Charter Blog by Author


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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Finding the Right Fit

My mother has always expressed to me that she only wants “what’s best” for me, and this is where my charter school story begins. At 14, I had been attending the same public school for eight years, yet I was unfamiliar with most teachers and students. I often felt invisible, especially during the times where I needed help, and I never knew who to talk to. I didn’t feel comfortable expressing my needs. My mother knew there were better choices for me, places where I could thrive academically and socially.

We found that choice in Perspectives Charter School.

Attending Perspectives was the first time I had ever felt comfortable in school. It was smaller, there were students of many different ethnicities, and everyone took pride in wearing their uniforms. The teachers were dedicated – they seemed to care about my learning experience, made sure I stayed on track, and provided additional help whenever it was needed.

The school taught the importance of self-perception, relationships, and productivity, which gave me the tools to lead a productive and successful life. By senior year, I had participated in two business internships, excelled in my classwork and I was accepted to every college I applied to.

After college, I joined NACSA because I believe every child deserves to receive a quality education. I love working alongside colleagues who are also driven by this belief, and who believe in producing A-level work and setting high bars for everyone’s performance – including their own. It feels great to be part of a team working to ensure students like me will have access to choices that work for them. Choices like Perspectives.


Brittany Brown is the Communications Associate for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Her blog post originally appeared on the Chartering Quality blog.


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30 Days of Grad: Chris Rowan

chris_rowan_demprep_WebI shouldn’t be standing here today. The odds say I should be at district high school, and if I graduate from high school I would likely be going to a community college. But that is not MY story. My story really started when I emigrated to the United States from Cameroon and was enrolled in the 6th grade.

I was born in Yaounde, Cameroon and came here when I was 12 years old. I moved to New York not knowing a word of English. This made my first years in school a challenge and made standardized testing really difficult. I worked hard with the help of my mother and family to learn English. By the end of the 6th grade I was reading at a 5th grade level. The hope for a better future is what motivated me to become educated. The American Dream.

I was lucky enough to be selected to Democracy Prep through a lottery in the 9th Grade. On my first day, I remember sitting in a classroom called Columbia, confused about what a demerit was and its implications. I questioned the fact that I was not allowed to wear the nail polish color of my choice. I was disoriented about everything involving Democracy Prep and its immense number of rules. This school was so different from anything I was used to. But coupled with my confusion was amazement. What became obvious to me as I sat in Columbia on that hot August morning, four days before any other school in New York City had even started…. I realized something that has been proven again and again over the past four years: this school is a community that will help you, heal you, pick you up when you fall and celebrate your accomplishments. In this school a common trust exists between teachers and students. This bond is far stronger than the one that I had experienced at any of my other schools. I felt this bond with all of my teachers but especially my 9th grade math teacher Mr. Jones and 10th grade math teacher Mr. Lindquist, who is in the audience tonight. These teachers are among those who have helped me survive high school. They have been through my emotional trials… and there have been a few. They have been there when I needed them. And my experience, it’s not unique. You can ask any of my classmates and each one would have a story about a teacher who has changed their lives.

My classmates and I have also created a community. We have experienced our share of joy and of discord since we became the class of 2015 on that August morning, four years ago. One thing we can agree on is that we represent a unit of individuals that have been marginalized throughout American history. We symbolize a unit of individuals who have been victimized and villainized by many. We represent a unit of individuals who are not expected to succeed. We live in a society where the odds are stacked pretty high against us. But one thing’s for sure: Democracy Prep has never allowed that to be a barrier to our success. In fact it was created in order to help prevent that from ever being our reality. With the help and guidance of Democracy Prep we have achieved great things. We have traveled across the world to Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. With the help of Democracy Prep we have been accepted to some of the best schools in the country: University of Pennsylvania, Duke, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Williams and Wesleyan to name just a few… proving to the world that we are individuals capable of excellence. Those odds? We beat them. Those stereotypes? We destroyed them.

Graduation is not the end of my story. It isn’t over until I graduate from college four years from now. Frankly, it never ends. The mission of Democracy Prep is that we are prepared for success in the college of our choice and a lifetime of active citizenship. That’s what high expectations looks like.

In a few weeks this chapter of my story, the Democracy Prep Charter High School chapter, will be ending with me graduating as one of the highest achieving scholars in my grade. I can’t wait for the next chapter of my life to begin… in Hanover, New Hampshire where, in September, I will be a freshman at Dartmouth College!

Chris Rowan is a senior at Democracy Prep Charter High School. This post is adapted from a speech she delivered at Democracy Prep’s annual gala, which you can watch below or click here.

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: Chris is graduating from @DemocracyPrep and is headed to @dartmouth in the fall! Read her #30DaysOfGrad story here:

View more #30DaysOfGrad stories here.


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30 Days of Grad: Mario Arteaga

Mario Arteaga was born in McAllen, Texas, and has lived in the Rio Grande Valley his whole life. He is a graduate of IDEA Public Schools and was the President of the Student Council, member of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, and National Hispanic Honor Society, and Editor-in-Chief of the Yearbook. He is headed to Harvard University in the fall and plans to double major in American History and Biochemistry and then moving on to medical school. He hopes to one day become a surgeon and help save lives. When asked about what has contributed to success, Mario was quick to point out his teachers. “[They] have been a huge influence in my academic interests and have helped me discover new ideas and perspectives I never could have seen on my own,” he said. “Also, my family has been the moral support over the years and my friends have inspired me so much and always been my main source of motivation and self-improvement. It is really thanks to them that I am able to take this next step in my journey.”

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: Mario is an @IDEAschools grad & hopes to one day become a surgeon and save lives. Read his story here: #30DaysOfGrad

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Increase in Charter School Enrollment According to 2015 Condition of Education

According to the newly released 2015 Condition of Education from the National Center for Education Statistics, the education landscape is shifting. Caitlin Emma and her team at Politico write today that there is a steady growth in charter schools since 1999.

“Since the 1999-2000 school year, the number of charter schools has grown about 300 percent. There were about 6,100 charters in the 2012-13 school year, vs. about 1,500 in ‘99. Over the same time, the proportion of small charter schools has shrunk. Back then, the overwhelming majority of charters had fewer than 300 students; now, it’s only about half. About half of all charters used to be dominated by white students; that’s changed too: Now the student body at only about a third of charters is majority white. More than half of all charters are based in cities, and more than two-thirds are located in the South or West.”

For more data about the prevalence of charter schools, readers can check out our Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools & Students from February 2015 or a state-by-state analysis of the Health of the Charter School Movement from last fall. 


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30 Days of Grad: Laura Garcia

Laura GarciaLaura Garcia started as a fourth grader at Aspire. She found a school that encouraged students to dream big, think about college and start planning immediately. For Laura, it was a welcomed message. Since Laura’s first school day, her goal has been to be the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

“Unlike regular public schools, Aspire has pushed its students to be the best in whatever they do. It was not until my first school-wide town hall meeting – where we all chanted, ‘dream it; believe it; achieve it!’ – that I realized how fortunate I was to attend a school that infinitely believed in all their students,” said Laura.

It was people like Mr. Lomas, who teaches sixth-grade English, who really inspired Laura. Mr. Lomas would talk about his side gig of acting and his own dreams. After this introduction into the entertainment world, Laura has discovered his passion. This fall, Laura will be attending Cal State Northridge to study arts and entertainment management as well as theater.

“If I did not grow up attending Aspire Public Schools, I would not be the passionate, driven individual I am today,” said Laura.

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: This @aspire grad wanted to be 1st in her family to earn a college degree. Now she’s making it happen: #30DaysOfGrad

View more #30DaysOfGrad stories here.


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Be EPIC with REACTOR at the #NCSC15 Brand Impact Workshop

We’re thrilled to be returning to the National Charter Schools Conference to present our Brand Impact Workshop for the second year in a row. We had an awesome time last year working with attendees to evaluate current brands, share best practices and set goals to guide marketing efforts, and we’ve added some new content to this year’s workshop to keep things fresh and fun!

If communications is part of your job description, it may seem unmanageable to find time to plan, post, tweet, publish, produce and create quality content and materials. However, even though your school may not be primarily focused on branding and marketing, they are still critically important to building equity in the form of community support and goodwill. At REACTOR Design Studio, we believe in the power of being E.P.I.C., or Engaging People in Conversation. Your school is designed in a way that encourages all students to thrive, but without a solid brand and effective marketing that gets people talking, you may be fighting an uphill battle to communicate with stakeholders, find success in fundraising or fight stigmas in the community.

The Brand Impact Workshop is a unique opportunity because branding and marketing are traditionally underrepresented as subject areas at the National Charter Schools Conference, but they’re topics that every school needs, whether established or start-up, big or small, urban or rural. We’ll give you the tools to critically assess your current efforts and to bring your ideas to life through concrete goals and strategies. We loved leading last year’s Brand Impact Workshop, not only because we got a chance to share and problem solve with everyone, but also because we enjoyed seeing the connections being forged during peer-to-peer discussion and having authentic conversations about your communications challenges and dreams.

When we’re not hosting the Brand Impact Workshop, where can you find us at #NCSC15? Before the sessions start, we’ll be celebrating at the Welcome Reception Parade to kick off NCSC in fabulous NOLA style. While we want to spend most of our time at the conference hanging out with all of you, we’re also hoping to carve out a few hours to walk through the French Quarter, admire the incredible historic architecture and experience some delicious New Orleans cuisine (jambalaya, gumbo, po’ boys and, of course, beignets… YUM)!

We were honored to receive the #1 workshop rating out of all of the sessions last year, and we hope to see you in our session this year! It’s going to be EPIC!

See you in NOLA!

The REACTOR team (Clifton, Chase, Emily & Julie)


Note: The brand impact workshop covers branding, marketing and PR/buzz, but if there’s something in particular that you want to learn about in the session, let us know and we’ll do our best to incorporate it! You can email us at, message us on Facebook or send us a tweet @reactorkc.


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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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30 Days of Grad: Kensington Woods Schools

Kensington Woods Schools honored 21 graduates during their commencement ceremony this year. Students were honored for their academic achievements during the ceremony as well as their demonstration of character and service throughout high school. Students also received a variety of scholarships to support their future college endeavors, totaling over $175,000. Kensington Woods High School proudly has a 100% college placement rate for all graduates and the Class of 2015 is no exception.

In her Salutatorian speech, Abigail Gamache recognized the impact Kensington Woods had on her and her peers and encouraged her peers to find happiness in their lives by being themselves. “We couldn’t have made it here to this moment right now if it wasn’t for Kensington Woods. This school is more than just your average high school. The teachers, staff, and students form a small-knit community, in which everyone strives to achieve success in every way possible.”

This post was adapted from an article in the Livingston Post. Read more about Kensington Woods Schools in the article here.

Kensington Woods Schools

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: .@KWoodsSchool is proudly celebrating 100% college placement rate for all 2015 graduates: #30DaysOfGrad

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Operationalizing Systems to Build Better Boards

One of my favorite events of the year is the National Charter Schools Conference. Where and when else do thousands of charter school community members from across the country come together to learn, collaborate, and celebrate? This year’s conference will be especially awesome because it will be in New Orleans—a resilient and innovative city that epitomizes culture, music, and culinary genius. To accentuate the liveliness of the city, NCSC 2015 will kick off with a Mardi Gras welcome reception parade!

As a program committee member, I had the tough role of helping to shape the conference content. This was a challenging process and highly competitive, but the results include an excellent collection of sessions that will elevate the discourse about charter school governance. While the entire Governance line-up will offer thought-provoking and relevant information, I’m specifically thrilled for two sessions that I know I will attend.

In Paradise by the Dashboard Lights: How to Build and Use Academic Dashboards, Simmons Lettre and Carrie Irvin from Charter Board Partners and Susannah Staats from KIPP Foundation will share their unique insights on how to create academic dashboards and monitor progress from a high level. Board members and school leaders will use sample academic dashboards and role-playing to learn how boards can use dashboards effectively without stepping on school leaders’ toes.

In Beyond the Revolving Door: Institutionalizing Board Mindset, Jennifer Dauzvardis from Peak to Peak Charter School is going to make the case for why boards must create systems to manage knowledge over time. She realizes that maintaining quality governance requires institutionalized systems for developing board members, implementing effective governance practices, and interpreting board-level data. Participants in this session will explore strategies and identify solutions to promote appropriate board engagement and processes for board decision-making.

We are each on a journey towards continuous improvement. Just like the students we serve, we should invest in our development through learning opportunities such as NCSC 2015. I’m excited to see you in the Crescent City from June 21-24!


Makiyah Moody is the Governance Initiatives Director, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and Co-Chair of the 2015 National Charter Schools Conference Program Committee