The Charter Blog

 

Nora Kern

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The Indy 1,000,000

The Mind Trust is looking for teams of great people to start public charter schools in Indianapolis, and they’re offering up to $1 million for folks who can make it happen! For more information, check out The Mind Trust’s Charter School Incubator page. If you’re interested in learning more about charter schools in Indiana (or nationally), you can find detailed information about network operators, school performance, growth and more on our data Dashboard.
Jed Wallace

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Chartering The Course: California Charter Schools Show Narrowing of African American Student Achievement Gap

One of the most pressing issues of our time is the achievement gap between African American students and their White and Asian peers.  There is hope however for African American families in California that their children can find quality educational options to meet their needs. This week, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) released the Chartering and Choice as an Achievement Gap-Closing Reform research report, which details the performance and enrollment trends of African American students in both charter public and traditional public schools.   The results show that African American students are enrolled at higher rates in charter public than traditional public schools at all grade levels, in some cases at close to twice the rate, and are experiencing better outcomes, in spite of having the same rates of parent education and student retention as their traditional public school peers. In fact, charter public schools are effectively accelerating the performance of African American public school students, consistently earning higher Academic Performance Index (API) scores and proficiency rates statewide across subjects in many urban districts. When using CCSA’s own performance metric, the Similar Students Measure (SSM),  which eliminates the impact of student background on performance, charter public schools serving African American students were more than three times as likely as traditional public schools to consistently outperform their predicted performance in a single year and over time. And, while charters make up only 9% of schools statewide, they represent 39% of highly effective schools for African American students. The report also features case studies of highly effective charter schools in three major areas:  Watts Learning Center in Los Angeles, KIPP Bridge in Oakland, and PS7 in Sacramento.  While different, their methodology and approach to serving their students had common denominators from which all public schools can learn.  In fact, most of the best practices implemented at these three charter schools have been well documented in scholarly literature, and are readily available. As laboratories of innovation, California’s highly effective charter schools can demonstrate proven paths to success that should be replicated in all public schools, and at a national level. To read the report, please visit www.calcharters.org/africanamericanreport.
Nora Kern

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D.C. Study Deserves Cheers NOT Jeers

On her WaPo blog, Valerie Strauss bemoans the D.C. government’s recent commission of a study by the Illinois Facilities Fund, which examines how D.C. neighborhoods are served by the public education system. According to the related article, D.C. has more than 40 traditional schools with less than 300 students apiece. The study will be used to help officials decide which schools should be closed and where new ones, especially public charter schools, might be opened. Sounds like an effort toward rational stewardship of public funds, right? But here is the underlying horror, according to Strauss: “The study is the strongest signal yet that Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) is prepared to treat charter schools — which are publicly funded but independently operated — as full partners in a reform effort that was heavily focused on traditional schools during the tenure of his predecessor, Adrian M. Fenty (D).” After a series of twist and turns that careen around every refutable charge against public charter schools, Strauss comes to this conclusion: “The question is not whether some charter schools are better than some traditional schools. Some are. The real issue is that many fear we are setting up a two-tier public education system.” While Strauss is correct that some charters are better than traditional schools, others aren’t. And low-performing charters should be closed. The goal isn’t a two-tiered system: it’s a good school for every child. While Strauss may not see this, clearly the Mayor’s team does. According to Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright:  “I am very much wedded to quality, and I don’t care where it comes from. We have to right-size the [school system], and we have to be honest about where we’re not providing high-quality schools to our children. And if that ruffles feathers, then so be it.” Chancellor Kaya Henderson agrees:  “If it helps us to better deliver on the promise of a great education for every child in every neighborhood in the city, I’m willing to change the game.” The Mayor’s team understands that quality, accountability and—most importantly—meeting student needs are the goals the D.C. government should be vigorously pursuing. They should be applauded for recognizing that the ultimate goal is to give all children access to a world-class public education system where all schools are great. The “charter” or “traditional” district school label should be beside the point.
Nora Kern

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NYC Charter School Accountability Made Interactive

We mentioned that the New York State Education Department released the 2010-2011 school year Mathematics and English Language Arts test results for third through eighth graders. And now there are additional resources for charter school data enthusiasts. The NYC Charter School Center has released an analysis and interactive feature about the city’s charter schools’ performance. If you’re looking for weighted district comparisons, or breakdowns by management structure, school size, or location, these resources have you covered. You can find more news items about the test results here.

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Historic Approval Rating for Public Charter Schools

According to the Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa International Poll released today, public charter schools garnered a 70 percent approval rating—the highest recorded since the question was first asked 10 years ago. Children across America are reaping the benefits of high-performing charter schools and are sharing their satisfaction with family and friends. Support for charter schools is especially strong among Americans under age 40, with 76 percent of Generation Y expressing support. The poll also found that 70 percent of Americans believe in giving teachers more “flexibility to teach in ways they think best.”  Public charter schools offer teachers the freedom to do just that, as long as they get results for their students.  Innovative efforts to develop and implement next-generation learning models, like virtual and hybrid school models, that make Internet access and exposure to digital learning part of the classroom experience are especially promising. Click here to read the report in its entirety and here to participate in our online discussion about this historic level of support. 
Nora Kern

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Even Superheroes Want to Attend Charter Schools!

A three page preview of the upcoming issue of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1 features the young hero who wants to enroll in a public charter school. Like all students, this rising hero deserves a chance to enroll in a high-performing public school. However, charter school enrollment is based on an explicit number of seats determined by the charter school’s board and authorizer. When more students want to enroll than the school is designed to serve, charter schools are forced to hold admissions lotteries. We don’t recommend radioactive spider bites as an alternative to charter school admission; it would be much simpler for state governments to allow more high-quality charter schools to open to meet parent and community demand.

spider man CS

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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.