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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

Nora Kern

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Public Charter Schools Top All Best High School Ranking Lists

U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Post, and Newsweek all have annual rankings of the best public high schools in the nation. Despite public charter schools making up only 6 percent of public high schools nationwide, they have been a continuous presence on national ranking lists

The table below presents the public charter schools that were ranked in the top 100 on at least one of the lists, as well as the public charter schools ranked in Newsweek’s top “25 Doing the Most with the Least” list. BASIS Tuscon North, Signature School, and Archmedean Upper Conservatory were listed in the top 100 on all three major lists. Fourteen public charter schools were among the top 100 on two national high school rankings.

The U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools list had 24 public charter schools in the top 100. The report also ranked three public charters in the top 10. The Washington Post’s Most Challenging High Schools ranked 31 public charter schools in their top 100—up from 28 charters in 2013—and comprised half of the top 10. In Newsweek’s Top High Schools list, there were 17 public charter schools in the top 100, four more charters than in 2013, with three reaching their top 10.

Newsweek also came out with their “25 Doing the Most with the Least” list, which takes students’ socioeconomic status into account. Ten public charter schools were on the list, making up 40 percent of the nation’s top high schools that are closing the achievement gap. 

Congratulations to these public charter schools that are providing their students with the best education in the nation.


School Name State U.S. News & World Report, Best High Schools Washington Post, High School Challenge Index Newsweek, America’s Best High Schools Newsweek, 25 Schools Doing the Most with the Least
Haas Hall Academy AR 25
Accelerated Elementary and Secondary AZ 24
BASIS Oro Valley AZ 7
BASIS Scottsdale AZ 2 2
BASIS Tuscon North AZ 5 10 29
Northland Preparatory Academy AZ 44
American Indian Public Charter CA 44 1
Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School CA 9
Hawthorne Math and Science Academy CA 55
KIPP King Collegiate High CA 67
KIPP San Jose Collegiate CA 41
Lennox Mathematics, Science & Technology Academy CA 59
Northcoast Prep and Performing Arts Academy CA 21
Orange County School of the Arts CA 52
Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High School CA 25
Pacific Collegiate School CA 25 83
Stockton Collegiate International CA 44
The Preuss School UCSD CA 42 40 1
University High School CA 53 98
Peak to Peak Charter School CO 66 28
The Charter School of Wilmington DE 30
Archimedean Upper Conservatory FL 100 19 67
City of Hialeah Educational Academy FL 13
Doral Academy Performing Arts and Entertainment FL 86
International Studies Charter high School FL 24
Mater Academy Charter High FL 22
Gwinnett School of Math, Science & Tech GA 3 17
Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy ID 47 66
Noble Street College Prep IL 4
Signature School IN 21 6 5
Mystic Valley Regional Charter School MA 92
Sturgis Charter MA 88
Nova Classical MN 86
St. Croix Prep MN 80
Raleigh Charter High School NC 55 33
Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science at UNM NM 64 48
Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas NV 73
Dove Science Academy Tulsa OK 8
Harding Charter Preparatory High School OK 89
Corbett Charter OR 3
Challenge Early College TX 97
Energized for STEM TX 32
Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts TX 91
Harmony School of Innovation – Fort Worth TX 59
Harmony Science Academy – North Austin TX 25
Harmony Science Academy Brownsville TX 30
Harmony Science Academy Houston TX 51
Harmony Science Academy-Waco TX 42
IDEA Academy and Collegy Preparatory School TX 30
IDEA Frontier College Preparatory TX 85
KIPP Austin Col TX 63
NYOS Charter School TX 93
Uplift North Hills Preparatory TX 2 40
Uplift Peak Preparatory TX 2
Uplift Summit International Preparatory TX 16 99 19
Uplift Williams Prepatory TX 29 3
YES Prep East End Campus TX 81 74
YES Prep North Central TX 28 57
YES Prep Southeast TX 95


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

Nina Rees

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School Improvement Done Right

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

Today, 15,000 U.S. schools are considered persistently low-achieving. The Obama administration has invested heavily in a portion of these schools through a program called School Improvement Grants. Since 2009, nearly $3 billion in improvement grants has been directed at about 1,700 schools. (Fiscal year 2014 funding for the grants is $506 million, and the same amount is expected in fiscal year 2015.) But the grant program’s record has been underwhelming: A third of schools that were given major cash infusions to boost student achievement actually regressed.

While disconcerting, the results shouldn’t be entirely unexpected, nor should they put a nail in the program’s coffin. Overhauling an institution is always hard. In fact, 75 percent of efforts at restructuring in the private sector end up failing, partly because changing cultures and habits is difficult and the private sector is not patient enough with many change management efforts. Put simply, it is easier to close and start over than to restructure… read more here.

Nora Kern

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Public Charter Schools Once Again Top Newsweek Best High School Rankings

Last week, Newsweek/The Daily Beast released their rankings of the top U.S. high schools—with 17 public charter schools in the top 100. Like in last year’s Newsweek rankings, two BASIS schools were in the top 10, along with the Signature School as the other public charter school in the top 10.

In an accompanying The Daily Beast article titled “What Charter Schools Are Getting Right and Why They Top Our High School Rankings,” the authors point out that, “Even though charters educate just five percent of American students, they represent 30 percent of the top ten schools in this year’s rankings. What’s more—and this is really the kicker—they’re the only ones in the top ten that do not use selective admissions.” The article further looks at key charter autonomies that make a difference: their ability to hire (and fire) staff, set their own schedule, and choose curricula.

For the top 100 schools, charters held 17 spots. This number is up from 13 charter schools in the top 100 last year. 

The Newsweek/Daily Beast ranking methodology tweaked some components and their weighting compared to last year, but the overarching goal to identify the schools that best prepare their students for college remains the same. This year’s four ranking components are: four-year cohort graduation rate (30 percent weight); college acceptance rate (30 percent weight); rigor/college preparedness (30 percent weight)—measured by the student participation in AP, IB, or AICE courses and passage rates for those exams; and college entrance exams (10 percent weight)—meaning average SAT or ACT scores.

Another change was that the former “Transformative High Schools” list is now titled “25 Doing the Most with the Least.” However, the methodology is still the same; the best high schools list is additionally filtered for schools serving the highest number of free and reduced price eligible students—a key indicator of socioeconomic status. Ten of the 25 schools on the list are public charter schools, including those in the top 4 spots. 

Congratulations to these public charter schools that are seeing amazing results for their students and closing the achievement gap!

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

Nina Rees

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An Education in Building Local Support

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

Last week, the 46th annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of public attitudes toward public schools was released, and the headline was the deteriorating support for Common Core standards, to which 60 percent of Americans are now opposed. A similar poll, conducted by Education Next, confirms many of the first poll’s findings. This is not all that surprising, given the onslaught of negative publicity surrounding Common Core, but what caught my attention is the subtext of this opposition, which is centered around Americans’ dissatisfaction with federal involvement in schools.

What to make of this?

Americans dislike one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to how their children are educated. While the Common Core State Standards are simple standards that a curriculum can be built around, and the standards are already in place in many states, the public seems uneasy with a national (or as they see it, a “federally driven”) approach. Whether this is because anti-Common Core forces have done an effective job of vilifying the standards or because Americans have a libertarian streak in our DNA, the brand “Common Core” is now as disliked as “No Child Left Behind.” Education Next found that 68 percent of Americans would favor their state using “standards for reading and math that are the same across the states.” But when standards are labeled “Common Core,” supports drops to 54 percent…read more here.

Nina Rees

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Michelle Rhee’s Lasting Legacy

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

News of Michelle Rhee’s exit as CEO of the education reform organization StudentsFirst generated a flurry of commentary over the past week. One of the few household names in education reform, Rhee launched StudentsFirst three years ago, after leaving her high-profile post as schools chancellor in Washington, D.C. She had big plans for StudentsFirst, including a bold pledge on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to raise $1 billion to promote policies that placed student needs ahead of the needs of the education establishment.

Many felt that her ambitious fundraising plans were destined to fail and that her organization’s top-down approach made it hard to enact reforms that would stand the test of time. While there is some truth to the claim that her blunt moves may have been too divisive for a field that thrives on harmony, I think Rhee’s legacy as a leader is far more complex and long-lasting…read more here.

Nina Rees

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KIPP Leads the Way

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

This week, KIPP, the renowned national charter school network, celebrates its 20th anniversary. The celebration will be held on the heels of KIPP’s receipt of the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, an annual award that goes to the public charter school network with the highest student performance and graduation rates, and the most success in closing racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.

I first came across KIPP when I was working at a think tank in the late 1990’s. One of my colleagues and mentors, Adam Meyerson (now leading the Philanthropy Roundtable), was on a quest to find high-performing public schools that were overcoming the odds. He wanted to give policymakers ideas for how to replicate these models. The product of this work led to the publication of a short book called “No Excuses,” which featured 21 schools with at least 75 percent low-income students who were scoring at the 65th percentile or higher on national exams…read more here.

Nina Rees

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July Newsletter

I had a fantastic time at the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas earlier this month. It’s so energizing to be with the people who are on the ground every day working in America’s charter schools. We can never say thank you enough to the teachers and school leaders who show up before sunrise and head home after sunset, and who take time away from their own families so that they can change the lives of the children from other families.

With the 50th anniversary of the signing of the federal Civil Rights Act just behind us, I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity. Not just the diversity of America’s student body today, but the diverse learning environments charter schools offer to millions of families. I wrote about this in my U.S. News & World Report column. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I hope you’re enjoying the summer!


What Happens in Vegas…

We are just back from a fantastic National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas where we had a record 4,800 attendees. Sal Kahn, Frank Luntz, and Campbell Brown inspired us to think bigger about using technology to bring world-class instruction to all corners of the globe and to never give up on our work to ensure all children have access to a great public school. Steven Michael Quezada of Breaking Bad fame opened the conference with a heartfelt story about his own experience in an underperforming public school and how it has motivated him to become involved with charter schools that engage students from all types of backgrounds.

 

It was our best conference yet—and we thank each of you for joining us. Education Week put together a fun roundup of the conference in 13 tweets—each tweet captures the essence of the conference in 140 characters or less.

We hope you will mark your calendar for next year’s conference, June 21-24 in New Orleans. When we convene, New Orleans will have just finished its first school year as an all-charter school district and it will be great to see first-hand how charter schools have dramatically improved the lives of so many students.

If you were with us in Las Vegas, please be sure to take our attendee survey if you haven’t already. The feedback you offer will help us make next year’s conference even better. Also, if you would like to receive a copy of Frank Luntz’s presentation, be sure to sign up for one of his focus groups here.


KIPP Wins Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools

For the past three years, at the National Charter Schools Conference, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has awarded a high-performing charter school network with The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. The prize honors the public charter school network with the most outstanding overall student performance and graduation rates, as well as the ability to close achievement gaps among low-income and minority students. The winner receives $250,000 to put toward college-readiness efforts for low-income students, such as scholarships, a speaker series, and campus visits.

KIPP Schools won the prize this year and it comes at no better time. This year marks their 20th anniversary—an entire generation of students has now had the opportunity to attend a KIPP school. KIPP has 141 schools across 20 states, and serves 50,000 students. In recent years, KIPP closed 21 percent of its racial achievement gaps in middle school reading, math and science. KIPP narrowed 65 percent of its racial and income achievement gaps in elementary school reading, math and science.

Congratulations to KIPP Schools! Because of their efforts, tens of thousands of students have gone on to brighter futures and many more are on their way. Click here to see a video highlighting the work of this year’s three finalists.

Pictured in photo (left to right): Steve Mancini, Director of Public Affairs at the KIPP Foundation; Bruce Reed, President of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation; Carissa Godwin, Director of Development at KIPP Delta Public Schools; Eric Schmidt, Principal of KIPP Courage Middle School; Nina Rees


Charter Schools Hall of Fame Welcomes Three New Members

Also at the conference, three new members were inducted into the Charter Schools Hall of Fame: Eva Moskowitz, founder of Success Academy Charter Schools; Chester “Checker” E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation; and The Doris & Donald Fisher Fund. Hall of Fame members include schoolteachers and leaders, thinkers, policy experts, and funders that have paved the way for the success and growth of public charter schools. You can read more and watch a short video about the work of each of the inductees here. Congratulations and thank you to Eva, Checker, and the Fisher Fund!


Two new members join the National Alliance Board of Directors

I am pleased to announce two new members of the National Alliance board of directors: Jeb Bush, Jr., and Moctesuma Esparza.

Jeb Bush, Jr., is managing partner for Jeb Bush & Associates, LLC and president of Bush Realty, LLC. He has been involved with education reform efforts through the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Moctesuma Esparza is CEO at Maya Cinemas North America and is an award-winning producer, entertainment executive, entrepreneur and community activist. Moctesuma founded the Los Angeles Academy of Arts and Enterprise Charter School and has been active in education reform efforts in Latino communities for decades. We are grateful to both Jeb and Moctesuma for joining our board.


Education Insiders Support Charter Schools

Last month, Whiteboard Advisors released the results of a poll of high-level “insiders” in education about their views on charter schools and recently introduced Senate legislation, backed by the National Alliance, to reauthorize the federal investment in charter schools. Ninety percent of the insiders polled want to see the Senate take action on the bill, but only 3 percent think it will actually happen. Also of note, 87 percent of the insiders polled viewed charter schools positively. That’s great news for all the school leaders and teachers in the trenches working hard every day to improve student learning.


New Report on Special Needs Students in Denver Charter Schools

Last month, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) released a report that found students with special needs are less likely to leave Denver, Colorado charter schools than traditional public schools. They also found charter schools are less likely to classify students as special education, and more likely to declassify them. These findings are really important in light of the on-going (and unfounded) criticism by charter school opponents that charter schools push out students who are hard to teach. Click to read the report, Understanding the Charter School Special Education Gap: Evidence from Denver, Colorado.


See You in September!

We’re going to take a break from producing this monthly newsletter in August and look forward to updating you on our work again in mid-September. Have a great summer!

Nina Rees

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Learning the Facts of Financial Life

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

Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently offered a compelling speech pushing American students to learn about money and finance in school. “Young people, to be successful, to secure retirement, to take care of their families, and to not be in poverty, have to have a level of financial literacy that 30, 40, 50 years ago maybe wasn’t required,” Duncan said. “Today it’s an absolute necessity.”

This is important for several reasons.

First, when tested for financial literacy in 2012, American teens scored below average and far short of those in countries like China, Australia and New Zealand, according to the results of a recently published Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development survey…read more here.

Susan Aud

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Charter Schools in St. Louis Giving Students Greater Access to a High-Quality Education, Paving the Way for Even More Success

The city of St. Louis recently released a study that showed public education is improving for their students. The study, produced by IFF, looks at where children live, where they go to school, and if they have access to a high-quality schools, based on state accreditation. The study uses 2013 data and is an update to a similar study produced five years ago.

Contrary to what is happening in many of our nation’s urban areas, public school enrollment in St. Louis increased by five percent over the last five years. This is partly due to parents having more options and choosing to keep their children in the public school system. During that time, enrollment in neighborhood schools declined, while enrollment in charter, magnet, and select magnet schools increased.

More importantly, access to accredited schools (those that met the state proficiency standards) has increased dramatically. In 2008, just over 6,000 of the approximately 33,000 public school students in St. Louis attended schools that were performing at half of the state accreditation level or better. By 2013, more than double that number (12,500) of students were in quality seats, meaning that their schools were fully accredited or accredited with distinction.

Further, 40 percent of the quality seats were in charter schools, even though charter schools only account for 23 percent of enrollment in the St. Louis school district. This means that about 5,000 of the city’s 8,000 charter school students, or 62 percent, are in quality seats versus about 28 percent of students in traditional public schools.

One critical contribution of the study is that it calculates a gap between the number of children in a given neighborhood or zip code and the availability of quality seats. This information is being used by the city to prioritize the placement of new charter schools, and to target and close poor-performing schools to pave the way for more high-quality schools in these under-served neighborhoods.

“Closing poor-performing schools, including poor-performing charter schools, does not decrease the access to good schools,” said Dr. Doug Thaman, Executive Director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association. “In fact, closing poor-performing schools opens the door for the addition of new, innovative and successful options.”

This fall, two new charters – KIPP: Victory and The International School – are opening their doors, followed by five additional charters in 2015. Based on the findings of this study, the city’s targeted and strategic decision to place these new charter schools where they are most-needed will continue to improve the quality of public education in St. Louis.

Susan Aud is the senior director for research and evaluation at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.