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Honoring Rosa Parks: Supporter of Freedom for Families Choosing Schools

February 27, 2013

The Rosa Parks statue was unveiled today in Washington D.C. at the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

The statue portrays Rosa clutching her purse, reminding observers of the courageous moment when she refused to give up her seat. It is a permanent reminder of the cause she embodied and stood for — freedom.

Freedom is a characteristic that is hallmark to the charter school movement. So how appropriate that citizens in California, when asked to choose a name for a new charter school, chose to name the school “Rosa Parks Academy” in her honor.

NYC Charter Achievement Positive Across Multiple Studies

February 20, 2013

The latest CREDO report looks at New York City charter school achievement and finds generally positive results.

CREDO research on other cities and states, like the Michigan report released in January, has generally yielded positive results. But perhaps more interesting is the fact that NYC CREDO findings are in line with work done by other researchers studying New York City charter schools. Check out the studies below for more on charter schools in the Big Apple:

How NYC Charter Schools Affect Achievement:
This study done by Caroline M. Hoxby employs quality charter school research methodology and finds that NYC charter school students will learn more over time than those students who remain in conventional public schools.

The State of the NYC Charter School Sector:
This report from the New York City Charter School Center gives an in-depth look into the city’s charter schools data, demographics and achievement, and indicates that charter schools continue to be a viable alternative for parents looking to better their children’s education in the Big Apple.

And for those of you scratching your head as to why you’ve heard the acronym CREDO before, it may have been because of a controversial and widely cited national report from 2009. Here’s some background to help you out: All About CREDO.

Don’t Call Me Stupid! Underestimating Parental Choice

February 19, 2013

Apparently, all of the poor parents I’ve met all these years are actually stupid. I didn’t know this until I read yet another review of how people actually get into charter schools.

You probably didn’t know this but there’s a bunch of really smart poor folk who know that there are charter schools and school options, who can read and write and spell and who somehow show up to apply and file for school lotteries to get their kids into better schools than their neighborhood schools. They are apparently smarter than the other poor folk because they know that the assigned public school – the one that they are zoned to by zip code — is actually bad, and you wouldn’t know that if you weren’t smart, because you’d be so ill informed that you wouldn’t even know your child couldn’t read or write and you’d have no idea that there was a difference in schools anymore than you know there are nicer ones somewhere or better clothes, or televisions, or stereos or buildings or even jobs.

So these smarter poor folks, who are usually people of color (but not always, if you’re in Appalachia or West Virginia or even East Palo Alto, or Indianapolis) somehow know more than the other poor folks and they know their kids are smart so they get them into other schools.

They are the cream, according to some. And they make it bad for all the others. They take everything before other people can get there. They know to stand in line and wait for school lotteries, and they know about the lotteries, and they know who has the good teachers and who doesn’t and they live with the other poor folks but somehow they are apparently more advantaged because everyone keeps

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Regulations Hinder Choice

February 11, 2013

The Fordham Institute’s most recent report School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring? examines different types of regulations on private school choice programs and how implementation of regulations effects schools’ participation. It’s not surprising that there is a correlation between regulatory burden and school participation in private choice programs. However, when schools were surveyed about their concerns to participate in programs, they cited not enough eligible families as the reason not to participate, not excessive regulations. But, excessive regulations shouldn’t be overlooked.

We’ve seen concerns about excessive regulation in choice programs and charter schools increase over the years and even discussed these increasing rules on The Stossel Show on Fox Business News. The federal government requires a state to sign onto Common Core in order to receive funds, and regulatory creep at the state and local level is putting charter school autonomy and flexibility in danger.

We’ve known for years that the numbers reported by the fed govt of disadvantaged students in charters was wrong. It was wrong because, as we found out through our annual survey, almost 39 percent of charter schools don’t’ participate in the F&RL program, and therefore their students aren’t counted as such. Why don’t they participate? The most prevalent reason why charters do not participate is because they do not have the proper facilities to prepare meals. Twenty-one percent choose not to apply because of the massive amount of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape that is difficult to abide by with fewer administrators. In 2006, 48% of survey respondents chose not to apply for F&RL status because of the amount of paperwork involved.

This report and its findings aren’t shocking to those who have been keeping an eye on regulatory issues, but reiterating the fact that regulations are a

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Charter Criticism Based on Fact or Fiction?

February 6, 2013

“It is hard to believe that year-after-year, smart, well-intentioned researchers believe they can make national conclusions about charter school performance using uneven data, flawed definitions of poverty and ignoring variations in state charter school laws,” said Jeanne Allen president of The Center for Education Reform (CER).

Yes, CREDO is at it again, using the same virtual twin methods that came under fire in their 2009 report.

In a Wall Street Journal Opinion video, David Feith breaks down — in less than 3 minutes — problems with the numbers in the latest CREDO report, as well as problems with how the report is being interpreted.

Pa. gets good grades in education reform ranking

by Damon C. Williams
Philadelphia Tribune
January 26, 2013

The Center for Education Reform, a national non-profit tasked with improving public education, has released an encompassing report that grades parental empowerment, solid educational choices, teacher quality and access to digital learning, among other factors. That Pennsylvania ranks in the top ten of all states can be viewed as proof educational reforms in the commonwealth are beginning to take hold.

According to the annual findings released in the Parent Power Index, Pennsylvania trails Indiana, which ranks first; Florida; Ohio; Arizona; Washington, D.C.; Louisiana and Minnesota. Wisconsin and Utah round out the top ten.

The PPI is an interactive, accessible online tool that collects and itemizes data critical to judging the gains and deficiencies in a parent’s control of their child’s education. The index is designed to provide in-depth information to not only parents, but to stakeholders, politicians and education policymakers as well.

“All across America, parents are demanding more power over their children’s education, but the task of sorting through all the information out there is daunting,” said Center for Education Reform President Jeanne Allen. “There are a variety of resources available to evaluate how students are achieving, but there is widespread disagreement about what constitutes sound education reform policy.

As the mother of college students, I liken the PPI to a cumulative GPA, which is a composite of grades from varying professors,” Allen continued. “In this case, these professors are among the nation’s leading authorities and critical evaluators of education policy.”

Each state is graded on five broad categories: school choice, charter schools, online learning, teacher quality and transparency, and the findings related to Pennsylvania are interesting.

For example, the state received points for having a pro-education reform governor in Tom Corbett, but suffered due to limitations in the so-called parent-trigger law, which allows parents

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MS House Passes Charter School Bill

“House passes charter school bill in wee hours of morning”
by Associated Press
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
January 24, 2013

Bleary-eyed charter schools supporters took a few minutes to bask in a big victory early today, but were quick to acknowledge that the fight’s not over.

The Mississippi House voted 64-55 to pass House Bill 369, which would expand charter schools in the state. The vote came after more than seven hours of debate and three hours of a computer reading the 251-page bill.

Last year, proposals for charter schools — public schools that agree to meet certain standards in exchange for freedom from regulations — never reached the House floor. This year, House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, muscled a carefully tailored bill through his chamber. The bill’s managers conceded enough changes that even a group that had fought the proposal swung over to endorse it during debate yesterday.

“I’m proud we could deliver this for Mississippi children, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, said after the debate. The freshman was tapped to handle the bill on the floor, enduring hours of sometimes repetitive questions from mainly Democratic opponents.

Now come negotiations with the Senate, which passed a broader bill last week. The House and the Senate must agree on a version before it can go to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who during his State of the State address Tuesday reiterated a desire to sign an expanded charter law.

The House version differs from the Senate bill, limiting charters to 15 a year, giving school boards in districts rated “A,” ”B” or “C” a veto, and prohibiting students from crossing district lines. The Senate bill doesn’t impose a limit, doesn’t give a veto to C-rated

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Mississippi Senate approves expanded charter school bill

by Jeff Amy, Associated Press
Sun Herald
January 17, 2013

A bill to expand charter schools in Mississippi easily cleared the Senate on Wednesday, and attention shifts to the House for the second year.

In a 31-17 vote, the bill had two Democratic supporters but no Republican opponents. The vote came after more than three hours of debate, a day after Senate Bill 2189 was introduced and passed by the Senate Education Committee.

Charter schools are public schools that agree to meet certain standards in exchange for freedom from regulations. Mississippi has a charter school law that allows a small number of its schools to convert to charters, but none has done so.

Wednesday, the Center for Education Reform, a pro-charter group based in Washington, called Mississippi’s law the “worst charter law in the country.”

Proponents said charter schools can improve achievement in Mississippi. “I think more than anything this is about closing the achievement gap in our state,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison. The Oxford Republican wrote SB 2189.

Opponents, though, fear charters will weaken traditional schools by skimming motivated students and money. “The overriding concern is what is going to happen to school districts when you start separating students out,” said Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory.

Coast officials weigh in

Superintendents in South Mississippi had mixed reactions to the Senate’s bill.

Wayne Rodolfich, superintendent in Pascagoula, said he thinks the state should concentrate on improving the failing schools rather than open more schools.

“If you have a magic way of improving education, give us all that flexibility,” he said. “Let all of us do it.”

He also is concerned about money for current programs.

“Funding is going to be a major issue,” he said. “I think it’s important that we don’t destroy existing programs for charter schools. You can’t underfund education and then expect it to excel.”

Arthur McMillan, superintendent

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Hard-hit districts push back against charter schools

by Daveen Rae Kurutz
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
January 17, 2013

Western Pennsylvania school districts that are losing students and money to charter schools are fighting back.

The Penn Hills school board this week approved spending $3,500 a month for two years of advertising on TV and the Internet. Thirty-second ads will promote the Penn Hills Senior High School that opened last month.

The neighboring Woodland Hills school board awarded a $13,000 contract on Wednesday to develop infomercials to air on public access television.

Districts traditionally have not advertised schools, but their charter-school counterparts have, attracting a growing number of students.

Woodland Hills will pay $13.9 million — nearly 17 percent of its annual budget — to charter schools this year to educate more than 1,150 children who live in the district, the most students among 49 suburban districts the Tribune-Review surveyed. About 22 percent of eligible students there go to charter schools. Penn Hills is sending 787 students to charter schools at a cost of $8.1 million.

“It‘s cost us personnel. It‘s cost us programs,” said Tara Reis, a Woodland Hills board member and parent. “When you see these kinds of numbers, it‘s staggering. That‘s why we don‘t have reading specialists or an after-school tutoring program or pre-K programs anymore.”

Since the Legislature approved charter schools in 1997, 175 have opened statewide. Sixteen are online only. The charters are privately operated but funded by tuition payments from districts.

Supporters say they offer a better education than traditional public schools.

“I feel like a charter school gives us public education with a private-school feel,” said Ivelisse Torres of Penn Hills, whose daughter, Chloe, attends first grade at Imagine Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship, which opened in 2012.

Districts such as Woodland Hills are fighting reputations for low test scores and violence.

“The parent perspective is that the environment (in the school

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Charters Not Designed to Be Responsive to Parents. Right.

January 16, 2013

Huh? There are lots of ridiculously inaccurate things said about charters but this one takes the cake.

“…charters are often not designed with the focus of being responsive to parents…”

That’s funny. I’m not sure how one attracts parents if they are not responsive, but apparently an academic at NYU — and a member of the NY State Board of Regents — thinks otherwise.

Down in Tennessee, The Cornerstone charter school has been in a struggle with the district where it is also running a failed charter. There are rumors about behaviorable tactics being used in the school, including one teacher who took away kids shoes because they were playing with them.

That’s a pretty stupid thing to do under any circumstance, but it hardly has to do with responsiveness to parents, a hallmark of the charter school concept and for which most schools demonstrate huge parental satisfaction.

Here’s Pedro Noguera‘s full quote:
“The kind of reaction you are seeing is not uncommon. There are many communities where that has occurred,” said Pedro Noguera, executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University.

“It’s more likely to happen in charters because charters are often not designed with the focus of being responsive to parents, the community or the culture of
the children.”

Right.

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