The Charter Blog

 

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Ohio Takes a Step in the Right Direction by Requiring Transparency

Ten Ohio public charter schools are in the process of completely severing ties with a private charter management company that has been under intense scrutiny for mismanaging the schools’ funds. The resolution of this dispute will allow charter school leaders to focus on quality, which is seen in student achievement, and other pivotal issues like cultivating a collaborative culture for parents, teachers and students. Their efforts are exemplary—these proceedings are a testament to the level of accountability and transparency all charter school leaders and operators should continually strive. I expounded on this issue in the Huffington Post.

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Public Charter Schools Engage Students and Empower Teachers

Anyone who is serious about improving the quality of public education should support the incredible contributions of public charter schools, which are proving in community after community that all kids can learn and achieve.

Some of the most vocal critics of charter schools don’t seem to understand what public charters actually are or how they work. Charter schools — which are disproportionately located in low-income communities — are public schools where all of the students have proactively made a choice to enroll. Similarly, teachers at charters proactively choose to teach in these schools, which often have far less red tape and more freedom to innovate.

Read the complete entry  on the Huffington Post. 

Nora Kern

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Forget Broadway…Charter Schools are the Place for Great Performances in New York

This week, the New York State Education Department released the 2010-2011 school year Mathematics and English Language Arts test results for third through eighth graders. The results are positive for public charter schools, which continue to have a (dramatically!) higher percentage of students that meet or exceed state performance standards than the percentages of their respective school district. According to analysis conducted by the NY Charter Schools Association (NYCSA):

The New York Charter Schools Association compared results of each charter school to their respective districts and found that students in seven out of ten charters exceeded their district percentage in terms of students meeting state English standards by achieving a level 3 or 4 of the assessment; while students in more than eight of every ten charters outperformed in mathematics.

You can see more of the NYCSA’s analysis of the charter school performance results here. And the WSJ agrees, pointing out that this is more proof that public charter schools are working to close the achievement gap between urban students of color and their socio-economically advantaged suburban peers.

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How Do Charters Find Great Leaders?

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) understands supporting the growing number of high-quality charter schools takes a huge commitment.  It means finding and developing a great number of talented leaders.  At NAPCS, we think we can help by sharing some of the promising practices in place at public charter schools across the country. “ASSESS, Coordinate, Execute: How to ACE an Executive Director Search” describes how you can find the next leader for your charter school and is the second publication in our year-long “Charter People” campaign to spotlight and address human capital issues in the charter movement. We kicked off the campaign with an issue brief detailing how charter schools hire teachers.  We hope these publications are useful to those of you working out in the field. We also want to hear from you.  We want to know about your school, your job, your greatest successes, your biggest challenges and your ideas for how to improve public education.  Help us by telling us about a great charter school leader you know.  Post a message on our Facebook wall or send a tweet with the hashtag #charterpeople.  We’ll continue to share what we learn.

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Another Big Thing Out Of Texas: Public Charter Schools Are Now Entitled to the Permanent School Fund (PSF) Guarantee!

On July 19, Governor Rick Perry signed into law Senate Bill 1, giving financially-sound public charter schools access to the state’s Permanent School Fund (PSF) bond guarantee. This will help schools construct and renovate school buildings.  PSF is the state’s $25 billion, AAA rated endowment. Bonds with the PSF-guarantee will be rated AAA—the highest possible credit rating—saving charter schools throughout the state millions of dollars in interest costs.  This legislation is an important and symbolic victory for charter schools in Texas and nationwide. The PSF enhancement is significant because charter schools will be able to finance growth at costs that are level with traditional public schools.  Savings from the PSF enhancement will be redirected to instruction and learning costs, putting taxpayer money to more efficient use.  To put these savings into perspective: the estimates of the cost-savings range from 200 to 300 basis points per bond issue.  In order to qualify for the PSF guarantee, charter schools must meet the investment grade credit rating and accreditation standards.  Putting up the state’s endowment to back charter school bonds, the same way it is for traditional public schools, speaks volumes about the direction of the public school choice and public education in Texas. Kudos to the Texas constituency: the bill’s sponsor, Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, and supporters Governor Perry, the Legislature, the Texas grassroots base and charter school advocates.  Texas joins the only other state, Colorado, in providing state backing for charter school bonds.  The Colorado state moral obligation backing renders the subject bonds to A credit rating (by Standard and Poor’s).  The rating upgrade from low investment grade to AAA and A in Texas and Colorado, respectively, incites charter school bond issuance at cheaper borrowing rates. The state’s backing of charter school bonds is a step in the right direction and a critical piece of the public charter school facility financing model.  Charter schools throughout the country are way behind their traditional school district counterparts that have taxing power and bonding authority to finance their facility construction projects.  The NAPCS Model Charter School Law has a menu of options for consideration by state policymakers to narrow the facility funding gap between traditional public schools and public charter schools.
Nora Kern

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Keeping up with the Joneses: Charter Schools in Suburbia

This weekend, the New York Times ran an article about proposed charter schools in suburban areas. While Fordham’sFlypaper blog comments on the choice and financial issues in the article, we’re taking on the “trendiness” issue in the article. The influx of charter schools in suburban areas is framed as such:

Now, educators and entrepreneurs are trying to bring the same principles of choice to places where schools generally succeed, typically by creating programs, called “boutique charters” by detractors…with intensive instruction in a particular area.

But the notion that charter schools are the new kid on the suburban block is false. The NAPCS Dashboard has data on the geographic location of every charter school operating throughout the country since the 1999-2000 academic year. And the data show that charter schools have had a steady presence in suburban areas.[1] The Dashboard data for the four most recent academic years show that the market share represented by charter schools in suburban areas has remained steadily between 21-22% (The highest market share for suburban charter schools was 26.5% in the 2002-03 academic year and the lowest was 21.1% during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years).

The bottom line is that no matter their location or income level, parents want quality options for their children’s education. And instead of putting students into little boxes, suburban parents are, and for more than a decade have been, choosing charter schools.

 

Number of Charter Schools by Geographic Location*

Academic Year City Suburb Town Rural
2009-10        
Charter Schools 2,692 (54.7%) 1,039 (21.1%) 393 (8.0%) 979 (16.2%)  
Non-charter Schools 22,830 (24.5%) 25,770(27.7%) 13,404 (14.4%) 30,852 (30.5%)  
2008-09        
Charter Schools 2,553 (55.0%) 978 (21.1%) 362 (7.8%) 747 (16.1%)  
Non-charter Schools 22,772 (24.5%) 25,939(28.0%) 13,570 (14.6%) 30,518 (32.9%)  
2007-08        
Charter Schools 2,335 (54.3%) 946 (22.0%) 364 (8.5%) 653 (15.2%)  
Non-charter Schools 22,983 (24.9%) 26,028(28.2%) 13,740 (14.9%) 29,680 (32.1%)  
2006-07        
Charter Schools 2,148 (53.7%) 878 (21.9%) 348 (8.7%) 625 (15.6%)  
Non-charter Schools 22,797 (24.7%) 25,999(28.2%) 13,715 (14.9%) 29,661 (32.2%)  
         

*Geographic Location. The NAPCS Dashboard Data used the National Center for Education Statistic’s Common Core of Data to code the geographic location charter schools in our database. NAPCS collapsed the following categories to have four main categories: City: city, large; city, mid-size; city, small; Suburb: suburb, large; suburb, mid-size; suburb, small; Town: town, fringe; town, distant; town, remote; Rural: rural, fringe; rural, distant; rural, remote.



[1] It should be noted that the federal data used to populate the NAPCS Dashboard and used for statistics on suburban charter schools in the NYT article defines “suburban” based on distance from a city, not by connotation of income level.

Nora Kern

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CMO Recipes for Success

A recently released analysis, Unlocking the Secrets of High-Performing Charters, states that while there is no “secret sauce” that explains the success demonstrated by the 18 “no excuses” charter management organizations (CMOs) in the New Schools Venture Fund portfolio, there are common ingredients. Like contestants in Iron Chef, these CMOs all use the same ingredients: a laser focus on literacy and numeracy to establish an academic foundation; a pedagogy favoring direct instruction and differentiated grouping, especially in the early grades; and comprehensive student assessment and performance management systems. But like any good cook, these CMOs add plenty of other seasonings into the pot to create a unique and tailored school culture. If you’re hungry for more details about these CMOs’ recipes for success, you can read the full article here. We at NAPCS strongly support the tremendous work happening in these high performing CMOs, and have aggressively pursued additional funding for the replication and expansion of quality charter schools through the All Students Achieving through Reform (All STAR) Act and the Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act. Additionally, the US Department of Education just announced a new Replication and Expansion for High-Quality Charter Schools grant competition through the Charter Schools Program (Keep an eye out for NAPCS comments on the grant competition’s priorities in Ed Week’s upcoming article on the subject). We hope that these federal funding opportunities continue to be on the menu so more and more students can access high performing charter schools.
Nora Kern

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Education Reform, Clint Eastwood Style

Are you sick of policy rankings that bury their comparisons in endless text?  Well this interactive map from the Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW) is about as straightforward as they come. It sorts  nine reform categories, including standards, data systems and student achievement into three tiers: the good, the bad and the ugly. Charter school laws are one of the categories, and the ICW uses the NAPCS annual ranking of state charter laws against our model law as the baseline for comparison. The 11 states without a charter law are “ugly,” while the top 20 strongest charter laws are “good.” You can click on your state at either the ICW or the NAPCS site (we have an interactive map too!) to see how it measures up nationally. And for those who still crave some additional text, you can find the policy brief explaining the NAPCS Model Charter School Law components and rationale here.

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“A Decade of Results: Charter School Loan and Operating Performance,” Lending to Charter Schools Pays Off

A Decade of Results: Charter School Loan and Operating Performance is an industry-wide study of 430 charter school loans, both outstanding and paid off, from 2000-2009.  The study, conducted by Ernst & Young LLP and funded by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, examined loans that totaled $1.2 billion and were made by 15 lenders to 336 schools.  The lenders are mostly community development financial institutions (CDFIs) , which are non-profit organizations that provide financing for charter school facilities as part of community development or charter support missions. (In fact, three CDFIs — the Low Income Investment Fund, The Raza Development Fund and The Reinvestment Fund — commissioned the study). The finding that charter schools are good borrowers did not surprise those of us who are closely involved with charter schools.  This study, the first and only industry-wide research of charter school loans, is important because it proves that a vast majority of charter school operators manage their finances well and are responsible borrowers despite their relatively small enrollments, limited operating history and limited financial resources.  To date, only a handful of lenders and bond investors are invested in charter schools due to the perceived credit risks and newness of the sector.  We hope that this research serves as a tool to improve other parties’ understanding of the sector.  Private capital investments by banks and investors are critical in the growth of charter schools. Some of the key findings of the report are: •  Five loans totaling $12 million (or 1 percent) of the total loan amount made during the period ended in foreclosure; •   Approximately $2 million (or 1 percent) of the foreclosed loans, net of recoveries, were written off as of June 30, 2009 (this figure excludes potential subsequent write-offs of foreclosed properties still held by lenders) •   3.6 percent of outstanding loans had been delinquent at some point over the 10-year study period for at least 60 days; •   Strong academic performance is associated with better loan performance; and •   In determining loan performance, occupancy costs seem to matter more to lenders than per pupil revenue, a message that controlling costs is important. Sometimes, it is hard to separate noise from facts.  When it comes to capital financing, existing and potential lenders and investors, and other charter schools stakeholders, now have this report, which showed that the majority of loans made to charter schools over a ten year period yielded positive results, as a resource when making their decisions.
Nora Kern

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Conference Countdown: Qualms about the Common Core

Have you heard talk in recent months about how the push for Common Core adoption might result in assessment or curricular requirements that will stifle charter school autonomy over academic decisions? Are you wondering if these concerns are valid and how they might be addressed? In a mere four days, Rick Hess, Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies for the American Enterprise Institute, will moderate a discussion featuring representatives of both the Common Core and charter school communities. Additionally, Hess will add his own take on the implications (here’s a short preview of his perspective). This featured session, which will commence at 9:00 am on June 23rd, will be of interest to policy wonks and practitioners alike.