Charter Blog by Title

 

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Blog Series: It Takes…

What does it take to prepare students for college, get them accepted, and make sure they are successful once there? It takes great teachers. For the past four years, 100 percent of Aspire Public Schools’ graduating seniors have been accepted to college. Now in its 15th year, with schools in California and Tennessee, Aspire has become one of the highest-performing school networks nationally serving predominantly low-income students. “We believe high-quality teachers are the number one lever for preparing students for college,” said James Willcox, Aspire Public Schools CEO. “We are committed to developing and supporting highly effectiveteachers in every classroom.” Since 2009, to deliver on its College for Certain mission, Aspire has collaborated with teachers to develop a nationally- recognized teacher assessment and professional development model. Based on individualized observations, educators are able to access customized tools and resources – which are constantly being updated – as well as work with mentors and peers to drive student learning and college readiness. What does it take to prepare students for college, get them accepted, and make sure they are successful once there? It takes a belief that all students can achieve. “We believe,” says Tim King, founder and CEO of Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies, describing simply and poignantly how for four years in a row, 100 percent of graduating seniors in these charter schools have been admitted into four-year colleges or universities. But they haven’t just been admitted, Urban Prep students have raked in more than six million in scholarships and grants this past year. Urban Prep points to its positive, mutually accountable school culture as core to its success. Every morning students recite the creed “We believe in ourselves. We believe in each other. We are college bound.” And they are. All of them. Powerful, considering the national high school drop-out rate for African-American males remains just above 50 percent. Urban Prep Academies is a network of all-boys public schools, including the country’s first charter high school for boys. Urban Prep’s mission is to provide a high-quality and comprehensive college-preparatory educational experience to young men that results in its graduates succeeding in college. The schools are a direct response to the urgent need to reverse abysmal graduation and college completion rates among boys in urban centers. While most of Urban Prep students come to the schools from economically disadvantaged households and behind in many subject areas, Urban Prep remains committed to preparing all of its students for college and life. What does it take to prepare students for college, get them accepted, and make sure they are successful once there? It takes preparing students emotionally. This fall, every single one of Prescott, Arizona’s Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy’s graduating seniors walked onto a college campus. “[We] work with all students beginning in ninth grade to maintain the expectation of college acceptance,” said the charter school’s director, Geneva Saint Amour. The school model focuses on rigorous academics combined with citizenship and character. “You would think that school is a place where students sit for seven hours a day in their own bubble and occasionally interact with others on a surface level,” said Hans, a former student. “That is what I expected, but Northpoint changed that. From being drenched from rain in the middle of the woods in a failing tent, to all coming to the realization that this would be our last year together in the deep canyons of the Colorado river, [this] has changed me as a person. It has changed me socially, morally and emotionally.” What does it take to prepare students for college, get them accepted, and make sure they are successful once there? It takes a challenging curriculum. One hundred percent of Indianapolis’ Charles A. Tindley students have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities. More importantly, though, says Chancellor Marcus Robinson, they arrive on campus having fully experienced college rigor. “At Tindley we don’t just believe in college preparation, we practice college immersion,” said Robinson. Each Tindley student must complete an array of college courses – English, History, Philosophy, and Calculus – before they can obtain their high school diplomas. “We articulate our entire curriculum,” says Robinson, “all of our instructional supports, and our creative energies to this single outcome for all of our students.” Over 80 percent of Tindley alums have graduated college or are pursuing a bachelor’s degree. What does it take to prepare students for college, get them accepted, and make sure they are successful once there? It takes a strong work ethic. Nationally, only 12 percent of low-income high school graduates go on to earn a four-year college degree. Boston-based Match Education, which serves primarily low-income and minority students, has a college completion rate that is 4.5 times higher. Fifty-four percent of Match charter graduates graduate from a four-year college. “We have always organized our work around the twin goals of academic readiness and work ethic in our students,” said Match CEO Stig Leschly. Ninety percent of Match students take at least one AP course, as well as a college course at Boston University, before graduating from high school. It’s an academic challenge that also teaches students to keep trying when faced with difficult problems, and then see how that hard work pays off. “Getting students to pass AP exams and produce college-level work has prepared our students for the rigor and expectations of college,” said Leschly. To have this kind of success, students first need to believe in themselves. One way Match builds that confidence is by developing relationships through two hours of daily tutoring. Is two hours significant? It adds up to 15 days of individual support and learning for every Match student each school year. The practice has been so successful in raising math and English proficiency that traditional school districts, like Chicago Public Schools, are now partnering with Match to borrow its tutoring program. What does it take to prepare students for college, get them accepted, and make sure they are successful once there? It takes a vision. A gong sounds in the hallways of YES Prep Public Schools every time a senior gets a college acceptance letter. For 15 years in a row, it has sounded as many times as there are seniors. That’s because 100 percent of YES Prep seniors have graduated from high school and been accepted to four-year colleges and universities. The vast majority of students in these charter schools, now in Houston and Memphis, Tenn., are from low-income families. Almost all are the first in their families to go to college. That’s why YES offers a college readiness course every year of high school that covers everything from SAT prep to understanding the financial aid process to writing college application essays. Students take annual college tours beginning in sixth grade. All seniors are required to apply to at least eight four-year colleges by mid-November. YES leaders even convinced 24 colleges to commit to giving special consideration to qualified YES students and meet 100 percent of their documented financial needs. YES maintains a scholarship fund for alumni, sends care packages to freshmen and many college campuses with a large number of YES graduates also have alumni designated to support their peers. More than 30 alumni have even returned to teach for their alma mater. No wonder the waiting list to get into these outstanding charter schools is more than 7,000 names long. What does it take to prepare students for college, get them accepted, and make sure they are successful once there? It takes a team! For the last three years, every single one of Dallas’ Uplift Education charter school graduates has felt the relief and excitement that comes from opening an envelope from a college and learning they had been accepted. “When everyone is working together to help scholars prepare for college, the scholars will rise to their potential,” says Yasmin Bhatia, Uplfit Education’s CEO. “Our teachers believe all children can learn and all children can go to college. They work every day to help scholars grow academically and prepare.” It also takes a focused group of college counselors. Uplift’s “Road to College” team takes its scholars on college field trips, helps them with college applications, makes sure parents understand all their financial options, and even provides graduates with support while they are in college.

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Bridging Differences, Fudging Facts

Diane Ravitch has finally hit bottom in her bout with OCD (Obsessive Charter Disorder).  In her current Education Week blog she grumps at “Waiting for Superman” for failing to feature successful public (sic) schools and schoolteachers, and then responds by listing six bad things she’s learned recently about charter schools. Her argument is basically that of Pee-Wee Herman: “I know you are, but what am I?” I can no longer tell whether Ravitch’s distortions are willful or whether she’s just too busy Tweeting to check facts. She trots out news about Inner City Education Foundation being rescued by major donors, not mentioning the schools’ superior academic performance, or the abysmal charter funding in California (see Eduwonk on that).  She gloats that a Los Angeles charter operator was accused of embezzling more than $1 million in school funds, without noting that Ray Cortines, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), is taking steps to shut down the school (or, ahem, mentioning the $578 million LAUSD just spent on RFK High School). She writes that  the New York State Charter Schools Association “sued to block any public audits” of charters, when their suit actually contended (and the Court agreed) that the State Comptroller’s Office lacked jurisdiction to audit charters. However, they also argued that the Board of Regents and charter authorizers do have authority to conduct financial and program audits — which they do conduct, and vigorously. (More on NYCSA’a rationale here.) And she positively lights up at the news that Ross Global Academy in New York is in “a heap of trouble.” With 100 NYC charters generally doing terrific work, why single this one out? Because it was founded by a wealthy person, and we know what DR thinks of “the Billionaires Boys Club” and the Hedge Fund Mob, and anyone else who’s made a few bucks. File under “Schadenfreude.” And then the finale: “Those promoting the privatization of American public education are blinded by free-market ideology. They refuse to pay attention to evidence, whether it be research or the accumulating anecdotal evidence of misbehavior, incompetence, fraud, greed, and chicanery that the free market facilitates.”  So…the thousands of charter parents and teachers are really just stooges of the Robber Barons? Puh-leeeze. BTW –Make sure to check out the comments after the blog. “Bridging Differences” usually draws a flock of fawning admirers; this time it also includes some folks who, in the most thoughtful and temperate language, rake Ravitch over the coals for the her reductionist and ill-grounded tirade.
Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Bringing Charter Schools to Kentucky: New Poll Shows Strong Voter Support

This month, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released results from a poll that surveyed 501 registered voters in the state of Kentucky. The results show that 71 percent of Kentucky voters—–nearly three-quarters—support creating public charter schools, with support crossing party lines and regions of the state. These findings are similar to the results of a June 2013 poll by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which found that 82% of African American families support public charter schools as reform vehicles. The National Alliance poll also found that 82 percent of voters support providing Kentucky parents with more public school options when choosing a school for their child. In the Louisville area, support for more choices rises to 89 percent. And, a majority of voters believe that more options will improve the public school system. Kentucky is one of only eight states in the country without a law allowing public charter schools. A bill to create public charter schools has been considered by the Kentucky Legislature the past four sessions. It passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the House. The National Alliance is working with a growing coalition of local and national partners such as the Kentucky Charter Schools Association (KCSA), Kentucky Youth Advocates, Teach for America Kentucky, the Youth Justice Center, and legislators, parents, pastors, educators, and community activists to educate policymakers and the public about charter schools.  With our coalition partners, we will be bringing forth a charter school bill in the 2014 legislative session that reflects local community needs and best-in-class charter school policies from around the country. 2014 is the year to finally bring a law allowing public charter schools to Kentucky. As the new poll results make clear, that’s what voters in the state want. Lisa Grover is senior director for state advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Broad Foundation Announces New Annual “Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools”

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation just announced an annual $250,000 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools which will be awarded starting in 2012. The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools will mirror The Broad Prize for Urban Education that is awarded to traditional school districts. The prize will be awarded to the public charter school management organization that demonstrates the most outstanding overall student performance and improvement among the country’s largest urban charter management organizations in recent years while reducing achievement gaps among poor and minority students. Check out the Broad Prize webpage for more information about eligible CMOs and the review board. And for one last tidbit: the inaugural Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools will be announced at our 2012 National Charter Schools Conference in Minneapolis, MN!

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

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. CASLA Image               Image via CASLA website
Jed Wallace

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

California Charter School Growth Ushers in New Public Education Era

This is a historic time for charter schools in California.  Despite tough economic times, charter supporters continue to turn their commitment into opportunities for thousands of students and families seeking more options in public education. This school year, 115 new charter schools opened, marking the most significant growth since California approved its charter school Law in 1992.  This unparalleled growth pushed the state’s total number of charter schools to 912, the highest of any state in the nation.  Every major region, as well as both urban and rural areas, saw charter schools open. For charter school leaders, this growth is encouraging and exciting, and we believe it is proof that a new era of public education has taken hold. This new era is one  in which parents, teachers and communities haven’t more flexibility and local control of schools  making them better at serving individual student’s needs.  It also means that we at the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) must do more than ever to advocate on behalf of charter schools, and continue our efforts to ensure equitable access of funding and facilities for public charter schools.  Accountability is another top priority at CCSA, and this growth underlines the need for a system in which high performing charter schools in which high performing charter schools are replicated, while low-performing ones undergo a deep review to determine if they are serving their student’s needs. With this year’s newly opened schools, an even larger number of families in California will now have more options for high-quality education options for their students.
Jed Wallace

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

California Charter Schools Association Calls for Closure of Six Schools Due to Academic Underperformance

Today, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) called for the closure of six charter schools from across California that are below CCSA’s Minimum Criteria for Renewal. Four of the schools are up for renewal by their authorizer this year and two of the schools were renewed despite chronic low performance and have failed to improve. Accountability continues to be one of our top priorities, and we remain driven by a relentless focus on the pursuit of quality education for every student as a constant tenet in all of our efforts. The basic promise of public charter schools is that greater autonomy and flexibility are given in exchange for increased accountability. We are serious about delivering on this promise. Earlier this year, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released a study indicating there has been encouraging improvement in charter school performance nationwide over the past four years. The most important thing we can do to continue this growth and support charter school quality is to make sure that underperforming schools are closed. Our own analysis of performance, the CCSA Minimum Criteria for Renewal, reinforces the view held by CREDO. Over the past five years we have seen a significant improvement in the overall performance of charter schools in California, with the percentage of high-performing schools increasing modestly and the percentage of low-performing schools decreasing by approximately one third. We do not think it would have been possible to make this progress, without CCSA and its members assertively holding underperforming schools accountable. CCSA is committed to creating better learning opportunities than are available within the traditional school system. That means not only supporting the growth of high-performing schools, but also shining a light on those charter schools that are not providing a high-quality education. In so doing, our movement reaffirms its commitment to the transparency and accountability that we believe parents and the general public wish to see in place for all public schools and deserve. We first called publicly for the non-renewal of chronically low-performing schools in 2011. Last year, we joined the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and statewide associations in New York and Colorado to take this call for the closure of low-performing schools to the national level. Together, these steps will ensure charter schools in California and elsewhere maintain a high level of accountability in order to continue playing a transformational role for students for many years to come. Jed Wallace is the president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association. 

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

California Charter Schools Association: Portrait of the Movement

In late August, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) released its fourth annual Portrait of the Movement, a report that tells the story of what has happened in California’s charter school movement over the past five years, why it has happened, and what can be done to ensure continued growth and momentum. 

Trends highlighted throughout Portrait of the Movement, Five Year Retrospective: A Charter Sector Growing in Numbers and Strength indicate that tens of thousands of California’s students are being educated in better performing charter schools than just five years ago.

The California charter schools movement is large and diverse and now serving over half a million public school students. This number is growing every year and more importantly, these students are making significant improvements in academic performance. That performance has been driven by the growth of quality schools and the closure of underperforming schools.

Our research shows that charters have made improvements in academic performance during a time of explosive growth in enrollment, and during a severe funding crisis in California that disproportionately affected charters. We’ve highlighted many of the key findings from the report on our website.

I am delighted that CCSA’s research, recent findings from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes and the National Alliance for Public Charters Schools, as well as other national data all continue to point in the same direction – that charter schools are performing incredibly well, especially with historically underserved students. Even better, they’re improving over time.

Jed Wallace, president and CEO, California Charter Schools Association

Renita Thukral

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

California Charter Schools’ Fight for Facilities Heads to State Supreme Court

Many charter schools across the country don’t have access to adequate buildings or facilities funding. It’s a national problem with significant consequences. Quality facilities are hard to find and often unaffordable, limiting charter schools’ enrollment and expansion, and forcing students onto long waiting lists. Most state charter laws place the burden of obtaining and paying for facilities on charter schools. These schools must pay rent or mortgage costs directly out of their operating budgets – which means every dollar spent on a charter school facility is a dollar taken out of the classroom. By contrast, traditional district schools are provided buildings rent-free by their districts. In 2000, California voters took matters into their own hands, signaling their commitment to treat all public school students equally. They approved Proposition 39 (Prop 39) to address charters’ facilities struggle. The law says “public school facilities should be shared fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools,” and requires school districts to make “reasonably equivalent” facilities available to charter schools upon request. Unfortunately, getting Prop 39 on the books wasn’t enough. Over the past decade, California school districts have not complied consistently with the law, resulting in confusion and uncertainty for CA charters. In 2010, the California Charter Schools Association fought back by suing the Los Angeles Unified School District. Over the course of the protracted litigation – marked by a trial court win for charters, then an appellate court loss – the parties have argued how to apply Prop 39’s language, in particular how to calculate what constitutes an “equivalent” amount of space. The case has now made its way to the California Supreme Court, where oral arguments will be scheduled in the coming months. Renita Thukral is vice president of legal affairs at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.