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Annual Charter School Law Report Card Issued

Most states only making satisfactory progress. Strong laws in 13 states.

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
January 16, 2012

With fewer than half of the U.S.’s state charter school laws earning a satisfactory grade, policymakers this year are faced with enormous challenges. The success of these new public schools is unparalleled, with more than 2 million students today attending in excess of 6,000 public charter schools. Yet, with fewer than half of the states able to meet the demands of parents and educators who want the freedom to choose charter schools, state laws simply must improve to ensure growth and sustainability.

This is the conclusion of the 14th annual Charter School Laws Across the States Ranking and Scorecard produced by The Center for Education Reform. Among the nation’s 43 charter school laws, there are only four As, nine Bs, 19 Cs and the remaining 11 states earned Ds and Fs.

“At 21 years old, the national charter school movement is only making satisfactory progress,” said CER president Jeanne Allen. “Satisfactory progress is not good enough for our students’ report cards and it shouldn’t be good enough for our state report cards. In the past two years, we’ve seen two new charter laws but both are average in their construction, unlikely to yield large numbers of successful charter schools, and only minimal state improvements. Many states failed to advance substantive reform in 2012, a fact we hope to see change this year.”

Only four states improved their laws since the Center’s report card was issued last year, but nowhere near the trends of the late 1990s era when 17 states created or amended charter school laws.

Since 1996 the Center has studied and evaluated charter school laws based on their construction and implementation, and whether they yield the intended result of charter school policy, which

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Posse Scholarships Awarded to Friendship Charter Students

Washington Informer
January 8, 2013

Three students from Friendship Public Charter School have been awarded Posse Scholarships. This year’s winnersn — Kendra Spruill, Phillip Pride, and Kirk Murphy — will receive full four-year tuition scholarships from colleges that partner with the Posse Foundation.

Spruill will attend Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., while Pride and Murphy are will enroll at Sewanee: The University of the South, located in Tennessee.

Since 1989, the Foundation has identified, recruited and trained 4,237 public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential to become Posse Scholars. Posse Scholars graduate at a rate of 90 percent and make a visible difference on campus and throughout their professional careers.

In 2011, the Foundation received more than 14,000 nominations for 560 scholarship slots nationally.

Rejections in Maine Not a Surprise

January 9, 2013

No, we don’t have the ability to tell the future, we just know what solid chartering practices look like, and Maine does not have them. Yesterday’s Newswire noted the Governor’s attempts to improve Maine’s charter school law, but we suggested he go further and consider real multiple authorizers not tied to the state.

Which is why news of the rejection of 4 out of 5 brick and mortar charter schools, as well as two virtual charter schools, unfortunately doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

Check out The Essential Guide to Charter School Lawmaking – Model Legislation for States for more on what constitutes an effective charter school law.

Newswire: January 8, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 1

Happy New Year! The first half of the first month of 2013 is not even finished and already the momentum — and opposition — around education reform is building. To wit:

STATE POLICY MATTERS. Kudos to StudentsFirst for their new report card, which offers some different perspective on the issues facing policymakers and parents. If Ed Reform is a College Student, this is akin to yet another professor weighing in on his competency in particular areas. But it’s the cumulative GPA that really matters in the end. CER comments today.

UNION POWER?? It’s like Randi Weingarten was suddenly Captain Renault in Casablanca: “I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling going on here!” Her line to Mayor Bloomberg’s characterization of the union being as powerful as the NRA might as well have been: “I’m shocked, shocked that anyone thinks we have as much power as the NRA!” The union was offended and tied the remark to the recent tragedies in Newton. For shame! Whether one likes it or not, the NRA is a powerful political lobby for a cause and members, and that’s what “Hizoner” was saying when the union decided to once again stand in the way of a new teacher evaluation law from being implemented. That law got the union and the Governor of NY and Bloomberg great press TWO YEARS AGO and is STILL NOT IMPLEMENTED, and is one of those laws that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attributes to Race to the Top pressure. Ah, but as we predicted, there is more to getting policy changed than getting a law passed, and like so many places, the initial oohhs and aahhs that surround the union becoming progressive turns out to be all about the talk,

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Mississippi Charter School Battle Looms

Charter School Fight Looms as 2013 Session Nears
by Daniel Cherry
Mississippi Public Broadcasting
January 3, 2013

Mississippi lawmakers will gavel in the 2013 legislative session this Tuesday, and the debate over charter schools is likely to be one of the hottest issues of the session. MPB’s Daniel Cherry has more…

Those pushing public charter schools in Mississippi are eager for another shot at education reform, and they have some political heavyweights in their corner, including the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Advocates like Andrew Campanella, President of National School Choice Week, think it’s time Mississippi families have a say in where their children go to school.

“Not all children have access to a good school, and some of these kids are trapped in failing schools. And when you trap a child in a failing school, they’re more likely to drop out, or graduate without the skills necessary to get a good job.”

Charter schools are publicly funded schools, run by a private or non-profit organization…not the government. Nancy Loome, Executive Director of the Parents Campaign, says she supports school choice, only as long as the organizations running the schools have proven records of success.

“The idea that we should allow anybody to come in and have a charter school, even if the charter school is low-performing, just to give parents more choice, if the choice is a bad choice then I don’t think we’re accomplishing our goal of improving student achievement.”

Opponents are concerned charter schools will siphon off public funds from traditional public schools schools in dire need of money. But Erika Berry, with the Mississippi Coalition for Public Charter Schools, thinks competition will improve education all around.

“A charter school can help that traditional public school, show them how to best serve their students. ‘This is what we’re doing to

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Charters that fail must pay the price

by Camilla P. Benbow
The Tennessean
January 3, 2013

When the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Board voted in mid-November to close Smithson-Craighead Middle School at the end of the current academic year, the decision angered parents and generated pleas for patience. This despite the fact that the charter school had been warned over several years that it needed to improve its performance or risk closure.

The most recent TCAP scores showed that only 7.6 percent of Smithson-Craighead students were proficient in math and only 17.6 percent in reading. These abysmal scores were far below those of other Nashville charter and public schools.

Nationally, the data on charter school closings have been mixed. One report from the Center for Education Reform indicated that 15 percent of the 6,700 charters opened over the past 20 years have closed. However, less than a fifth of these closed because of poor academic performance. Most were closed because of financial problems or mismanagement.

And charter school closures are down, according to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). The association observed a three-year decline in the percentage of charters closed at the time of charter renewal with 6.2 percent being closed in 2010-2011. However, the association cautioned that there could be several reasons for the decline, including improvement in school quality.

Critics who believe that charters are too slow to close might bear in mind another study, by Peabody alumnus David A. Stuit for the Fordham Foundation, that showed that poorly performing charters are much more likely to be closed than poorly performing public schools.

Signs also suggest that more charters may be closed in the years to come. In the fall, NACSA launched its One Million Lives campaign to strengthen charter school standards. It plans to work with authorizers, policymakers, legislators and charter school operators to close failing charter

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Newswire: December 18, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 35

NEWTOWN. Angels, heroism, tragedy, pain, compassion, condolences, fear, love, regret, action. These are some of the words we feel, but there really are no words. Coping is about all we can expect and pray for, and to that end, we join those offering resources and ideas from the best. This is a time to put aside differences and politics. We offer grateful thanks to the President for representing all of us so well to the people of Newtown, and to the education groups who so quickly responded to provide support. That the superintendent and educators in the area are remaking to the best of their ability the walls and halls of the school those children have lost in their new environment today is brilliant and we are grateful for all those playing a role in helping our friends there to heal. God Bless them all.

FALSE PROPHETS. During this season of religious celebration, and given the enormity of the tragedies around us, it’s hard to fathom how some people and groups can be so small. What we accept at face value during the course of the “normal” year suddenly seems ridiculous. So whether it’s the “irrational fear” by the government over companies involved in education that AEI’s Rick Hess addresses in today’s Wall Street Journal, or the continued push back on groups wanting to start schools in league with such providers (whose profits have helped them invest and grow their products — just like our economy is supposed to do!), it’s hard to fathom how anyone would deny or obstruct efforts to give children the best America can offer simply because of a tax-status.

DISTRICTS ARE NON-PROFITS. And they can make big mistakes. “Georgia’s third largest school district, DeKalb County, was placed on probation Monday after

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Improving American Education With School Choice

Download or print your PDF copy of Improving American Education With School Choice

For-Profit Bias Playing Out In Brockton

A commentary in the Wall Street Journal today, “The Irrational Fear of For-Profits in Education” , could not have come at a better time, as the hearing on the Brockton charter school, run by for-profit provider SABIS, is today in Massachusetts.

The Wall Street Journal piece notes that Americans are fine with privatization in many other areas, like transportation, yet there is an odd bias against for-profits running schools. “Critics charge that for-profits are distracted by the demands of investors, while public systems can focus solely on the children. Yet the vast majority of K-12 spending goes to pay employee benefits and salaries. Meanwhile, school boards and superintendents have accepted crippling benefit obligations and dubious policies to placate employees and community interests.”

The local Massachusetts superintendent, who has been selected as the next state superintendent, falls victim to this bias and has vocally opposed the charter (and was even caught trashing charters on company time). What’s crazy is that SABIS already successfully runs schools elsewhere in The Bay State and is helping “close the achievement gap between its mostly minority student body and white counterparts in the suburbs“.

As the Boston Globe notes, “SABIS has earned the right to expand in Massachusetts” — they should at least be given a fair shot and not be short-changed based on the fact that they operate to make a little change — which according to the academic record here, isn’t just monetary.

The Buzz in the Bay State

December 14, 2012

Earlier this week, Edspresso shared how Brockton, MA’s school super is “Trashing Charters on Company Time.” Now Matt Malone is poised to become Massachusetts’ next Ed Chief. Will his opposition to charters continue in his new role, or will he come to see the light as the former Brockton superintendent, Basan “Buzz” Nembirkow did – the man who led the charge against a strong charter application back in 2008? Check out Buzz’s change of heart on SABIS and for-profit EMOs from a recent Pioneer Institute panel:

“I think it’s an excellent model for all instruction. We use the word differentiated instruction today, but how can you differentiate instruction if you don’t know where the kids are?”

“Class size is a myth; an absolute myth.”

“When I looked at the SABIS model, the instructional model is sound.”

“It’s a whole lot easier to what has always been done and blame somebody else.”

“SABIS has done a good job of taking what works best and putting it together, dealing with training teachers and administrators so there is a unified system.”

“From my perspective on schools, SABIS is a good model.”

Question from Jim Peyser, former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education: “Given the SABIS school in Springfield was a strong school, why wasn’t that good enough for you ”?

Answer from Buzz: “My title was Superintendent of Brockton Public Schools, so right off the bat there’s an enlightened self-interest involved in that…. Basically, the issue was finance and politics. It had nothing to do, or very little to do with the quality of the program.”

“When SABIS came we saw it as a financial threat. Simply as a financial threat. It took money away from us, which was about $4-5 million.

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