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Nina Rees


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‘Brown’ at 60: Time to Fulfill the Promise

(Originally published by U.S. News & World Report)

Just as the nation marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which officially barred segregation in public schools, we have new evidence that schools are failing to give all students the best start in life.

Results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as “the nation’s report card,” show that the performance of high school seniors in reading and math has stagnated in recent years. Only 37 percent of seniors are reading at grade level and only 26 percent of seniors are doing math at grade level. Even worse, the achievement gap between white and black students in reading has widened since 1992. In math, there’s been no improvement.

The stark reality is that despite two decades of education reform efforts, high school students on the whole aren’t registering better results. The effects are potentially catastrophic…read more here.


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“A Decade of Results: Charter School Loan and Operating Performance,” Lending to Charter Schools Pays Off

A Decade of Results: Charter School Loan and Operating Performance is an industry-wide study of 430 charter school loans, both outstanding and paid off, from 2000-2009.  The study, conducted by Ernst & Young LLP and funded by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, examined loans that totaled $1.2 billion and were made by 15 lenders to 336 schools.  The lenders are mostly community development financial institutions (CDFIs) , which are non-profit organizations that provide financing for charter school facilities as part of community development or charter support missions. (In fact, three CDFIs — the Low Income Investment Fund, The Raza Development Fund and The Reinvestment Fund — commissioned the study). The finding that charter schools are good borrowers did not surprise those of us who are closely involved with charter schools.  This study, the first and only industry-wide research of charter school loans, is important because it proves that a vast majority of charter school operators manage their finances well and are responsible borrowers despite their relatively small enrollments, limited operating history and limited financial resources.  To date, only a handful of lenders and bond investors are invested in charter schools due to the perceived credit risks and newness of the sector.  We hope that this research serves as a tool to improve other parties’ understanding of the sector.  Private capital investments by banks and investors are critical in the growth of charter schools. Some of the key findings of the report are: •  Five loans totaling $12 million (or 1 percent) of the total loan amount made during the period ended in foreclosure; •   Approximately $2 million (or 1 percent) of the foreclosed loans, net of recoveries, were written off as of June 30, 2009 (this figure excludes potential subsequent write-offs of foreclosed properties still held by lenders) •   3.6 percent of outstanding loans had been delinquent at some point over the 10-year study period for at least 60 days; •   Strong academic performance is associated with better loan performance; and •   In determining loan performance, occupancy costs seem to matter more to lenders than per pupil revenue, a message that controlling costs is important. Sometimes, it is hard to separate noise from facts.  When it comes to capital financing, existing and potential lenders and investors, and other charter schools stakeholders, now have this report, which showed that the majority of loans made to charter schools over a ten year period yielded positive results, as a resource when making their decisions.


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“Challenge Index” High School Rankings Show Charter Schools as a Growing Force

The Washington Post recently released its annual Challenge Index rankings, and public charter schools hold 36 places among the top 100 schools ranked—an all-time high. This year’s Challenge Index results show that charter schools are quickly becoming a strong force in high-quality education. Charter schools make up half of the top ten places, including #1, BASIS Oro Valley (Oro Valley, AZ); #2, BASIS Chandler (Chandler, AZ); #5, Accelerated Elementary and Secondary (Tucson, AZ); #6, BASIS Tucson North (Tucson, AZ); and #10, Signature (Evansville, IN).

Public charter schools have consistently grown among the top 100 high schools of the Challenge Index. Over the past four years, charter schools have consisted of:

  • 2014-2015: 36 of the top 100
  • 2013-2014: 31 of the top 100
  • 2012-2013: 28 of the top 100
  • 2011-2012: 25 of the top 100

Although charter high schools only make up about six percent of the nation’s public high schools, charter high schools account for more than one-third of the top 100 Challenge Index rankings proving their ability to provide a recognizable and rigorous academic experience for their students.

The Challenge Index is calculated by dividing the number of college-level tests of the previous year (2014-2015) by the number of graduates in the same year. The Index also mentions the percentage of students who qualify for subsidized lunch and the percentage of high school graduates that passed at least one college-level test during the course of their high school career. Washington Post Education Columnist Jay Matthews further explains the details of the Challenge Index. To find out more, read here.

Washington Post Challenge Index charter schools


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“Cooperation Makes it Happen” for District and Charter Public Schools

Cooperation seems to be this week’s theme in the charter sector, with two major deadlines! First, the Department of Education’s Collaboration Awards competition (CFDA 84.282P) is coming to an end this week. The purpose of this competition is to encourage high quality public charter schools to partner with non-chartered public schools and non-chartered LEAs to share and transfer best educational and operation practices, and to disseminate information about such practices. The deadline for applications is August 29th, so you should be making sure your account is up and running TODAY! Have any last minute questions?Ask me! Are you curious about how you can effectively partner with the traditional public schools in your community, and can’t wait for the best practices dissemination phase of the Collaboration Awards? Check out the National Best Cooperative Practices between Charter and Traditional Public Schools Conference (NBCP). The early-bird registration ends August 31st. And be sure to check out the directory of participants and practices too! conf-logo
Andrew Schantz


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The season of thanksgiving is upon us, so it’s the perfect time to be thankful for charter schools. Here are six reasons why we’re especially grateful for charter schools at the National Alliance:

Charter school leaders aim to hire talented, passionate, and qualified teachers who will boost student achievement and contribute to a thriving school culture. Charter schools also have the freedom to ensure that the teachers they hire are not only qualified, but produce results for students and families. Furthermore, the public charter school model gives teachers the flexibility to use their talents and abilities to design programs that work better for the students they serve, while being accountable for student achievement.

Interested in contributing your talents to the charter school community? Check out the charter school job board here.

In exchange for greater flexibility, charter schools are held to high standards and are accountable to the public. Charter schools introduce an unprecedented level of accountability in public education. They are uniquely accountable to the public because they sign contracts with a government-endorsed authorizer explaining how the schools will operate and the results they will achieve. If they don’t produce these results, their authorizer has the power to work to immediately fix these schools. Conversely, traditional public schools can fail for years – even generations – and never be closed down for bad performance.

Charter school students are excelling academically. Between 2010 and 2013, 15 of 16 independent studies found that students attending charter schools do better academically than their traditional school peers. For example, the 2013 Stanford CREDO national study found that overall, students in public charter schools are outperforming their traditional public school peers in reading, adding an average of seven additional days of learning per year.

Charter school students are also achieving remarkable results on a global level. Read our latest report to learn about how charter schools are preparing their students to be competitive with students across the world.

This year, 21 charter schools were among the 287 public schools throughout the nation named 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Read more about this award and the charter schools honored this year.

Despite public charter schools making up only 6% of public high schools nationwide, they have been a continuous presence on national ranking lists. See how charter schools stacked up on four major lists.

Want to see what the future of learning looks like? Look no further than public charter schools. At their inception, charter schools were designed to be laboratories for innovation in education, and that spirit is alive and well today. Charter schools are using their autonomy to push boundaries to better serve students, creating lessons that can be refined and shared throughout the public school system. Furthermore, the charter school model is an innovation in itself. Time and time again, charter schools are proving that a governance structure that provides autonomy from politics and bureaucracy can yield outstanding results for students.

Learn more about what next generation learning looks like in a recent report published by the National Alliance and Public Impact.

Charter schools are arming students with knowledge for success in college, career, and beyond. And that all starts with a high school diploma. YES Prep Public Schools in Houston and Memphis, Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies, and Aspire Public Schools in California are just a few examples of charter schools that pride themselves on 100 percent high school graduation. The success that students experience while attending a charter school also travels with them through college. Nationally, only 12 percent of low-income high school graduates go on to earn a four-year college degree. But charter schools like Boston-based Match Education, serving primarily low-income and minority students, has a college completion rate of nearly 4.5 times higher. Read more of these stories here.

A study by Mathematica Policy Research found that public charter schools in Florida and Chicago are helping more students get into college and earn higher incomes once they graduate. Read it here.

Charter schools are public schools, which means their doors are open to all students. According to federal law, they must accept all students, including students with disabilities and English Learners, regardless of previous academic performance. In fact, charter schools enroll more students of color and from low-income backgrounds than traditional public schools.

Kids dream big in small towns too. Watch our video about how charter schools are creating high-quality learning opportunities for students in rural America.

Learn more about how charter schools serve all students through our Truth About Charters campaign.


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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20 Years of Innovation towards Eliminating the Achievement Gap

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. We asked some of these individuals to tell us why they are a part of the charter schools movement. While college and graduate student loan debt and interest rates have made headlines recently (and with good reason), we should not forget that many of the children in this country do not reach college because of the shortcomings of our national public education system. Indeed, the most important civil rights issue challenging our country today is the equal right to and the availability of a high quality k-12 education for all children, regardless of their ethnic background or socio-economic status. As we approach the end of the school year and reflect on public education in the United States, this week, we celebrate National Charter Schools Week, and the upcoming 20th anniversary of the first public  charter school (founded in Minnesota in 1992). The development of public charter schools in the early 1990s was rooted in a quest to, provide parents with a variety of public school options, free schools from bureaucracies and bring accountability to a long-ailing system of education. 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.” My mother passed away this February, however Jumoke continues to represent all that she thought public school education can be for urban children. Our students consistently score on the list of top ten performing urban schools in Connecticut, according to an independent report by ConnCan. Our academic results clearly demonstrate that an urban school with a 100 percent minority population can not only close the achievement gap, it can also equal and often outperform more affluent communities. Jumoke is just one of the more than 5,000 public charter schools seeking to change the outcomes of the over two million students they serve across the country. In low-income, urban communities, public charter schools are targeting those most in need and working to raise the bar on public education through innovation, choice and parental empowerment. In Detroit, the high school graduation rate for charter schools was 80 percent, compared to 60 percent from traditional public schools. In Los Angeles, charter schools outperformed the Los Angeles Unified School District traditional public schools, on average, across all grade levels on the Academic Performance Index in the 2010-11 school year. In Washington, D.C., charter schools have a 21 percent higher graduation rate than Washington DC Public Schools. Studies out of charter-rich states like Arizona and California show that public charter schools are producing innovations that are being adopted by traditional schools districts. And in some districts, increased student achievement in neighboring traditional public schools suggests charter competition is raising the bar for all schools. Despite the success that the charter movement has seen, there is still considerable inequity between charter and traditional public schools when it comes to per student state and federal appropriations. Charters are, on average, receiving less money per-pupil than the corresponding public schools in their areas. Additionally, there are still nine states that lack charter school laws, leaving families in those states without adequate public education alternatives for their children. Let us seize National Charter School Week as an opportunity to celebrate the efforts of lifelong civil rights and education reform advocates like my mother, reflect on the successes and lessons learned from the charter school movement, expose the still present, still painful, inequalities in our public education system, and continue to strive for something better for America’s children. NCSW Blog Michael Sharpe           Author: Michael Sharpe is the Chief Executive Officer of Jumoke Academy in Hartford, CT. He is the president of the Connecticut Charter School Association, board member of the National Charter School Leadership Council, and founding member of the Legacy Project and Family Urban Schools of Excellence, (F.U.S.E).
Nora Kern


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21 Public Charter Schools Recognized as 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, as described by the U.S. Department of Education, “recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.” This year, the 21 charter schools were among the 287 public schools throughout the nation named 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

In order to be eligible for the National Blue Ribbon award, the school must have made Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) or Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for three consecutive years, including the year the school is nominated. Additionally, one-third of all the nominated schools in a state must serve at least 40 percent of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This year there are nine more public charter schools that earned the National Blue Ribbon School—up from twelve charter school award winners in 2013. Congratulations to the 2014 National Blue Ribbon public charter schools for their outstanding educational programs and accomplishments!

Charter School State
Mesquite Elementary School Arizona
Reid Traditional Schools’ Valley Academy Arizona
Bullis Purissima Charter School California
KIPP Summit Academy California
Academy of Dover Charter School Delaware
Crossroad Academy Florida
Doral Performing Arts & Entertainment Academy Florida
Mater Gardens Academy Florida
Terrace Community Middle School Florida
Elite Scholars Academy Charter School Georgia
Lake Oconee Academy Georgia
Signature School Indiana
Pace Charter School of Hamilton New Jersey
Genesee Community Charter School New York
South Bronx Classical Charter School New York
Raleigh Charter High School North Carolina
Columbus Preparatory Academy Ohio
Franklin Towne Charter High School Pennsylvania
Houston Academy for International Studies Texas
KIPP Houston High School Texas
KIPP Sharp College Prep Texas

Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


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30 Days of Grad: 21st Century Charter School

Joseph Harris stood in his cap and gown Saturday afternoon and hugged his father as tears streamed down both of their cheeks.

“I’m going to the Army June 23,” Harris said. “I’m not going to have much time with anyone before then.”

Harris was among the 30 graduates of 21st Century Charter School in Gary. His father, Jean Harris, said the teen held down two jobs while earning his diploma. “It was a rough journey,” mother Joyce Harris said. “We stayed on him to make sure he got his education.”

Many graduates spoke of 21st Century Charter School as a family. “Today is a day of family because the way I see it, my class is family,” graduate Anthony Benion said. “We fought… but we love each other. [Our relationships] are forever and I’m happy to call each of them my family.”

This post was adapted from an article by The Times. Read more about Century Charter School in the article here.

Lauren Roberge

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30 Days of Grad: Angel Onofre

Angel Onofre was ready to ditch school. Depression and a conversation with his parents, who live in Mexico, left him feeling unmotivated to continue with school. But when he went in to tell the principal of El Colegio Charter School that he was dropping out, just one semester short of graduation, she wouldn’t allow him to do it.

On June 5, he and 15 other seniors received their diplomas, after years of struggling in other schools. Norma Garces, the principal, said many of her students, including the seniors, have parents who were deported, or fear deportation for their relatives. They suffer from depression. They have failed in a normal school setting. But her school offers them a second chance.

El Colegio Charter School is a small public high school in Minneapolis that has been serving students in English and Spanish since 2000. They pride themselves on offering learning experiences that integrate teaching with Latino culture and traditions. El Colegio provides a supportive and personalized environment for students so they are individually supported to meet the challenges of high school and beyond.

This post was adapted from an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Read more about El Colegio and Angel’s story in the article here.

Angel Onofre - El Colegio

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: Angel’s principal wouldn’t give up on him when he was ready to drop out. Now he’s earned his diploma: #30DaysOfGrad

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