The Charter Blog


Nina Rees


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Stop the Summer Slide

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

Last Tuesday, at an event in New Hampshire, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stated, “There is no reason that K-12 education should be an eight-month enterprise in this country. … We need to adjust the model.”

While Christie blamed teachers’ unions for our antiquated academic calendar, it’s more accurate to say the entire education system is largely set in its ways. Few school boards or administrators want to innovate with an extended school year.

Ultimately, we all need to do more to prevent the summer slide and help children maintain their academic edge. A shift to more year-round schooling would be ideal, enhancing education for both poor and well-off students and reducing the summer pressure on parents’ pocketbooks. The growth of charter schools, which face fewer regulations around class time than traditional public schools, has led to more experiments in year-round education…Read more here.


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U.S. Department of Education Announces CSP Grant Competition for State Educational Agencies

The U.S. Department of Education has announced the FY2015 Charter Schools Program (CSP) grant competition for State Educational Agencies (SEAs). The competitive grant program supports the development of high-quality charter schools by enabling SEAs to provide funds for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools.

Over the past 20 years, the federal Charter Schools Program has helped open thousands of high-quality charter schools across the country. Schools like Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville, AR that offers an accelerated college-prep curriculum and boasts both a 100% graduation rate and 100% college acceptance rate. Nameste Charter School in Chicago, IL also received a CSP grant and is known in the community for offering half of its classes in both English and Spanish and for providing support to families through its Parent Center. Students at Crossroads Academy in Kansas City, MO have 37 percent more instruction time than the state standard. These schools are meeting the unique needs of the students and families in their communities—and CSP grants helped get them started.

The deadline to submit an application is July 16. Interested applicants can attend a webinar hosted by the Department on Wednesday, June 17 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Click here to learn more about how CSP grants are helping to open exemplary schools nationwide.


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30 Days of Grad: Loiselle Gonzalez Baez

Loiselle Gonzalez Baez is a student at City on a Hill Charter School in Roxbury, Massachusetts and will be graduating on Thursday night. When she became pregnant last summer, she was determined to not let it get in the way of pursuing her dreams.

While raising her child, she was able to obtain a 4.17 grade point average and rise to the top of her class. She missed just 11 days of school after giving birth. This fall she will enter Wellesley College, thanks to a combination of federal and state grants, along with financial aid. She plans to become a doctor.

When the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker asked her about the topic of her valedictory address Loiselle replied, “Having a baby!’” Her message to the class of 2015: “Don’t give up despite obstacles. Be determined. Don’t worry about people judging you and saying negative things about you.”

This post was adapted from an article in the Boston Globe by Adrian Walker. Read more about Loiselle’s story in the article here.


Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: This @CoaHCPS student recently became a mother, and now she’s graduating at the top of her class: #30DaysOfGrad

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Nina Rees


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National Alliance June Newsletter

A Note from Nina

We are only a few days away from the 15th annual National Charter Schools Conference on June 21-24 in New Orleans! I am excited that I’ll see many of you there. This conference is a particularly special one for us as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina – and celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the National Alliance! We have a packed agenda including addresses by Geoffrey Canada, Ashley Judd, Bryan Stevenson, and John White, as well as 135 break-out sessions and the announcement of the Broad Prize for the highest performing charter school management organization. It all kicks off Sunday evening with a welcome parade! Click here for more information. To stay updated on all of our activities, follow us @charteralliance and use #NCSC15. I look forward to seeing you in New Orleans!

Nina Rees
Nina Rees

30 Days of Grad

It’s graduation season – a time to celebrate the success of public charter school students across the country! This month, we’re featuring a new graduation story every day as part of our 30 Days of Grad series. Click here to read the fun and inspirational stories we’ve posted so far, and be sure to check back each day to learn about a new student who’s on the road to a bright future thanks to public charter schools!

ESEA Reauthorization: Movement in the Senate?

This month, we expect the U.S. Senate to start debate on S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The National Alliance continues to closely engage in the process, specifically with regard to Title I and the Charter Schools Program. For our perspective, read our April letter to Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA).

Charter Schools Program in Action: Haas Hall Academy

This month, our CSP in Action series features Haas Hall Academy. Haas Hall is a rigorous, STEM-focused college prep charter school that Newsweek ranked as the 25th best high school in the nation. Learn how the Charter Schools Program helped Haas Hall Academy get started in this month’s profile.

On, Wisconsin!

Legislators in Wisconsin are moving forward legislation to create new pathways for approving independent charter schools in the state and to provide a small increase in per-pupil funding for independent charters. These measures, along with several others, would be a boost to the growth of public charter schools in Wisconsin. For more info, take a look at our statement.

Examining Facilities Funding Policies

One of the biggest challenges to the continued expansion of public charter schools is the fact that many public charter school laws place the burden of obtaining and paying for facilities on the schools themselves. As a result, public charter school leaders struggle to find suitable and affordable facilities to house growing numbers of students. To help make sense of the facilities funding policy landscape, the National Alliance put together this policy snapshot of the 29 states that provide some level of support to help charter schools access facilities.

Hall of Fame Inductees

The National Alliance is thrilled to honor three long-time champions of public charter schools as the newest members of the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame. Former Senator Mary Landrieu, Deborah McGriff, and Nelson Smith will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame during next week’s National Charter Schools Conference. Learn more about each inductee here. Congratulations to these outstanding leaders on their well-deserved honor!

Welcome New National Alliance Staff!

Please join us in welcoming three new staff members to the National Alliance: Heather Reams, Vice President for Communications and Marketing; Kimberly Lane, Vice President for External Growth; and Mario da Costa, the latest addition to our federal advocacy team. We’re excited to have them on board, and you can click here to read more about them.

Support the National Alliance

The National Alliance is a non-profit organization that relies on your generosity to help us raise awareness of the high-quality public charter schools serving students across the nation. We are extremely grateful for your contributions. Please consider a tax-deductible gift to support the growth and sustainability of public charter schools – and please share our message and our work with your friends. Thank you!


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30 Days of Grad: DSST

Despite rain and clouds, two DSST high schools celebrated their graduation ceremonies with pride, emotion, and excitement. DSST: Stapleton High School seniors, 100 percent of whom received four-year college acceptance for the eighth year in a row, heard a commencement speech from City Councilman, Albus Brooks. DSST Green Valley Ranch High School’s inaugural senior class also received 100 percent college acceptance, and proudly tossed their caps in the air after listening to a commencement address by Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. Congratulations to the students, parents, families, friends, and staff members that played an integral role in this achievement!


Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: Two @DSSTPubSchools celebrated 100% college acceptance this year! Read more from @charteralliance: #30DaysOfGrad

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30 Days of Grad: Great Hearts Academies

Phoebe Garvie Trained in opera for the past three years after learning piano from childhood, Phoebe Garvie, a Chandler Prep graduate, who sings fluently in multiple languages including Italian and German, recently traveled to England to audition for admittance to the Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal Northern College of Music. Immediately following her auditions she was accepted to both conservatories on the spot and given substantial scholarships. Garvie will move to England this summer where she will attend BirmCons receiving approximately $50,000 in scholarships.

Jenna BellantoniJenna Bellantoni, graduating from the Scottsdale Campus, has been actively involved in theater, choir, improv, varsity soccer, and the mentoring program at Scottsdale Prep. Jenna won The Classical Association of the Middle West & South Commendation three years in a row, and in 2013 & 2015 she was the only Latin student in Arizona to be awarded the commendation. This year she will receive the CAMWS Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Classical Studies. Jenna has been accepted at Johns Hopkins University, Arizona State University Barrett Honors College, Skidmore College, and Willamette University. She will attend Johns Hopkins University in the fall and is interested in double majoring in Classics and Biological Sciences (Pre-Med).

Michael PatiMichael Pati, a graduate of the Arete Prep campus has been an active member of the choir, student life team, guitar club and was co-captain of Arete’s soccer team. He was named First Team All Division this year in soccer. Michael has been a mentor throughout high school and was a lead mentor during his senior year. He was accepted to Boston College Honors Program, American University, Grinnell College and Arizona State University Barrett Honors College. Michael recently graduated Arete Prep as valedictorian and plans to attend Georgetown University in the fall where he will study at the School of Foreign Service.

Jonathan TrangJonathan Trang, a Chandler Prep graduate, is the founder of the Ulysses and Shakespeare clubs on campus, has been accepted to nine highly selective schools including: Harvard University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Brown University, Cornell University, Williams College, Amherst College, University of Chicago and Washington University. Jonathan has chosen to attend Harvard University where he plans to study English Literature and continue pursuing his passion for theater. He will graduate this month a National Merit Scholar with a 4.0 GPA.

Lucas MukaiLucas Mukai, who is graduating from the Glendale Prep campus, is an accomplished classically trained pianist and has a passion for languages. He earned a Gold Medal on the National Latin Exam and the highest honors on the National Greek Examination. Lucas, a National Hispanic Scholar, has been admitted to the University of Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins University, Catholic University, Arizona State University Barrett Honors College, and University of Dallas. Lucas has been awarded the top scholarship Kenyon College where he will attend in the fall and plans to pursue a dual degree in language and science.

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: Read the stories of these remarkable @GreatHeartsAcad grads in today’s post from @charteralliance: #30DaysofGrad

View more #30DaysOfGrad stories here.


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30 Days of Grad: Deisha Negron

Deisha NegronDeisha always wanted to be a hairstylist. Her mother was a hairdresser. At a young age, she had doubts about meeting her goal because she didn’t know how to read and struggled in school. In 2004 she moved from her home in Puerto Rico to Florida to live with her father, who was a strong mentor for her. Her elementary school teachers were helpful, but Deisha always felt pushed into a corner and left to sit at a computer alone. She longed to be with peers and have friendships.

It wasn’t until 6th grade that Deisha came to Pepin Academies Tampa Campus and started to improve her reading skills. She finally felt like she was at a school that understood her, and she had friends—friends that had similar struggles to the ones she faced. They were all supportive and patient with one another.

At Pepin Academies Deisha shined. She became an office assistant, was on the honor roll, served as student government vice president, and 2015 prom queen. She believes that Pepin gave her the confidence to work through her learning disability and help her bring the dream of owning her own hair salon a reality.

Deisha said working through her struggles with reading has made her a more compassionate and confident person. She hopes to mentor high school students after graduation and help them work on overcoming their own learning differences. Deisha relates well to people and wants to take classes on public speaking and speech writing. She feels it will be thrilling to channel her energy and experience into helping others overcome their obstacles, while at the same time fueling her passion to be a successful business owner one day.

On May 21 at the Pepin Academies Gala, Deisha was brought on stage to receive a scholarship worth over $15,000 to attend the Paul Mitchell Salon School in Tampa, Florida. This was made possible thanks to supportive Pepin teachers and staff; the Jason Ackerman Foundation and Paul Mitchell Salon.

Deisha will start cosmetology school in the fall and plans to have her hair salon running in no time. The Pepin Academies teachers and staff are extremely proud of her and the bright young woman she has become. Pepin Academies also extends their pride and congratulations to all of the school’s graduates for overcoming their own challenges and graduating with plans to go on to 2 and 4-year institutions, vocational programs or serve in our Armed Forces.

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: .@pepinacademies helped Deisha overcome her learning differences & pursue her dream. Read more here: #30DaysOfGrad

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Federal CSP Replication and Expansion Grants Now Available

Applications are now available for the FY 2015 Charter Schools Program (CSP) Grants for Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools. The program awards grants to non-profit charter management organizations that have demonstrated success in increasing student academic achievement for educationally disadvantaged students. Applicants can use grant funds to expand enrollment at an existing school or by opening a new school. Applications may also propose to use CSP funds to provide preschool education in a charter school.

In addition to the requirement that grantees serve educationally disadvantaged students, applicants may also choose to address one of the following priorities in their applications: serving high need students, promoting diversity, or identifying as a ‘novice applicant’ that has never received a replication or expansion grant. Applicants are also encouraged to describe how they will conduct rigorous evaluations of their proposed projects.

Applications are now available by request to the U.S. Department of Education. On June 16 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern, the Department is hosting a pre-application webinar for interested organizations. The final deadline to submit an application is July 15. For more information, visit the Federal Register website to view the notice posted by the Department.

To learn more about how charter schools that have received Replication and Expansion grants are making a difference in student lives, check out these stories:


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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

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: This charter school boasts a grad rate for Native American students that far exceeds the nat’l average: #30DaysOfGrad

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Riya Anandwala


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Ashley Judd to Speak at 15th Annual National Charter School Conference

Actor, activist and humanitarian Ashley Judd will address the National Charter Schools Conference general session in New Orleans on Monday, June 22.

Actor, activist and humanitarian Ashley Judd will address the National Charter Schools Conference general session in New Orleans on Monday, June 22. Best known for her performances in Ruby in Paradise, Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy, De-Lovely and most recently the Divergent franchise, Judd is a longstanding advocate and supporter of education.

 A devoted humanitarian, Judd is committed to telling personal stories and being the voice of the underprivileged locally as well as internationally. Her remarks at National Alliance’s conference will focus on the power of political activism and the ability of education to empower young people and defy poverty – two principles closely aligned with the charter schools movement.

The National Charter Schools Conference, which runs from June 21-24, is the largest annual gathering of charter school teachers, leaders, administrators, board members and advocates from across the country. The two and a half day event will provide keynote sessions, breakout sessions, and numerous networking opportunities for more than 4,500 charter school professionals and policymakers.

For conference agenda details, visit