The Charter Blog

 

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Jenny Wanger, National Charter Schools Conference Coordinator, tells us her favorites of the day: Link: I’ve been reading a lot lately about data-driven decision making and how much schools can benefit from using some simple methodology to make sure that their students succeed. Like: For next time you have a whole lot of books, a very big ladder, and a lot of patience! This is one of those rare articles that makes very complex math seem simple.

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Taishya Adams, Director of State Services, tells us her favorites of the day: Link: Bill Gates provides valuable food for thought on teacher evaluations in this NYT op-ed. Like: I spent the last two days fulfilling my civic responsibilities by serving as a juror in petit court.

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Year 1 RTT Reports Reveal Range of Charter Support Efforts

On January 10, 2012, the US Department of Education released the Annual Performance Reports (APRs) for the first 12 states awarded Race to the Top (RTT) funds.  The Department uses the APRs to monitor the implementation of their grant programs by grantees. It allows Department staff and members of the public an opportunity to follow the grantees’ progress and review certain metrics of success. NAPCS has just released our summary and analysis of each state’s APR. In reviewing the APRs, we were pleasantly surprised with the efforts a number of states have made to support charters:
  • In Georgia, the Governor found state funds to support the RTT goal of strengthening charters (after a State Supreme Court decision threatened the operations of a number of schools). The State used RTT funds to support a competitive grant program for innovation, through which a majority of the awards went to support charter-related programs.
  • Rhode Island extended their High Performing Charter Schools project to allow for smaller grants to support four schools, rather than larger grants supporting only two schools.
There are also states with promising opportunities on the horizon:
  • Tennessee created a public-private fund to support charter schools, and kicked it off with $14 million in RTT funds.
  • Florida continues to require LEAs to offer charters within their districts the opportunity to participate in RTT with equity to other traditional public schools.
There are, of course, also states which NAPCS feels have made little to no progress in their support of charters:  In Hawaii, the Department has noted a number of concerns regarding RTT implementation across the board. Since these reports were completed, they have taken steps to address these concerns, most notably by placing the grant on high risk status. Charters are only one of the sectors not receiving adequate support under RTT in Hawaii. In New York, the State used the RTT amendment process to drastically change a program that would have provided a competitive facilities funding to charters. Instead, the State transferred a majority of the funds to a program that encourages EMOs to take over failing public schools and turn them into charters. While this creates new charter schools, it does nothing to support those currently operating in the state. We will continue to monitor RTT implementation in these and all of the RTT states very closely!

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Georgia Charter School Legislation on my Mind

The state of charter school authorizing power in Georgia has been a roller coaster ride. Here’s the summary of the ups and downs: A State Supreme Court ruling last May struck the state’s power to authorize public charter schools. In addition to ending a best practice of having multiple authorizing entities in a state, it left several schools stranded without an overseer of the accountability and operational standards outlined in their charters. Since May, charter school supporters have been pushing for a state constitutional amendment to restore State authorizing power. Two weeks ago, it seemed like victory was within reach. The state House voted on the measure to restore the State’s ability to authorize charter schools, but it fell just 10 votes short of passing with the two-thirds majority required (Tony Roberts, president and chief executive officer, Georgia Charter Schools Association, gave us a candid insider account of the politics behind the vote). The bill might have failed, but efforts continued. On Wednesday, Feb. 22nd, the Georgia House of Representatives reintroduced the bill, and a number of lawmakers changed their votes after working with the bill’s sponsor to make changes, including a provision guaranteeing traditional public schools funding even if large numbers of students chose to attend charters. Ultimately, the bill passed the State House by three votes. “It’s just the first battle won in the war,” said Tony Roberts, “but it’s significant because we can move forward to solve the problem caused by the Supreme Court.” The bill passed out of the Senate Education and Youth Committee on Thursday, Feb. 23rd with a 7-5 vote, and now moves to the Senate floor. Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, has been an integral player in the on-the-ground advocacy efforts. He wrote a recent op-ed that expressed the need for passage of the charter school amendment, “Every once in a while, life gives us a do-over, a chance to revisit decisions we have come to think better of. The move to reconsider the proposed charter school amendment is one of those rare opportunities. Please take it.”

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Eric Paisner, Vice President of Knowledge and Partnerships, tells us his favorites of the day: Links: We’ve got a ton of new resources on rural charter schools—which are the fastest growing segment of the public charter school sector. Check out our issue briefDetails from the Dashboard report, blogDashboard data page, press release, and EdWeek article covering the issue brief. Like: USDA’s Rural Development Community Facilities support program, which has been accessed by KIPP Delta (a featured case study in our issue brief).

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Katherine Schaff, National Charter Schools Conference Intern, tells us her favorites of the day: Link: Calling all K-12 students: Help us celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first charter school by imagining the School of the Future. Unleash your creativity, enter our contest, and win prizes! Like: Whenever I’m looking to spice up a meal, I look no further than this blog. Easy and delicious recipes coupled with great photography and music pairings make for a mouth-watering experience. Hungry yet?

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Rural Charters are the Fastest Growing Segment of Public Charter Schools

Contrary to popular media coverage, which often focuses on the dramatic academic gains made in high performing urban charter schools, there is a little known truth about growth trends in the public charter school sector. While many great public charter schools are located in cities, charter schools are by no means an urban phenomenon. You might be surprised to learn that rural charter schools are actually the fastest growing segment of the public charter school sector. In fact, nearly half of all charter schools are found outside city limits.  And nearly 20 percent of all charter schools are in rural areas. In response to the growth of rural charter schools, the Alliance released two reports today that provide a deeper look at this trend. Our new issue brief, Beyond City Limits: Expanding Public Charter Schools in Rural America, examines challenges that rural schools may face and profiles four rural charter schools that use creative approaches to meet the needs of the families and communities they serve. The flexibility that is a core part of the charter school model can present unique opportunities for rural communities as they navigate complex funding, human capital, and transportation questions. The second publication is the latest installment in our Details from the Dashboard series. The new report analyzes charter schools statistics based on geographic region–including the growth of charter schools in all four areas (city, suburb, town, rural) compared with traditional public schools—as well as breakouts by charter management organization, authorizer, and union status. And if you’re still hungry for more geographic information about charter schools, check out this blog–especially the graphical displays. Table 1: Number of Schools and Students by Geographic Region  
  2005-2006 2009-2010 5 Year Growth
Total number of charter schools
  City 1,934 (52.7%) 2,574 (52.3%) 32.5%
  Rural 539 (14.6%) 785 (16.0%) 45.6%
  Suburb 905 (24.5%) 1,011 (20.6%) 11.7%
  Town 213 (5.8%) 381 (7.8%) 44.1%
Total number of traditional public schools
  City 23,057 (25.1%) 22,817 (24.5%) -1.0%
  Rural 29,066 (31.6%) 30,848 (33.1%) 6.1%
  Suburb 30,622 (33.3%) 25,765 (27.7%) -15.9%
  Town 9,140 (9.9%) 13,402 (14.4%) 46.6%
Total number of students enrolled in charter schools
  City 576,736 (56.6%) 901,662 (55.4%) 56.3%
  Rural 123,779 (12.1%) 251,507 (15.5%) 103.2%
  Suburb 285,485 (28.0%) 382,985 (23.5%) 34.2%
  Town 32,436 (3.2%) 89,013 (5.5%) 174.4%
Total number of students enrolled in traditional public schools
  City 14,160,849 (29.5%) 13,572,890 (28.5%) -4.2%
  Rural 10,494,737 (21.9%) 11,723,441 (24.7%) 11.7%
  Suburb 19,571,853 (40.8%) 16,527,293 (34.8%) -15.6%
  Town 3,957,636 (8.2%) 5,850,786 (12.3%) 47.8%

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Chad Miller, Senior Director of Federal Advocacy, tells us his favorites of the day: Link: AEI’s new report, “Strengthening the Civic Mission of Charter Schools,” looks at how charter schools are uniquely poised to rethink the role of public schools in preparing students to become informed and engaged participants in the American political system. Likes: That the Pittsburgh Steelers follow me on Twitter.

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Taishya Adams, Director of State Services, tells us her favorites of the day: Link: I just read an article in the NY Times about a new film, ‘Won’t Back Down,’ that is starting to get buzz even though it won’t be released until September.  The film tells the story of a group of parents and teachers trying to utilize the parent trigger law to reform their underperforming schools. Like: Just last week, Chelsea Clinton did a segment on Rock Center with Brian Williams about a remarkable collaboration between The Learning Community charter school and surrounding non-charter public elementary schools in Rhode Island.  What I always find most intriguing about making films is which stories make it to the big or small screen.