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Are We Doing Enough to Affect Change in Education?

On Thursday, May 7th, Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. hosted its 2nd Annual “My Brother’s Keeper…Responding to the Call” event focused on effective efforts to prepare young boys of color for college and community action surrounding those strategies. The forum strengthened the dialogue about key issues like inequality and the achievement gap, an especially significant discussion given the recent happenings in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jami Dunham, CEO of Paul Public Charter School, D.C. native, and Howard University alumna, explained how central education is to helping the country’s most disadvantaged communities, telling those in attendance last night, “What happened in Baltimore is a reflection of the adult culture that has failed those children. We as adults have failed to give them the tools to succeed.”

Dr. Robert Simmons, Chief Innovation Officer at D.C. Public Schools, challenged the audience, saying, “D.C. could easily become Baltimore. We need to ask ourselves if we are doing enough to affect change in education.”

And in fact, just today the Washington Post Editorial Board made this same connection, writing:

The state of Baltimore’s public schools was spotlighted in the aftermath of riots that rocked a city mourning the death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, while in police custody. Bad schools are only one element of urban dysfunction. But they are both a consequence and a cause of inequality, and improving them is essential to keeping another generation from being trapped by poverty. There’s no excusing violence. But as the attorney for Mr. Gray’s family said of the young people who took part in the rioting, “The education system has failed them.

Giving poor parents the kind of alternatives that wealthier families take for granted would help. Some competitive pressure on the school system might help, too. But Maryland is

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Schools of Choice: No One is Stuck

Often we hear about children being “stuck” in poorly performing, unsafe, traditional public schools. Last week, The Center for Education Reform (CER) staff got a taste of something different during two charter school visits. “Stuck” is never a word that you would use to describe a student in a charter school. In fact, charter school parents and students are willingly, excitedly, and proudly engaged and active in the school community, and are there because they choose to be, not because they were arbitrarily assigned based on their zip code.

BerkeleyBreanCharterVisitCER toured two schools in the nation’s capital last week – Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts, and Achievement Prep Public Charter School. Both schools are located across the Anacostia River in Southeast D.C., a section of the city with high levels of poverty. But these schools are making a difference; they are changing their community and are engines of opportunity. The parents know it and the kids know it, and one reporter even came all the way from Rochester, New York to see what his city can learn from these schools in D.C. “across the river”.

Parents at both schools spoke about the value of having a choice in where their children go to school. One Achievement Prep parent, Deborah, said, “We didn’t have to go uptown to get the education that our son is getting. We would not have gone to a district school if not for Achievement Prep. If not for Achievement Prep, we would have to make ends meet to pay for a private school. We have had a rich experience because our son has gone to charter schools.”

Another Achievement Prep mom lovingly told CER staff that her third-grade daughter already has goals

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Rising to the Challenge

Founded in 1999, Rise Academy in Lubbock, Texas has achieved a high level of success. For six years in a row, the school has been an “Exemplary School” in the eyes of the Texas Education Agency.

But this success hasn’t been obstacle-free.

The school “does more with less” to provide traditionally underserved populations of pre-K through 8th grade students a superior education. According to a 2014 University of Arkansas study, traditional district schools in Texas would have received $1 billion less in funding if they were funded at the same level as their public charter school peers.

Rise Academy Photo NCSW2015Unfortunately, funding equity for these alternative public schools is not just a problem in Texas, but nationwide. On average, charter schools receive 36% less in revenue per student than traditional public schools according to the Survey of America’s Charter Schools. And, to add insult to injury, unlike other public schools, most do not receive facility funds.

However, Rise Academy and charter schools across the nation are providing parents innovative and transformative options despite the numerous challenges they face. But as waitlists for charter schools continue to grow, so must charter schools to meet demand. Equitable funding and autonomy for schools would allow schools of choice to increase and accelerate the pace of reform efforts across the country.



Engaging the Next Generation of Leaders

This is blog #2 in a weeklong series of blogs featuring charter schools during Charter Schools Week 2015. Sign the pledge to show your support for public charter schools!

Sometimes adults are scared that the next generation won’t have the knowledge to lead our country through the various issues that it faces.

Parents of Challenge Charter School students don’t have to worry about that.

The Arizona Department of Education has recognized Challenge Charter School in Glendale as a School of Excellence in Civic Engagement.

The state’s first official Core Knowledge School has put the pedal to the metal when it comes to preparing students for participation in society by integrating civic education across different disciplines and grade levels. Kindergartners learned about Abraham Lincoln on Presidents’ Day, 4th graders made flags and learned about the American Revolution, and some students even worked together to raise money for tsunami relief.

Challenge Charter lincolnChallenge Charter red cross

On Constitution Day (September 17), 6th graders prepared and gave speeches about what civic engagement and the School of Excellence award means to them. In true democratic fashion, the student body voted to decide which student would attend the Department of Education’s award ceremony to represent Challenge Charter School.

“This award means so much to me and my school,” says one student. “Our mascot is the eagle, which is not only our mascot but our nation’s symbol. The eagle symbolizes power, strength, and freedom. That freedom allows us to have the kind of school that we have today.”

And it is exactly those freedoms that we celebrate during Charter Schools Week, and must continue to ensure are protected so that charter schools

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An Academic Dynasty

This is blog #1 in a weeklong series of blogs featuring charter schools during Charter Schools Week 2015. Sign the pledge to show your support for public charter schools!

When people hear the word “decathlon,” images of the Olympics and athletic prowess irunningn track and field come to mind.

For the parents, students, and teachers at Granada Hills Charter School, intellectual expertise and academic success are instead what shine through

In 2011, 2012, and 2013, Granada Hills Charter High School won the national title at the National Academic Decathlon Championships. The school persevered and repeated the win this year – prompting CBS News to call it an “academic dynasty”.

GranadaHills awardOn paper, some might be surprised that the school has reached such great heights. The school serves thousands of students that participate in the free and reduced lunch program, serves other traditionally underserved student populations, and is located in the challenging Los Angeles area.

But the school has always been a leader, and a pioneer in the education reform movement. When it was founded 12 years ago, teachers put in hard work to convert the 4,500 student traditional Los Angeles public school into a charter school. Today, Granada Hills is multicultural, multifaceted, and multitalented. How does it do it all?

Board member and co-founder Sonja Eddings Brown says the success of the school is supported by its diversity, by ensuring money stays closest to the kids, and by treating educators like true professionals.

Everyone is looking for a good school, and wants to know how to build one, says Brown. She says that children everywhere would have a greater chance to be academic superstars if more

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