National Alliance September Newsletter

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Happy New School Year! The late summer always brings excitement and anticipation, as students and teachers head back to the classroom. I love reading stories about charter public school students starting their new school year – some in a brand new school.

In New York City, entertainer and entrepreneur Sean Combs (also known as Diddy) and Dr. Steve Perry opened the new Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School. The Wall Street Journal’s Allysia Finley wrote about the founding of Scholarship Prep Academy in Orange County, California. And in Pittsburgh, local educators launched Provident Charter School, Pennsylvania’s first charter school specifically geared toward students with dyslexia.

These stories of hope and optimism remind me how important our work is. Hundreds of thousands of students are still waiting for their opportunity to attend a high-quality charter school. As you’ll read below, the National Alliance and our allies are fighting on every front to help great charter schools launch and expand to serve more students.

Congratulations to everyone starting a new school year, and best of luck in the adventure ahead!


Nina Rees
Nina Rees
President and CEO

PS – If you’re in the DC area this Friday, September 16th, join me at the Hoover Institution for a discussion about school choice, accountability, and the findings of the 10th annual Education Next public opinion survey. To learn more and register, click here. You can read more about the poll below.

The Founders

The 74 recently released The Founders by Richard Whitmire. The book chronicles the history of high-performing charter schools. This is the story of the visionaries who rewrote the rules – and how those same pioneers are now pushing to reinvent American education yet again. We shared an excerpt from the book (Texas' Great IDEA) on our blog and you can visit to download the PDF and to view the oral history, including an interview with Nina Rees.


Updated National Alliance Snapshots on Charter School Facilities 

One of the biggest challenges to the continued expansion of charter public schools is the fact that many charter school laws place the ultimate burden of obtaining and paying for facilities on charter schools themselves. However, the horizon is brightening. Increasingly, states are enacting and updating policies to help offset the cost of leasing, purchasing, and maintaining charter school facilities. The federal Charter Schools Program also prioritizes funding to states that provide some measure of facilities assistance.

The National Alliance recently updated two of our state policy snapshots on this topic. Facilities Funding for Charter Public Schools provides an overview of the 30 states that have authorized some form of facilities funding for charter schools. School District Facilities and Charter Public Schools covers the 28 states that have enacted policies that try to provide charter schools with better access to district facilities.

Connecticut Parents Challenge State Laws Restricting Access to High-Quality Public School Options

In August, Students Matter filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a group of Connecticut students and their parents. The lawsuit targets a set of state laws and policies that limit access to quality public school options – including magnet, traditional, and charter schools – that are delivering a world-class education to students of all backgrounds. Click here to read the National Alliance's statement in support of these families. And click here to read Nina Rees’s op-ed on the case and the issues at stake.


NAACP Resolution Calls for Charter School Moratorium

You may have heard that the NAACP will consider a resolution calling for a nationwide moratorium on new charter schools at its annual convention in mid-October in Cincinnati, Ohio. The resolution doesn’t reflect the wishes of countless parents of color who are sending their children to charter schools or hope to have the opportunity to do so. To learn more about the issue, take a look at an op-ed by Howard Fuller, a civil rights pioneer and charter school Hall of Famer; a Washington Post editorial opposing the moratorium; and a blog series “unpacking” the moratorium resolution by American Enterprise Institute scholar Gerard Robinson. 


Federal Update 

Your State Education Agencies (SEAs) are busy discussing the accountability provisions of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA requires SEAs to engage specific groups of stakeholders – including charter school leaders – in the development of state plans. Charter school leaders must ensure that charter school autonomy and state charter laws are taken into consideration as states develop accountability metrics and interventions for low-performing schools, set definitions of teacher effectiveness, and implement other federal funding programs. For additional resources, see the Fordham Institute’s paper outlining state accountability systems and how they may be redesigned as a result of ESSA.


Progress in the States

Massachusetts: Charter school advocates are campaigning hard for this November’s ballot initiative that would allow 12 new charter schools per year above the state’s current caps. Among recent developments, the state Democratic Party is officially opposing the initiative, while new polling shows that Democratic voters in Massachusetts support the initiative, with 59 percent in favor. Nina wrote about the initiative in US News. On Monday, September 19th in Boston, Nina will join a panel at an event hosted by the Pioneer Institute that will feature Cheryl Brown Henderson, whose father, Rev. Oliver Brown, was the plaintiff in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

New York: Public school students in New York City showed a jump in proficiency on state tests, with charter schools leading the pack. Contrary to critics, charter schools in the Big Apple are helping students with disabilities and English Language Learners perform at higher levels than their peers in district schools. The news comes amid new enrollment data showing that charter schools are now serving 10 percent of New York City’s public school students.

In western New York, a court in Rochester heard oral arguments in the case of Brown v. New York, a lawsuit brought by five families challenging the state’s unequal funding of charter school students. The National Alliance released a statement supporting the families.

Ohio: Following the release of a National Alliance report calling for changes to the way full-time virtual charter schools are funded, Ohio Auditor General Dave Yost (a 2016 Charter Champion) is proposing a new funding formula for the state’s virtual charter schools. Ohio is one of the nation’s top three states in virtual charter school enrollment. Consistent with the National Alliance’s recommendations, Yost’s proposal would pay virtual charters on the basis of student learning rather than student enrollment. The National Alliance released a statement supporting Yost’s proposal and calling for the legislature to act on it.

Washington: Having been defeated at the ballot box and in the legislature, union activists and other charter school opponents in Washington state are again turning to the courts to limit students’ educational options. The Seattle Times calls the latest lawsuit “an unwanted distraction,” noting that “Washington’s nascent charter-school system needs a chance to grow and thrive.” The National Alliance issued a statement condemning the lawsuit.


Research Roundup

Education Next Poll Shows Strong Support for Charter Schools
Education Next is out with its 10th annual poll of public opinion on the biggest issues in education reform. As the authors report: “Overall public support for charters has remained quite stable since 2013. In 2016 the share favoring charters is 65 percent, roughly the same as in the past four years.” The National Alliance’s Susan Aud Pendergrass looked at the implications of the Education Next poll, as well as other public polling on charter schools, in a blog post.

If you’ll be in Washington, DC, on Friday, September 16th, you can attend an event discussing the poll’s findings in-depth. The event will feature a variety of speakers on education reform, including Nina Rees. To learn more and register, click here. You can also use that link to watch a live webcast.

Report on Special Education Gains and Charter School Restarts
The Center on School Turnaround (CST) and the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) released a paper examining how Green Dot Public Schools, a charter management organization in Los Angeles, improved student outcomes in a number of its schools with a significant population of students with disabilities. This mini-case study illustrates the strategies implemented in the course of Green Dot’s broader school turnaround efforts to improve special education and related services for students with disabilities. The National Alliance also profiled Green Dot in our 2015 publication, Chartering Turnaround: Leveraging Public Charter School Autonomy to Address Failure.

Case Studies on Improving Discipline Practices
The National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) has released a series of video case studies exploring how schools have improved their approaches to discipline. You can find a summary of the case studies, and a link to the videos, on the National Alliance blog.

Hispanics and Choice in Public Education
A new report from the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI’s) Gerard Robinson and Elizabeth English examines the rich history of Hispanic involvement in the school choice movement. The report stretches from pre-Brown v. Board efforts to fight segregation to the modern day, when Hispanic families are major school choice supporters and Hispanic students thrive in charter schools. Read the report here.

Innovation Buzz

Last year, Facebook and Summit Public Schools introduced the Summit Personalized Learning Platform, a free educational technology tool designed to let students set their own learning pace. This year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that more than 100 schools will be working with the platform, which is part of the Summit Basecamp program. The New York Times recently wrote about the technology and the experiences of early adopters. And Bill Gates wrote about his recent trip to Summit Sierra – one of Washington state’s new charter schools – and the promise he sees in personalized learning.

Welcome to the National Alliance

Join us in welcoming Vanessa Descalzi and Joshua Kearns to the National Alliance!

VDescalzi_200.jpgVanessa is our new senior manager of communications. She has deep experience in education public affairs, having previously served as the managing director of national communications for Teach For America. In that role, she helped launch many of the national organization’s strategic initiatives – from promoting computer science education to supporting students and teachers in special education classrooms. Having begun her career as an English teacher in Maryland, Vanessa also spent time working on integrated federal and state communications campaigns for a boutique D.C public affairs agency. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland and Emerson College.

josh.jpgJoshua is our new manager of development. Before joining the National Alliance, Josh worked as the development and communications associate for City on a Hill Charter Public Schools, a network of three high-performing college preparatory schools in Boston and New Bedford, Massachusetts. Prior to working in Boston, Josh served as resident services manager for AHC Inc. in Arlington, Virginia, where he supported low-income families and students within Arlington County’s public schools. Josh is a University of New Hampshire alum. We’re happy to have Josh and Vanessa aboard!

The National Alliance is Hiring!

Want to be like Vanessa and Josh? Join our team! We’re looking for an Operations & HR Manager. Click here for more information about the position, and please forward the info to great candidates you may know.

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