The Charter Blog

 

Todd Ziebarth

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Wisconsin Public Charter Schools Gain Access to Public Buildings

This week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed SB 20 into law, an important piece of legislation that will increase public charter school access to surplus district school buildings in Milwaukee.  What is most significant about SB 20 is that it transfers the ownership and decision-making about these surplus buildings from the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to the City of Milwaukee.  Not surprisingly, MPS has been extremely resistant to providing charters approved by entities other than MPS with access to MPS buildings.  The City of Milwaukee, on the other hand, is one of three charter authorizers in Milwaukee, and has expressed its desire to put these abandoned buildings to their original purpose – educating the city’s schoolchildren, no matter which type of school is serving them. This legislation is notable because only a handful of states and school districts have policies and practices that promote the use of available district facilities by public charter schools.  Through legislation such as SB 20, charter school students will have a much better shot at the quality facilities they deserve and taxpayer monies will be used more effectively.  You can learn more about the facilities challenges charter schools face, as well as innovative ways that seven school districts are sharing public education facilities with charter schools, here.
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

The Truth About Myths

Paul Farhi’s recent WaPo piece, “Five myths about America’s schools,” has created a swirl of opposition in the blogosphere (seeherehere, and here for starters). To add a little more fuel to the fire, I’ll briefly weigh in on “myth #4: Charter schools are the answer.” Farhi raises a point of contention that charter schools are “siphoning off” more motivated students and parents who have “mastered the intricacies of admission.” Come on…we’re not talking about admission to elite New York City preschools here. By definition, charter schools are to have open-enrollment policies for vacant spaces and a lottery drawing for spaces that open up to students on a waitlist. The admissions process usually entails filling out a form with basic contact information, same as on the first day of a traditional public school. Farhi also charges that the enthusiasm about charter schools is “all for results that are not uniformly impressive.” Like in the traditional school system, there are high and low performing charter schools. Nobody denies this. But the potential of the charter model is space for innovation to develop and grow promising designs and close down schools that are not meeting performance requirements. And to trivialize the exciting results that high-performing charter schools have yielded is as ludicrous as claiming that charters alone will save the education system. As Luke Kohlmoos notes, “Most would say that charter schools are a component of a larger context.  Some charters are good and some are bad.  This myth is arguing against nobody at all.”

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Nearly 20 Percent of the Top 100 U.S. Public High-Schools are Charters

The Washington Post on Monday released a list of the highest-performing public high schools in the nation based upon a special index that measures how effective a school prepares its students for college. The “High School Challenge” index named the top 1900 public high schools in the nation—we’re proud to announce 18 public charter schools were among the top 100:  
Rank (High School Challenge, Washington Post) Public Charter School City, State
#3  Corbett Charter School Corbett, Oregon
#4  BASIS Tucson Tucson, Arizona
#8  Signature Evansville Evansville, Indiana
#10  North Hills Prep Irving, Texas
 #11  Peak Preparatory School  Dallas, Texas
#19 Westlake Academy  Westlake, Texas
#24 Preuss School UCSD  La Jolla, California
#27  Sonoran Science Academy – Tucson Tucson, Arizona
#36  University High Fresno, California
#37  Eastwood Academy Houston, Texas
#41  Sturgis Charter Hyannis, Massachusetts
#42  American Indian Public Charter Oakland, California
#50  Peak to Peak Charter Lafayette, Colorado
#54  Raleigh Charter Raleigh, North Carolina
#57  Benjamin Franklin New Orleans, Louisiana
#60  MATCH Charter Boston, Massachusetts
#62  Harding Charter Prep Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
#83  Summit Preparatory Charter High Redwood City, California
  Read how the Post used academic indicators such as AP-course enrollment and graduation rates to compile the list. Congratulations to all of the school leaders, teachers, administrators, families and students that are affiliated with these public charter high schools. Be sure to notify us of any press you garner so we can share news of your media spotlight in our social network spaces and advocacy e-blasts. Please send us pictures of any recognition ceremonies you may coordinate as well:NAPCSpressroom@publiccharters.org.

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

In the Area of Nutrition, Charters Are Getting It Done

A few weeks ago, the Education and Workforce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was signed into law in November by President Obama. Outspoken district food service leaders decried the USDA’s proposed rule that the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs align nutrition standards with national dietary guidelines saying it puts an undue burden on cash-strapped schools. Second to the money argument was an appeal that the nutrition guidelines might be so restrictive that kids simply won’t like the food. Change is hard; we certainly get it. The charter movement has continually met change head-on time and time again—changed structures of governance, changed ideas of teaching and learning, and changed minds on what a 21st century school can and should look like in today’s public system. Often receiving far less than their fair shares of the pot, charter schools find ways to be innovative and still provide necessary supports. There’s plenty of evidence that more often than not charter school students are experiencing similar or greater achievement gains than students in comparable traditional public schools. But charters are not only getting it done in academics; they are also working to make schools a place where children learn about healthy eating habits. Family Life Academy Charter School in the Bronx created a five-year food revolution to get its students to not only like the food being served up, but to understand its nutritional benefits. Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in Washington, DC, has put cost-effective fresh cooking atop its list of priorities, no matter how tough the job. The school recognizes“when children are properly nourished and their bodies are healthier, they can learn, think and play better, and are ultimately better equipped to reach their potential.” Despite the barriers that district leaders espoused at the hearing—fear of change, pushback from students, the high costs of healthy food—many charter schools are unwilling to sacrifice their mission and goals because of apparent obstacles. We reinvent. We make tough decisions. We learn to change in order to provide what’s best for our students. It’s critical that charter schools continue to have full access to the federal school meals programs as well as the flexibility in choosing partners who care about nutrition. Do you have a healthy food service program? Tell us about it: http://www.publiccharters.org/Additional-Pages/HealthyLunch.aspx
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

What Works in U.S. Charter Schools Translates Across the Pond

Former head of the New York City Charter Schools Office Michael T. Duffy, recently wrote an article comparing similarities between the models and challenges faced by British Free Schools and U.S. charter schools. Free Schools, a policy centerpiece of the Conservative-Liberal coalition in the UK, enable parents, teachers, charities and businesses to set up schools in England. The first free schools are slated to open in September 2011. These schools will be taxpayer funded, free to attend and have open enrollment, but are not administered by local authorities. Sound familiar? The UK Department for Education has been doing its homework on U.S. charter schools, especially on the quality front. Its webpage about applying to open a free school states, “We want to ensure only high-quality applications are approved. We know from the United States that the best charter schools are in states with a rigorous approval process.” Drawing upon his extensive experience as a charter school leader, Duffy offers lessons learned from the U.S. charter school movement that can apply to the Free Schools model. He observes:
  1. Parental choice, properly harnessed, is a driver for change and better schools
  2. Given effective schools, children from poorer communities can succeed academically
  3. Those that benefit from the status-quo will be fierce in defending it
  4. Developing suitable premises is a challenge: be adaptive and recognize the spill-over effects
  5. Newly formed schools can be laboratories of innovation
  As the free schools movement begins in the UK, time will tell if the U.S. charter model can be successfully adapted to the British context or gets lost in translation.

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Midnight in Georgia

Pretty amazing week. Charter School Hall of Famer John King was named New York State education commissioner; New Schools Venture Fund’s Summit 2011 brought the “edurati” together for another exhilarating brainfest; liberal icon Howard Deandeclared charters “the future”;  the UFT and NYC’s NAACP chapter filed another lawsuit to block closure of failing schools and co-locations with charters; and the who-interrupted-whom saga of Diane Ravitch and Rhode Island Education Commission Deborah Gist took an intriguing turn when it became known that a filmmaker recorded their disputed meeting with Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (hint: Gist is fine with releasing the video).  But the central event took place in the Georgia Supreme Court, where the abominable Gwinnett v. Cox decision abolished the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, the statewide authorizer created in the wake of district refusals to approve new charters.  No wonder that two days later, hundreds of Georgia parents, and kids rallied against the ruling, which derailed (we hope temporarily) the schools the Commission had chartered. The 4-3 decision turned on a semantic distinction finer than “what the meaning of ‘is’ is. The Court held that Georgia’s constitution forbids “special” schools unless they’re intended for specific slices of the student population not served by district schools. (Apparently the Court hasn’t heard of IDEA and the fact that districts are actually required to serve those “special” kids.) Nor did they provide more than a footnote about why state-chartered schools approved by the State Board of Education on appeal are OK, but not state-chartered schools approved by a State Commission. Neither have they read up on Georgia’s history of creating other state-approved schools, as the “superbly researched, reasoned and argued” dissent by Justice David Nahmias shows. Nahmias also points out that the state’s $400 million Race to the Top federal grant was awarded in part because the state could claim an alternative charter authorizer. Note to Arne Duncan…. This is a worse act of judicial usurpation than the 2008 Florida appeals court decision that struck down the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission, similarly created as a statewide authorizer. There, the language of the state constitution was clear, if perverse: “The school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district.” (Article IX(4)(b). That geographic specificity proved to be an insurmountable barrier to the arguments of charter lawyers.  In the Georgia case, the court is taking language far less clear, and using it to reach an ideological – and perhaps partisan — conclusion. What both these decisions have in common is the musty odor of senescence. State constitutions that treat local districts as fiefdoms, funded through 19th-century tax schemes that treat land as the source of all wealth, surrounded by a legal moat keeping children in and everything from charter schools to online-learning out, need to be updated.  Especially when decisions like this one shred a promise the state made to thousands of families whose aspirations were being thwarted by local school districts.

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Guest Blog: Rally at the Georgia State Capitol in Support of Georgia Charter Schools Commission

Nearly 500 charter schools supporters rallied on the front steps of the Georgia State Capitol Building on Tuesday, May 17, in support of the 16 charter schools approved by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, an entity that was ruled unconstitutional by four of the seven judges on the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday. The event was highlighted by spirited remarks from influential politicians such as Georgia House Speaker Pro-Tem Jan Jones, Sen. Chip Rogers and Rep. Alisha Morgan, as well as Nina Gilbert, head of school, Ivy Preparatory, Ivy Prep sixth grader Lauren Williams, Peachtree Hope Principal Kendra Shipman, Museum School mom Annemarie Eades and Tony Roberts, president and CEO, Georgia Charter School Association. The rally garnered scores of media coverage. Here are some of those clips: Hundreds protest overturning of charter school law Gwinnett Daily Post Hundreds Rally Against Charter School Ruling WSB-TV 2 Atlanta Supremes say charter schools out, Senate says not so quick The Fayette Citizen Hundreds protest Ga. charter school ruling Seattle Post Intelligencer

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

National Charter Schools Week Round Up

Thanks to all who joined us in celebrating charters during the 12th annual National Charter Schools Week!   Our advocacy efforts, both online and on Capitol Hill, were a great success this year:
  • 75 participants from 35 states participated in nearly 200 meetings with Members of Congress and their staff;
  • Nearly 100 advocates used our text campaign to contact their elected representatives to express support for high quality charter schools;
  • The NAPCS honored Rep. “Buck” McKeon (CA-25) with his [Champion for Charters Award] at a reception in the House of Representatives;
  • President Obama formally acknowledges National Charter Schools Week by issuing an official Presidential Proclamation.
  Participants came to Washington D.C. from as far as Hawaii and as close as Maryland to meet with policymakers to discuss how the federal government can better support the growth and development of high-quality charter schools.  In addition to the Washington based activities, National Charter Schools Week was marked across the nation by supporter-hosted rallies, school tours, student competitions and various acknowledgements of charter school success by state level officials. Charter Rally_NCSW_May2011               In Texas, more than 1700 parents of charter students returned rallied to encourage lawmakers to complete their work and send the bills to the Governor’s desk. GeorgiaGovernor_2011NCSW_ChildrenPhoto             In Georgia, charter students pose with Governor Nathan Deal and the National Charter School’s Week proclamation.

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Celebrations, Proclamations and Acknowledgements of National Charter Schools Week

President Obama officially proclaimed May 1 through May 7 to be National Charter Schools Week saying, “In communities across our country, successful public charter schools help put children on the path to academic excellence by harnessing the power of new ideas, ground-breaking strategies and the collective involvement of students, parents, teachers and administrators. During National Charter Schools Week, we recognize these institutions of learning and renew our commitment to preparing our children with the knowledge and skills they will need to compete in the 21st century. “ Click here to read the complete proclamation. Legislators across the country are also recognizing this week’s events. Senator Mary Landrieu (D – La.) introduced a resolution congratulating the students, parents, teachers, and administrators of charter schools across the United States for ongoing contributions to education, and supporting the ideals and goals of the 12th annual National Charter Schools Week. U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., this week is joining the Georgia Charter Schools Association in promoting National Charter School Week to emphasize the important role charter schools play in education in both Georgia and across the nation. “I am pleased to join the Georgia Charter Schools Association in commemorating National Charter School Week because charter schools play an important role in education,” said Isakson. “Charter schools create a learning environment where students, teachers and parents are afforded the flexibility to make decisions in order to maximize students’ success. I will continue to support charter schools because there is tremendous value in investing in our children’s education, which is critical to the future of America.”

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

It’s Advocacy Day – National Charter Schools Week Continues

Today a core group of charter school advocates join NAPCS staff members in meetings on Capitol Hill, but all of us can take part in advocacy today - whether or not we’re in Washington. On Facebook and here on the Charter Blog, we’re asking our social networks to take a few minutes out of their busy schedule to call (202) 609-8587 and let your Representative in Congress know why YOU support charters! If you prefer to take action online, you can do it at the United States House of Representatives web site by entering your zip code. Just as you make your voice heard in the House, some of our national charter leaders will be speaking up in the Senate. Today in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health Education Labor & Pensions Hearing Room, the following panelists will discuss the merits and opportunities for charter schools. •         Jessica Cunningham, Chief Academic Officer, KIPP D.C. •         Peter Groff, President and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools •         Lisa Graham Keegan, Principal Partner, Keegan Company (Moderator) •         David Hansen, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, National Association of Charter School Authorizers •         Scott Pearson, Associate Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Innovation and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education •         Sarah Newell Usdin, Founder and CEO, New Schools for New Orleans