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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.

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).

Kim Kober


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5 reasons to support charters schools in 2014

Right now, members of Congress are deciding how to spend money for the upcoming fiscal year and we need to make sure they know that public charter schools are a priority. That’s why we’re asking you to contact your members of Congress, tell them that the federal Charter Schools program is important to you.  Need some motivation? Here are my top five reasons to support public charter schools in 2014:

  1. Growth. The federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) has helped open more than 90 percent of new charter schools in the past five years. There are now more than 2.5 million students attending nearly 6,500 schools.
  2.  Innovation. Public charter schools have the freedom to find new and creative solutions to meet the unique needs of the students in their communities. In Santa Ana, California that means students at El Sol Science and Arts Academy can learn easier through a dual language immersion curriculum. In Wichita, Kansas agriculture is incorporated into the curriculum at the Walton Rural Life Center.
  3.  Academic Performance. Fifteen out of 16 independent studies published since 2010, four national studies and 10 regional studies all found positive academic performance results for students in charter schools compared to their traditional school peers. Last year, CREDO released a study that found that a charter school education had a positive impact for many subgroups, including Black students, students in poverty, English Language Learners (ELL), and students in Special Education. For ELL Hispanic students, attending a charter school resulted in 50 additional days of learning in reading and 43 additional days of learning in math.
  4. Geographic Reach.The federal Charter Schools Program serves students in all educational settings–55 percent of the nation’s charters are in urban areas, 21 percent in suburban, and 16 percent in rural. Public charter schools serve a high percentage of students in a diverse array of cities including large cities such as New Orleans and Detroit as well as rural Hall County, Ga.
  5. Demand. Across the nation,public charter school waitlists approached one million names during the 2012-2013 school year. Families looking for options within the public school system are turning to public charter schools to find the best fit for their child’s education, but without additional funds charter schools are unable to meet parental demand.

Now it’s your turn–why do YOU support public charter schools?


Kim Kober is the coordinator for government relations and federal policy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 

Jed Wallace


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5,000+ Charter School Parents Rally in Los Angeles

On Feb. 4, charter school parents, students and teachers from more than 100 schools across Los Angeles rallied for “Schools We Can Believe In,” making this the biggest parent rally in LA history and possibly the biggest charter school rally ever anywhere in the country.

We showed the strength of the charter school movement, but more importantly, we showed the depth of our commitment to ensuring that all students have high-quality public schools in their communities. I was moved by the stories parents told of their own struggles to find a high-quality school in their neighborhoods and their incredible pride in their charter schools. As one our parent speakers said, “I want every family in LA to have what my family has – a great public school.”

We also heard from leaders like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Board President and Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Parents spoke out to demand fairness in funding and facilities for all public school students, including charter public schools and to have a voice in their child’s education.

But perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the “Schools we Can Believe In” Rally was to help our own movement recognize its potential. We were able to see what is within our potential to unleash and to recognize our own unique position to play a catalytic role that could greatly improve educational opportunity for all of California’s students.

We did a statewide poll earlier this year and it showed us that the biggest predictor of whether someone will support charter schools is that person’s direct or indirect experience with charter schools. We have to invite elected officials to visit our schools and to meet the amazing parents and students and teachers like those that rallied this past Saturday and hear their incredible stories.

On Feb. 29, we will rally again, this time in our state capitol in conjunction with our 19th annual Charter Schools Conference to push for funding equity for charter schools and the students they serve.

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A Big Choice in the Big Apple

I understand if America’s view of New York City politics might be somewhat jaded – given that yesterday’s Democratic primary election ballot included serial soft-porn tweeter Anthony Wiener and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (dubbed Client 9 in the hooker scandal that forced him from office).

Jaded or not, the results from last night’s Mayoral primaries will have a profound effect on one of the nation’s most robust public charter school environments. And voter decisions in the November general could dictate whether charters continue to grow in NYC or suffer a politically-inspired slowdown.

Republicans chose Joe Lhota as their mayoral candidate. He is a wonky, former deputy mayor to Republican Rudy Giuliani who was later named by Democratic Gov. Cuomo to run the city’s mass transit system.

On the Democratic side, the outcome is still uncertain. NYC Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio was the clear front-runner, but may have to face teacher union-backed former NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson in an October 1 run-off, if it turns out that DeBlasio did not receive 40% or more of the vote (he’s currently at 40.2%).

Whoever wins in November, the victor takes over for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who during his 12 years in office has been a Herculean champion of charter schools.

New York charter school law is the purview of the state government in Albany and the next mayor will need to play nice with state lawmakers if he wants to enact other parts of his agenda. But the mayor can still influence on one of the most important issues to charters in New York City: real estate..

Bloomberg made waves when he gave charters access to space in city schools. By removing real estate as an obstacle, charters were able to focus on curriculum, students and school culture – especially important because New York charter students receive several thousand dollars less per pupil than children in district schools.

Lhota likes charters. It’s safe to assume that if he’s elected, the Bloombergian charter support can be expected to continue. He’s said he’d push to double the number of charters in the city.

DeBlasio and Thompson have each supported policies that would harm city charter schools. Whether it’s essentially taxing charter schools by charging them rent to use city school buildings, like DeBlasio wants; or otherwise throwing sand in the gears of charter growth by halting new co-locations, like both men want, the stakes are high for charters in this election.

Even though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1, the outcome in this election is not predetermined. Twenty-one percent of voters are independent and the city hasn’t elected a Democratic mayor since 1989. You can be sure the families of the nearly 70,000 students in NYC charters this school year, and the additional 50,000 on charter school waiting lists will be watching.

Bill Phillips is president of the Northeast Charter Schools Network.

Nora Kern


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A Busy Month for School Choice and New Reports

Later this month, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and other organizations across the country will celebrateNational School Choice Week (SCW). Leading up to the event, several organizations are releasing analyses of policies impacting the growth and quality of public charter schools.

Last week, the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution released its Education Choice and Competition Index (ECCI) for 2013, which looks at more than 100 U.S. school districts and ranks the policies and practices that impact the quality of choices and level of competition created by school choice. Not surprisingly, nine of the top ten districts on the ECCI are also featured on our recently released top charter school communities report, showing the integral role public charter schools play in school choice.

Today Students First is releasing  its state policy report card. Public charter schools play a prominent role in the scores related to parent empowerment. In order to receive a high rating, states must:

  • Promote charter establishment & expansion. Several states received higher scores for not having a cap on charter school growth, having non-district authorizers, a fast track authorization process for proven charter operators, and a high bar for replication/expansion for all schools.
  • Establish accountability for charters. States were recognized for requiring a performance-based contract and clear protocols for closing low-performing charter schools. Authorizers are required to submit an annual report to an oversight body for each school they oversee, and are in turn required to undergo an annual review by an outside entity—and low-performing authorizers will be suspended or sanctioned.
  • Enable equitable access to facilities; and
  • Finance charter facilities.

Finally the National Alliance will be releasing our fifth annual model law ranking that scores each state’s charter school law based on 20 essential components, including measures of quality and accountability, equitable access to funding and facilities, and whether or not they cap charter school growth.

Follow @charteralliance for the latest in charter school news and breaking reports and keep an eye on @schoolchoicewk to receive even more information on the contributions charter schools are making toward providing every family with a quality public school option.

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

Pamela Davidson


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A Changing of the Guard

The announcement by U.S. Representative George Miller (D-CA) that he will retire at the end of the year means education reform advocates will lose a faithful friend on Capitol Hill. But his tireless efforts on federal education and workforce policies to improve the lives of children and families will leave an impression that will not soon be forgotten.

Representative Miller has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 40 years. He is the senior democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, serving as chairman from 2007-2010, where he championed education reform issues that have strengthened public schools. As one of the “big four,” he worked with (then) Chairman John Boehner (R-OH), Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) to enact the No Child Left Behind Act. He has advocated for high-standards for all students, especially the most disadvantaged, and fought to hold schools accountable for student achievement.

In 2011, Representative Miller teamed up with Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) to write H.R. 2218, the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act. H.R. 2218 updated the federal Charter Schools Program that provides critical start-up funds for new, replicating and expanding charter schools, as well as support for charter school facilities.

During House debate on the bill, Representative Miller stated: “Charter schools have been on the forefront of bold ideas and innovation in education. They have shown that, given the right tools, all students can achieve at high levels. We are learning from great charter schools about what works for students and what students need to be able to compete in the global economy. Replicating this success will help our students, our communities, and our economy.” H.R. 2218 was one of the only bipartisan education bills to pass the House with an overwhelming majority.

In 2013, Rep. Miller was recognized by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) as their “Elected Official of the Year” with the Hart Vision Award, which honors individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in education.

We thank Rep. Miller for his service to our nation.

Pam Davidson is senior director of government relations at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


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A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities (7th Edition)

Today we released the seventh edition of our annual market share report, A Growing Movement: America’s Largest School Communities. This year marks unprecedented nationwide growth for public charter schools. For the first time ever, 110 school districts have 10 percent of their students enrolled in public charter schools in the 2011-2012 academic year (96 in 2010-2011). A record 25 school districts have more than 20 percent of students enrolled in charter schools, and seven school districts enroll at least 30 percent of public school students in charter schools. Back in 2006, when we first released the report, there were six school districts with more than 20 percent and only one district with more than 30 percent of students enrolled in charter schools.

There wasn’t any movement in the top spots for market share and total charter enrollment: New Orleans remains number one with 76 percent of students enrolled in charter schools and Los Angeles keeps the top spot with nearly 100,000 students attending charter schools. Clark County rocketed to the top of the list of high growth with 64 percent more students attending charter schools in 2011-2012 than in the previous academic year.

The map below presents data from the three lists of school districts with the highest charter school market share, enrollment, and growth. The geographic display of the data shows that school districts with high concentrations of students enrolled in charter schools are more likely to be located in the Midwest and Northeast regions of the country (the green bubbles). In contrast, a large portion of the districts with high growth in the number of charter school students are located in the South and West regions (the orange bubbles). School districts with large numbers of students enrolled in charter schools are spread out across the nation (the blue bubbles).

Enrollment in charter schools is on the rise because they are demonstrating that success is possible even in neighborhoods where some schools have been failing for generations.

Click here for a higher resolution version of the map below.

small map for display

Nora Kern


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A Home and a Family at School: Daniel’s Story

NYOSDaniel Langford, a 12th grade student at NYOS Charter School in Austin, Texas tells us what he enjoyed about his high school experience–especially the many teachers who have influenced him–and how he feels prepared to achieve his future goals.

Q: What do you like about attending your school?

There’s so much! It was a big contrast from my old school. I got bullied in 4th grade, so my mom put me on the waitlist for NYOS. I got in in 5th grade.

One of the main things I’ve seen that is different at NYOS is because it is so small, you get to know your teachers better. Because of the small student teacher ratio, you can go to them whenever you need to—which really helps your academics. I would stay after school in physics and the teacher would work out problems with me.

Q: What is your school culture like?

I love the school…I almost don’t want to go to college and leave. This is my second home. No matter what your home situation is, [NYOS] is a home for you. NYOS is a family, and we all know each other. That is very powerful.

I can walk through the high school building, and I can turn to any person and they are there for me. Whatever it is, everyone is there for each other…We all respect each other. We can all graduate as friends.

Q: Who is your favorite teacher and why?

My freshman year, Mr. Thompson started band class. His personality and discipline is great for band. Our second band concert had so much energy. You can see that he really enjoys what he does, and students can see that. It’s obvious if you don’t enjoy teaching, and that impacts student learning.

Ms. Hill was one of the hardest English teachers I’ve ever had, but I learned so much. You aren’t babysat in college and she helped prepare me for that.

Mr. Pfaff had a quote, “never stop trying and never quit.” He’s an avid runner and I am too, so we connected through that. He chose to make a difference through teaching here.

Mr. Sinkar – I had him for physics, and I was so blessed to have him. We had great projects and he cares so much.

I had Mr. Perrmann for 11-12 grade band. He enjoys what he does. He’s really young, but that is nice because he can connect with the students. There’s a good mix of teacher experience levels here.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

I want to go to ACC (Austin Community College) and get the basics out of the way and figure out what I want to do…maybe music.

High school is an important time in your life because the choices you make mold you for later in life. If you’re stressed or make bad choices, your life could be different. Being at NYOS has prepared me for life. I’ll walk across the stage to get my diploma. There have been bumps and bruises along the way, but I’m standing. Enjoy life!

This story is part of an ongoing series in the month of June highlighting the success of charter school graduates and schools across the country. Click here to view the latest from #30DaysOfGrad.


Nora Kern is Senior Manager of Research and Analysis at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.