeline programs, post them to @charteralliance or #charterleadership on Twitter.

For a number of years, the Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA) has anecdotally recognized a high turn over rate in its charters due to a number of factors—including governance issues and the heavy workload associated with running a multi-million dollar non-profit and a public school.  In 2008, research from the University of Washington’s National Center for Charter School Research Project published data to validate GCSA’s concerns in their study, Working without a Safety Net by Christine Campbell and Bethany Gross.  With the growth of the charter sector nationally and in Georgia, increasing the pipeline and retaining quality talent became a practical matter.  The National Governor’s Association and others in the education research field, such as Robert Marzano, all agree that leadership is the second most influential factor in student achievement, next to the classroom teacher.  This further emphasizes the importance of addressing leadership succession and capacity, and that is exactly what GCSA set out to do in late 2008.

When we decided to address leadership preparation and retention, it was a huge undertaking.  Where do you start?  We recognized that the issue with leadership turnover and quality in charters was rooted in inadequate skills and competencies to do the job.  But to write curriculum for a training program, you really have to define first what a high quality charter school is and does.  So the first step was to bring stakeholders together from our district authorizers and the State Department of Education’s Charter Schools Division to develop Quality School Standards.  Out of these standards we were able to then identify the key competencies of a high quality leader and the training required to get them there.

Through a grant provided by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, we started with a 10-day intensive training program with 2 modules – business and leadership – and a strong mentor model from education and business backgrounds to support the leaders.  The program pilot was a success.  We realized, though, that while we could adequately train the leaders we had, we would never really move the bar in the sector toward a pipeline to meet demand and cross the bridge with the traditional public schools until we actually impacted training programs in the university system for a broader reach.  So we set out to find a university partner who would be visionary enough to rethink educational leadership preparation.

In 2012, GCSA partnered with Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) Bagwell College of Education and Lake Oconee Academy (LOA), the partnership’s model school site, to offer an Education Specialist Master’s degree program. It leverages GCSA’s expertise in disseminating information to a statewide network of charter schools, teachers, and leaders and its knowledge and experience with quality schools and leadership; KSU’s strength as one of the largest educator preparation programs in Georgia; and LOA’s outstanding record of leadership and student achievement. This Ed.S. degree program focuses on charter-specific skills and competencies required for leading a high quality public charter school and replicates many of the award-winning charter school leadership practices of LOA, a Georgia Platinum School for Highest Academic Achievement in which approximately 75 percent of the students qualify for federal free or reduced-cost meals. Candidates selected for the Ed.S. program receive grant-funded scholarships for their four-semester graduate program.

Building on educational research in effective leadership, most of the program’s content, developed in collaboration between KSU and GCSA from its original CharterLeader pilot, is delivered in a residency model at each candidate’s “home” school site. There, they are required to demonstrate expertise through “real life” performance projects.  Candidates from both charter and traditional backgrounds come together throughout the program at retreats to share best practices, and to collaborate and to meet with experts in the field.  Throughout the program, candidates receive ongoing coaching from educators with expertise in leading and founding charter schools, as well as veteran leaders in the traditional and independent school sectors.

We are about half-way through our first cohort and ready to recruit for the second cohort.  We are very excited about the progress we have made and the promise the CharterLeader program holds for the future growth and efficacy of the charter movement.  There has been much learning along the way in establishing the program and the partnership.  We look forward to sharing these learnings with our peers in the charter sector and to broaden the reach of our work.

GA KSU Blog Image


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SABIS® Schools: Global Lessons in Education Partnerships

NAPCS is pleased to launch a guest blog series which will feature contributions by leading international education experts. The goal of this series is to expose our readers to the challenges and successes of establishing charter schools in different parts of the world.

The role and purpose of education – particularly in the public sector – has changed drastically with the coming of the Information Age. What started out as a means to prepare youth to take over in a trade is now a much different beast saddled with seemingly insurmountable challenges and a distinct element of the unknown, not to mention expectations that have set it up as the panacea for all manner of national woes – national security and economic stability, just to name a couple. Today education is tasked with preparing students with the knowledge and skills they will need to use in jobs that do not even exist. A large enough undertaking for schools operating in the private sector, the scope of this task is exponentially greater in public schools educating the masses. In this context, the scope of the task is not only greater; it is also ESSENTIAL as nations seek ways to secure their place in the global economy moving forward.

Looking to improve national education standards, the U.S. has been a global leader, drafting public charter school legislation in the mid-1990s and introducing the concepts such as parental choice, accountability, and competition in public education. In the years since, the U.S. charter school approach has been used as a reference for public-private partnership in education; some countries mirroring its approach, others setting out on their own to blaze their own path to raise standards.

As a global education organization with 126 years of experience, SABIS® has been involved in the providing education in the public sector since 1995, when it was awarded the management of its first public charter school in Springfield, Massachusetts. Today, SABIS® manages nine charter schools and licenses its proprietary educational system to five others. SABIS® experience in public-private partnerships (PPP), however, is not limited to the U.S. We have accumulated valuable experience and perspective as participants in PPP projects around the world.

The most promising PPP project that SABIS® is involved in – it may surprise you to learn – is in Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq, where SABIS® currently operates seven public schools in a project that originated in 2009. The Kurdish leadership at the time realized that spiraling public education costs were not yielding the desired results in the short or long term for the region. With surprisingly short school days, a degree of complacency among administrators, teachers, and staff, and no option for parental choice, there was room to improve the system. To address these issues, the Kurdish government sought out SABIS® and together developed a PPP model. SABIS® would take over existing K-2 or K-3 public schools, including staff, and provide training to staff in instructional methods as well as the English language. In contract periods of three to five years, SABIS® would manage the school, extending the grade levels offered each subsequent year, with the goal of instilling autonomy.

The strength of this PPP comes in the fact that it is not saddled with unnecessary – and many times unfair – barriers to entry and hurdles that have marred other countries’ attempts at private sector engagement as a means to raise education standards.

So what does the Kurdistan PPP have that others have missed the mark on? First, and most importantly, in Kurdistan private sector engagement in public education is approached as a true partnership. In Kurdistan, the private operator is allowed to operate in an environment of free enterprise, encouraging the principles of efficiency, accountability, and return on investment and transferring these benefits to schools and students. Second, unlike the public charter school model in the U.S., the operator is not hampered by legislation that imposes accountability through boards that do not have a skin in the game. The private operator is held fully accountable, flourishing by its own hand or floundering its way out of a job as dissatisfied parents withdraw their children from the school. Third, unlike public-private partnerships attempted in other countries, in Kurdistan the private operator is not distracted from the job of raising standards by nationally hired “experts” who have a financial incentive to continually move the yard-stick they require operators to measure up to. Fourth, in Kurdistan, the funding formula is respected. Funding of the school operation is taken care of by the government based on a mutually-approved budget. The operator is paid for its services from within the budget, allowing the operator to concentrate solely on the performance of students rather than worry about unexpected funding reductions mid-year. And finally, in Kurdistan, the private operator does not face perhaps the largest barrier to entry – access to and availability of facilities. The government works in true partnership with the private provider by providing the necessary facilities necessary to deliver the sought-after results.

If we are to take a serious look at raising education standards of the masses, governments around the world need to learn from the Kurdistan model of private sector engagement in public education. Only in the spirit of true partnership will we be able to leverage the experiences, resources, and motivation of the private sector to raise education standards and tackle the most pressing issue of our time.

To learn more about SABIS®’s experience in Kurdistan as well as the organization’s long history and approach to education, read the latest book by renowned U.K. author and education policy expert, James Tooley. From Village School to Global Brand: Changing the World through Education is available online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.






Image: Author Carl Bistany

Carl Bistany is a board member of SABIS® Holdings and the president of two education management companies, SABIS® Educational Services s.a.l. and SABIS® Educational Systems, Inc. These two companies manage schools within the SABIS® School Network, which currently serves Pre-K, K-12 schools, and a university located in fifteen countries on four continents.

Since joining SABIS® in 1992, Mr. Bistany has led the fourth generation family-owned business and transitioned it into a globally-recognized, professionally-managed enterprise at the forefront of education management. In addition to his active involvement as president of SABIS®, he has been instrumental in pursuing the expansion of the SABIS® School Network in the private sector in various countries as well as into the Public-Private-Partnership arena in the U.A.E, U.S., U.K., and Kurdistan.

Mr. Bistany holds two Masters’ degrees, one in Mathematics and the other in Computer Science from Syracuse University, NY. He is also a Harvard alumnus, having completed the Harvard Business School Executive Education Owner/President Manager program. He serves as a board member of several organizations including the Advisory Board of the Institute of Family and Entrepreneurial Business at the Lebanese American University and the Chief Executives Organization. He was the founding Chairman of the Lebanese Chapter of the Young President Organization (YPO) as well as the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO). He has also served as a senior member of the Executive Board of the Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is a member of the World Bank Advisory Group on Engaging the Private Sector and is a sought-after speaker at global education conferences and events.


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Public Charter Schools Serve as Models Beyond the U.S.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) is pleased to launch a guest blog series which will feature contributions by leading international education experts. The goal of this series is to expose our readers to the challenges and successes of establishing charter schools in different parts of the world. Our contributors have experience in charters schools either as providers or in the case of Cecilia Maria Velez, former Minister of Education for Colombia, spearheading programs which improved educational quality by allowing private agents to operate public schools serving low-income students.

This series take our readers on a tour well beyond our borders by looking at adaptations of the public charter school model in the United Kingdom and Kurdistan. We begin our series with a contribution by Tony McAleavy, Education Director, CfBT Education Trust, U.K. followed by Carl Bistany, board member of SABIS® Holdings and President, SABIS® Educational Services s.a.l. and SABIS® Educational Systems, Inc.

As Manager of the new EdAdvance education resource (formerly EdInvest), it gives me great pleasure to highlight the global impact made by the public charter school model. To receive newsletters and bulletins about developments in the international education market, please write to: Our website will be operational shortly.


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UK Free Schools and Academies Draw on U.S. Public Charter School Model

NAPCS is pleased to launch a guest blog series which will feature contributions by leading international education experts. The goal of this series is to expose our readers to the challenges and successes of establishing charter schools in different parts of the world.

The USA is not the only country where charter type reforms are taking place. CfBT Education Trust—the non-profit organisation that I work for—is heavily involved in similar reforms in England. For over ten years, the government in England has been encouraging the establishment of ‘academies,’ which are public schools, but they are not controlled by the local education authority. I say ‘England’ and not ‘the UK’ because there is a degree of federalism in the UK, which means that England, Scotland and Wales have different education policy. Tony Blair was a great fan of academies. He encouraged them particularly in high poverty urban areas where some public schools had a long history of failing to deliver acceptable outcomes.

By 2010 there were 200 academies, and they were beginning to deliver better outcomes as measured by the national tests that English students do at age 16. They were nearly all ‘secondary schools’ for students aged 11-18. While the academies were making a difference, they still represented a small fraction of the public school system in England which has over 20,000 public schools. (Of course, I am using the term ‘public school’ in the American sense; as you may know, we English quirkily use ‘public schools’ as the phrase to describe our elite private schools!)

Everything changed in 2010. There was a change of national government. The Labour Party lost power and the new government was dominated by the Conservative party. Conservative politicians were great fans of the charter school movement and the Swedish ‘free schools.’ Prime Minister David Cameron and his education secretary Michael Gove set about a massive expansion of the academies programme. Gove has visited the States many times to find out about how charters work. Shortly after the 2010 election, the leading UK newspaper The Guardian ran story headlined: ‘Can Gove’s American dream work here?’ Michael Gove is particularly enthusiastic about the KIPP schools, and he often describes their impact on life chances in his public speeches.

Michael Gove has encouraged a massive expansion of the academies. Two years on, the number has gone from 200 to 2000. He has also introduced a new category of academy known as a ‘free school.’ Most of the Blair academies were ‘new start’ versions of failed existing schools. The free schools are different; they are brand new schools set up in response to parental pressure for change at local level. The first 24 free schools were opened in September 2011. A further 52 free schools opened in September 2012.

There is huge controversy around these changes. The teaching unions are very unhappy about the academies and free schools. Some of the free schools have a religious affiliation and in the press there is some criticism of this religious dimension. There is also a big debate about whether or not ‘for profit’ companies should be allowed to operate free schools and academies. At the moment they cannot. Only non-profit organisations can get involved but this might change.

Tony UK Blog





Image: Author Tony McAleavy, Education Director of CfBT Education Trust

Tony is CfBT’s Education Director, with corporate oversight of the educational impact of all our activities. Tony also has responsibility for corporate business development and advises the Trustees on CfBT’s public domain research programme. He has played a major part in the development of our international consultancy practice, and he has worked extensively on our growing portfolio of education reform projects in the Middle East. Prior to joining CfBT, Tony held senior school and local authority posts in England. He has published extensively on the subject of school history teaching and has an MA in Modern History from St John’s College, University of Oxford.