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30 Days of Grad: Pedro Viera

When Pedro began in 6th grade, he remembers wanting to quit. “I didn’t really want to go because it was strict and I had to get up early and ride the bus across town. But my mom and Mr. Gilbert really motivated me to stay.”

Pedro was, in many ways, a very typical middle school student. He got caught up in the wrong crowd of kids and found himself getting into trouble…a lot. What is less typical is that Pedro was able to push himself forward and turn things around.

He points to many teachers he built strong relationships with that helped him along the way. Sean De Luna, his 9th grade social studies teacher, stands out to him as the one who introduced him to social justice and taught him that anyone can make it, no matter his or her race or background. Jonathan Tomick and Sarah Hampson, two of his high school English teachers, also gave him a large amount of support.

“Mr. Tomick was a very positive guy. He saw things in a very different perspective and a lot of things he said really impacted me. And Ms. Hampson just always kept pushing me and supporting me. I wish everyone had a chance to have someone like her in their life.”

“I would tell other students to build relationships with their teachers. That makes a big difference. When you need help, they’re there for you and they have a lot of opportunities for you.”

Pedro will be attending Houston Community College to complete some basic coursework and plans on becoming an electrician or a welder. But long term, he wants to transfer to a four-year college and possibly become a teacher. “It would be great to have the opportunity to work at YES Prep,” he added.

“I want to show people I can do it. People talk a lot and I want to prove them wrong. I want to show the community that anyone can do it, that I can do it. I just don’t want to stop here. I want to keep pushing forward.”

Pedro Viera graduated from YES Prep East End, part of the YES Prep charter school system based in Houston, TX, that serves about 10,000 students across 15 campuses in grade 6-12.

Pedro Viera

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30 Days of Grad: Rafael Devora

Rafael Devora received his diploma from Premier High School in May and is headed to Cisco College beginning in the fall with intentions of becoming a registered nurse. It’s a career path rooted in family history, but also in a desire to be a helping hand.

“Most of my family is in nursing and I just like to help people,” Rafael said. “It’s always been a little passion of mine, being helpful to others when they need it the most.”

When he has needed help the most, he’s been able to rely on his family for support and guidance. Whether it is his mother and his three brothers, or his grandparents, he said he’s been able to lean on family.

His family isn’t the only source of strength he has, though. There’s also Premier’s teaching staff.

“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “It starts with the teachers. They’re really kind and nice. When I’ve needed help with things, I would be able to go to the teacher and have conversations and receive as much one-on-one time as I’ve needed. I know that’s not the case in some other high schools. They can’t really focus on the one-on-one. At Premier, they give the students that attention.”

This post was adapted from an article in the Abilene Reporter-News by Timothy Chipp. Read more about Rafael’s story in the article here.

Rafael Devora | Photo credit: Nellie Doneva / Abilene Reporter-News

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30 Days of Grad: Ria Cheruvu

Ria Cheruvu lives a normal life like many of her neighborhood friends and classmates at Arizona Connections Academy. The 11-year-old enjoys playing golf, piano, writing poetry, discussing books, taking field trips and just hanging out with her friends.

However, while most of her friends are preparing for the upcoming rigors of junior high, Ria is getting ready for an experience that will drastically differ from seventh or eighth grade. Ria is set to graduate… from high school.

The next stop for this gifted student is Arizona State University in the fall where she will mingle with college students nearly double her age.

Unlike most college freshmen that are unsure about a major, Chevuru knows exactly what she wants to study: neural cryptography, a study of neuroscience, which involves the study of the brain and mind cryptography, which is coding.

Read more about Ria on the Arizona Charter Schools Association blog here.

Ria Cheruvu - Arizona Connections Academy

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30 Days of Grad: Urban Prep Academy

For the sixth consecutive year, 100% of the seniors from Urban Prep‘s Englewood, West, and Bronzeville campuses have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities.

Students from all three campuses, faculty, parents and other special guests, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, celebrated the momentous occasion with an assembly on Thursday, May 14, 2015. Seniors from the class of 2015 have been accepted to over 180 colleges and universities, and have amassed over $11 million in scholarships and grants; including 6 Gates Millennium Scholarships, 5 Posse Scholarships and 7 Greenhouse Scholarships among others awarded.

Urban Prep Academies

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30 Days of Grad: Walatowa Charter High School

Walatowa Charter High School boasts a graduation rate of 91 percent, compared to a national average graduation rate of about 50 percent for Native American students. The school’s principal, Arrow Wilkinson, calls Walatowa “the little school that could.” Students enjoy the school’s small community, which teaches Native values, culture, and the Pueblo’s traditional language.

Senior Dominique Chavez, who graduated in May, said Walatowa is the reason she earned her high school diploma, as well as 32 college credits. School hadn’t been working for her when she attended classes in both the Jemez Valley and Bernalillo school districts. At one point during those years, she was suspended for more than 100 days. “I was never at school. I was at home,” she said.”

Thanks to the efforts of Walatowa’s leaders and educators, she said, she is heading to the University of New Mexico to study nursing this August.

This post was adapted from an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican by Robert Nott. Read more about Walatowa Charter High School in the article here.

Walatowa Charter High School
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Nina Rees


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5 Reasons To Be Optimistic About Education

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

Though it’s easy to get lost in the myriad of negative stories and feuds swirling around American education, as we approach Thanksgiving I’d like to pause and reflect on all the positive trends impacting our education system and students. Here are my top 5 reasons for being optimistic…Read more here.

Kim McCabe


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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. 
Andrew Schantz


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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to celebrating with you next week!


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

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. IMG_8550 (2)-cropped-proto-custom_6


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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.