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Sioux City officials closely following charter school talks

by Nate Robson
Sioux City Journal
December 14, 2012

Sioux City school district officials are asking lawmakers for the same ability to develop new education programs as charter schools.

“If charter schools are doing something that’s considered to be better or improving student achievement, why wouldn’t the rest of us want to look at that?” said school board President Mike Krysl.

Charter schools are public schools created by local and state school boards that are typically given more freedom to experiment with alternative teaching programs, like classroom lessons and length of school days.

A traditional public school system — which Sioux City has — is not usually given the same flexibility.

Krysl said charters have failed to take root in Sioux City and Iowa is one of a few states that does not grant charters additional flexibility.

Gov. Terry Branstad last session proposed legislation that would have granted charter schools that leeway, raising concerns that traditional schools could be left at a disadvantage if they also couldn’t implement new programs that improve education.

The legislation failed to make it out of either the House or Senate education committees. The General Assembly reconvenes in Des Moines on Jan. 14.

Alison Consoletti, vice president of research for The Center for Education Reform, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, said the lack of autonomy is part of why Iowa has lost three charter schools in the past two years. Three are still operating.

“I think schools started these (charters) thinking they could experiment with new things and realized they really can’t,” Consoletti said.

If the state were to approve legislation granting more autonomy to traditional and public schools, it could put Iowa at the forefront of a growing trend, Consoletti said. Traditional schools in Kentucky and Houston are among the first to started experimenting with charter curriculums.

Superintendent Paul Gausman said Sioux City could implement

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Mississippi Should Give Charters A Chance

“Give charters a chance in Mississippi”
Commercial Appeal
December 11, 2012

The battle over new legislation to make it easier to create charter schools in Mississippi may be rejoined when the Legislature reconvenes next year.

For the future of the state’s children, legislators should allow charters. Charters are not a panacea for improving student proficiency in core subjects, but when structured right they have helped children achieve academically. Charters generally are exempted from most provisions enforced on regular schools, allowing them to use innovative teaching methods.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and legislators saw the impact charters can have on students during a recent tour of the KIPP school in Helena, Ark. They left impressed. KIPP: Memphis Collegiate Schools is among charter schools in Memphis that are helping students achieve academically.

Legislators on both sides of the political aisle have expressed the same reservations about charters that have been expressed elsewhere: They take financial resources from cash-strapped school districts. They cherry pick the best students. They diminish local control. They do not work any better than regular schools.

School districts like DeSoto County, where students are performing well, have a hard time seeing how charters can do better. We will give them that point. But about 30 percent of Mississippi’s school districts are failing or at risk of failing. Children at those schools deserve a chance for a better education.

Charter schools would provide those students with another tool to get that chance.

Trashing Charters on Company Time

December 11, 2012

This is what the Superintendent of Brockton Massachusetts has time to do, when the students in this district, a very heavily minority district barely passing the state’s requirements for performance in any grade, and in most, are below 45% proficiency. SABIS, a proven leader in charter school management that has been praised by media and state officials, is trying to open a charter school for a group of community leaders.  Students at comparable SABIS schools outperform all of Brockton’s performance.  But I guess this guy is just about the money.

by Jeanne Allen


NV District Backs Charter, Online Changes

“Schools push to change rules on charter schools, online classes”
by Trevon Milliard
Las Vegas Review-Journal
December 7, 2012

Clark County school officials want to change several rules regarding charter schools and online classes, according to a pair of bill draft requests the district is backing for the Nevada Legislature’s 2013 session.

The first bill would help charter schools, which operate through a contract with the State Public Charter School Authority or a school district. These schools are autonomous and privately run but must still meet student performance standards. If not, the district or state authority could revoke their charter, shutting them down.

A common complaint from charter school operators is that they’re “funded to fail.” That is because they receive the same per pupil funding as the district they are in, but they do not have help with the cost of providing a facility and cannot seek a bond or tax increase, like districts, to pay for it.

And school districts are not allowed to let charter schools use their public facilities.

These rules often lead to “unsatisfactory” designations by national charter school organizations, said Joyce Haldeman, the district’s associate superintendent of community and government relations.

Clark County School District, which sponsors seven of Nevada’s 32 charter schools, would like charter schools to be allowed in public facilities, she said.

The second bill would make several changes to rules for online classes.

Currently, a student must go through an extensive process to attend an online course offered by a district other than their own.

Haldeman said many rural students are interested in Clark County’s online courses, which aren’t offered in their district, but must get approval of both the Clark County and their school board.

The district would like that requirement removed.

The other change would allow an unlicensed teacher to supervise a class taught online by a licensed teacher.


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Risky Business

December 7, 2012

Remember the board game Risk, where the goal was “world domination,” or “to occupy every territory on the board and in so doing, eliminate all other players“? Well unfortunately this scenario is playing out in real life in the charter school world in the form of increasing regulations. The problem is autonomy at flexibility are at the very heart of the charter school movement, and this regulatory creep puts these essential elements in danger.

But as Jeanne Allen notes while discussing these increasing rules on John Stossel: “Good Intentions Gone Wrong”, the name of the board game itself is an important piece of the puzzle as well:

“Even the charter movement is so afraid to make a mistake. It fears risk because they are so afraid that if they don’t show themselves to be the very, very best, then they will go out of business. But the reality is, risk is in every great innovative business. It’s what makes America tick. And so when you want high quality, you want to take a risk on someone who wants to start a school.”

Speaking of making America tick…

Tim Cook, the new CEO of Apple, was asked by Brian Williams what it would take for Apple to become a “Made in America” company and what that would do to the price of iphones. “It’s not so much about price, it’s about the skills, etc.,” Cook told Williams. “Over time, there are skills that are associated with manufacturing that have left the United States. Not necessarily people, but the education system has just stopped producing that. It’s a concerted effort to get them back.”

by Kara Kerwin & Michelle Tigani


TCSA Press Release: Inaugural Nashville Charter School Enrollment Fair

Lauren Hayes
Tennessee Charter Schools Association

November 28, 2012

All fall 2013 Nashville charter schools will be present to help MNPS families apply for enrollment

Nashville, TN- The TCSA Voice, a program of the Tennessee Charter Schools Association, will host the first Nashville Charter School Information and Enrollment Fair on December 8th at the TSU Main Campus. Representatives from all charter schools operating in fall 2013, ranging from kindergarten through 12th will be available to present information and help families immediately apply for enrollment. The program, including remarks by Mayor Karl Dean at 11:15 a.m., will include student performances and charter school information sessions.

According to state data, Nashville area charter schools did an incredible job of increasing student performance this year. In both math and reading, the schools with the highest academic growth in Metro Nashville were public charter schools: STEM Prep in math and Nashville Prep in reading. Five charter middle schools were found among the top fifteen in terms of growth in math. In reading growth, five of the top seven middle schools were charter schools.

With five new schools opening, a total of eighteen charter schools will serve the Metro Nashville community in fall 2013. Charter schools are public, tuition-free schools of choice with open to all students. In exchange for the autonomy they receive, charter schools are held to higher accountability standards than traditional public schools. With this autonomy, many charter schools offer longer school days, personalized learning programs, or a specialized curriculum, such as college prep, classical, or STEM-focused. If more students apply

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Inside Hawaii Charter School’s 12-Year Success

“A School of Choice”
by Susan Halas
Maui Weekly
November 29, 2012

What Maui public high school ranks near the top of all Hawai’i schools in reading and math scores?

What K-12 school tests well above the national norms across all grade levels, has a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and achieves remarkable results for considerably less than the cost of other public schools?

If you didn’t know it’s Kihei Charter School (KCS), you are not alone.

KCS, Maui’s only public charter school, is one of only 32 public charter schools statewide.

It celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2011, but unless you’re a student, parent or community partner, chances are you might not have noticed.

The charter school’s presence isn’t conspicuous. Its decentralized classrooms are spread out in repurposed commercial space in Kihei at the Kihei Commercial Center and Lipoa Shopping Center, with three additional classrooms leased from St. Theresa Church.

There is no gym, no playing fields and few sports activities. There is an outdoor meeting area and large school garden on the backside of the shopping center. It’s possibly the only public school with a commercial coin-op laundry tucked between its classrooms.

You may not have heard of the school because, as Dan Kuhar, one of KCS’s two directors put it, “We’re not too good at blowing our own horn but, we’re a success by whatever metric you want to use. We’re not for everybody. We’re a school of choice. We are an option and we can be a very good fit.”

KCS’ Many Accomplishments

Just because they’re not so hot in the hype department doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to crow about.

According to Gail Weaver, KCS’s other director, the school:

Leads the state public high schools in both reading and math test scores

90 percent proficient in reading (ranking second statewide*)

73% proficient in math

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Newswire: November 27, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 32

WE’RE BACK. Okay, stop the calls and emails. We’ve heard you! You like our insightful and relevant commentary and news vignettes better than anyone’s, and you’ve told us loud and clear that we need to step it up. We’ve loved hearing that we write what you’re thinking and provide useful information that helps you do your job better. As we shared when we stopped a few months back, we took a pause and began providing you daily news clips instead, available on our website, and stepped up our News & Analysis section so that you’d have ready access to MORE news and MORE information. But, websites are so passé, and you apparently like getting millions of emails more than you like going to check out what you’ve missed online, so because you are the reason we exist to fight and to create more choice and accountability for all children, Newswire is back. Enjoy — and keep in touch.

CH,CH,CHANGES… Maybe? Not so much? Washington will be different in January, not the same, as some are suggesting. We’ll be here reporting and working and yes, pushing to make sure we don’t get more regulation over reform, that we don’t make inadvertent and frankly, illogical decisions about spending and accountability, like the proposals being discussed that would in effect put the feds in charge of determining what charter accountability is all about. What? You didn’t know about that? While accountability for traditional public schools is discussed in terms of school improvement grants and turn around models, proposals for charter school accountability are much more highly regulated, taking a movement born to welcome entrepreneurial enterprise and demonstrate performance-based accountability and turning it into a new “system” that requires a heavy hand from federal policymakers. Click here to

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Feds Work to Regulate Charter Schools

Much is and has been happening behind close doors in Washington, DC in the name of ensuring charter school accountability. While accountability for traditional public schools is discussed in terms of school improvement grants and turn around models, proposals for charter school accountability are much more highly regulated, taking a movement born to welcome entrepreneurial enterprise and demonstrate performance-based accountability, and turning it into a new “system” that requires a heavy hand from federal policymakers.

According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), an influential, left-leaning voice in Washington, “Future federal charter school investments should focus on quality. The Charter School Program can help drive state quality-control measures by targeting grants to states with robust authorizing practices, smart charter school caps, and those that demonstrate the capacity to effectively monitor charter schools and close poor-performing ones.”  Most charter advocates believe this is what state laws already do – or should do — and that it’s not the feds’ job to regulate quality, particularly when they have little access to real-time, accurate data on outcomes, demographics and the individual goals of individual charter schools.

But Democrats and Republicans alike do not seem to understand the power that a new federal law has on the market.  Under the proposed 2011 “Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act” (HR 2218), as summarized by CAP, states’ efforts “to support quality authorizing practices must be considered in the awarding of state grants, including activities intended to improve how authorizing practices are funded, but the proposal does not prioritize state grants based on the quality of state authorizing efforts.” The question remains– Who decides what quality authorizing is? You can bet Washington won’t leave that to the states!

Then there is the All-Star Act (HR 1525), introduced by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Erik Paulsen

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SRC Votes Yes On Charter Limits

“Charter schools blast SRC’s move to limit enrollment”
by Martha Woodall
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 20, 2012

The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools on Monday blasted the Philadelphia School Reform Commission’s decision to suspend part of state law so it could control charter-school growth, and said the move could trigger legal challenges.

The coalition said in a statement that it was “blindsided, shocked, and dismayed” by the SRC’s vote Thursday night to suspend a section of the school code that prevents districts from capping charter enrollment.

In an interview Monday, Bob Fayfich, the coalition’s executive director, said the item was added to the agenda at the last minute and voted on without public comment.

He said Lawrence Jones, coalition president, spotted the item when he attended the meeting. “That’s the first indication we had that anything was being discussed,” Fayfich said.

He said the coalition would begin discussing how to respond to the SRC vote at a special board meeting scheduled to talk about legislative issues later Monday.

“As a school district in ‘financial distress,’ the SRC has been given the authority to suspend portions of the school code and regulations,” SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos said in a response Monday evening. “The SRC has done so in the past in a variety of circumstances and will have to continue to do so in the future, when necessary for the sustainability of public education.”

The suspension does not change anything, and the commission intends to negotiate with charters on enrollment caps, Ramos said.

Charter growth is costly, and officials have said the district cannot afford uncontrolled costs. A few weeks ago the commission approved a $300 million bond sale to plug a deficit.

Fayfich said he did not believe any other district in the state had ever claimed to have the power to ignore the law that prohibits districts from

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