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Answering the call…

The nation will never forget watching the levees break, the fear and pain on the faces of the people trapped, the destruction, countless lives lost too soon. Ten years ago to the date, a storm, an act of God, broke down almost every system and structure that was supposed to keep the great people of New Orleans safe.

There is no question that those systems and structures were severely flawed and broken before the storm. But one in particular – the traditional public schools – literally had tens of thousands of students falling through the cracks. Before the storm, every effort to bring substantive reform to education was fought and defeated by special interests. At the time, CER was intricately involved with the dozen or so folks locally trying to bring about substantive change.

When news of Hurricane Katrina hit, we were all glued to our televisions in horror, outraged that Americans were suffering because of it. There’s a lot of speculation as to the reasons why – flawed government, brutally failed efforts to evacuate – the list goes on.

On August 29, 2005 I made a phone call. What about the hundreds of families of the dozen or so charter schools we personally knew and worked with – were they safe? Dr. James (Jim) Geiser, the former director of Louisiana Charter School Association, now Senior Program Consultant at University of Georgia, answered the call!

Jim and several charter leaders and families made it to Baton Rouge. If my memory serves me right, a charter operator in Louisiana’s state capital gave them refuge.

I’ll never forget Jim’s words, “It’s all gone… You can’t even imagine the destruction. We’re desperately trying to find students and their families to make sure they are safe.”

I could hear the pain in his voice while he was multitasking to

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Karl Dean: Never enough great schools in Nashville

by Karl Dean
The Tennessean
August 24, 2015

“When is enough enough?”

That question was posed during the Metro school board’s meeting Tuesday night before the board voted to deny KIPP Nashville’s charter applications – applications that were recommended for approval by the district’s charter review committee.

It’s a question worth considering.

When will we have enough KIPP in Nashville? When will we have enough of the tireless efforts of Randy Dowell and his devoted team of school leaders, teachers and staff members? When will we have enough schools in our city successfully getting our youngest citizens to and through college?

KIPP has been part of the fabric of Nashville for more than a decade, changing the lives of some of Nashville’s most at-risk students. Kids like LaTrya Gordon, who attended seven other public schools before finding the academic environment she needed at KIPP Nashville, where she thrived.

As is true for all KIPP students, KIPP’s commitment to LaTrya didn’t end with eighth grade. During high school, her former KIPP teachers helped her navigate challenging housing circumstances so she could support her family.

Now a rising junior at Belmont University, LaTrya drives her brother to first grade at KIPP Kirkpatrick before interning at KIPP Academy Nashville, where she dedicates her time to helping the next generation of KIPP students succeed.

LaTrya’s story is not an anomaly. Just a few months ago, Gov. Bill Haslam recognized KIPP Academy Nashville as a Reward School for once again being in the top 5 percent in growth in the state.

Their scholars posted the school’s best reading and science results ever. KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School’s students posted growth scores in English and Algebra last year that were in the top 4 percent in the state.

And all of this happened in academic environments that can only be described by anyone who has

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Philanthropy makes up small portion of D.C. charter schools budget

By Moriah Costa
August 17, 2015

Only six percent of funding for D.C. charter schools comes from private contributions, disproving claims that significant philanthropic contributions gives charter schools an advantage over traditional public schools.

A report released by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute earlier this month found the majority of funding for charter schools comes from the D.C. government. The report is in line with other studies, including a 2011 analysis from the University of Arkansas that found nationally, traditional public schools often receive more money on average than charter schools.

“I think it’s one thing about where people say the funds come from and it’s another thing to look where the actual money comes from, so I don’t think this is all that surprising if we looked across in other states,” said Alison Consoletti Zgainer, executive vice president of the Center for Education Reform. “I think it’s just the rhetoric of charter schools being supported by philanthropy is louder than what the reality is.”

Zgainer said a 2010 survey her organization conducted found that only 8 percent of funding for charter schools came from private philanthropy. The findings were not published.

The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute did not respond to a request for comment.

About 44 percent of D.C. students are enrolled in a charter school. Both charter schools and traditional public schools receive funding per student. The report found that charter schools spent an average of $14,639 per student in fiscal year 2014. That’s in line with district schools, which received an average of $14,497 per student. Charter schools also receive an additional $3,000 per student for facilities, while district schools receive long-term building funds from the D.C. capital budget.

Of the 60 charter schools, 21 were high-performing financially and seven were deemed low and inadequate. Eighteen schools were operating at a deficit,

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Comparing Traditional and Public Charter Schools

There are many aspects of schools to compare or how one school is different from another. I recently conducted a survey about how traditional public and public charter school students and staff feel about all aspects of their school. The purpose of the survey was to analyze the opinions in both schools. The results showed different trends in the relationship between students and staff of traditional public schools and public charter schools.

In traditional public schools students tended to be closer to their teachers. Most teachers who were working at regular public schools had been working there for at least 5 years or more, which would help build relationships with students. The survey also reveals that students at traditional public schools are taking rigorous classes but not more than public charter schools. In public charter schools, students tend not to be as close the teachers. César Chávez Public Charter School hires new teachers almost every year, so it would be evident that students aren’t as close because of the changes made every year.

Even though there are many differences, students in both schools didn’t give a correct definition of a public charter school. The charter school students were closer to the definition of course, but still not quite correct. The students in each school also agreed that their school was better than the other. But who wouldn’t say their school isn’t better; it’s ok to be biased sometimes.

As I wrapped up my survey, I began to look at what the public charter school and traditional public school teachers said about the schools. All the teachers said almost the same thing, the school is good overall but attitude and behavior need to improve in some areas.

The survey was a success and I got great results. It was very interesting sending surveys online

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Online Charter Schools Closing Achievement Gap for Low-Income Students

K12 Inc., America’s leading provider of K-12 online school programs, released a new report showing three of its largest managed online charter schools — Texas Virtual Academy (TXVA), Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA), and Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) — are making progress on closing the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged and not disadvantaged students.

The full report can be found here.

“For the 2013-2014 school year, K12 reported that its network of schools enrolled a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students than the national average,” said Dr. Margaret Jorgensen, K12 Chief Academic Officer. “K12-managed schools are working to close the achievement gap, and in this report we look at three cases where schools are closing the gap between students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch and those not eligible. In other instances, we observed that students who were eligible for either free or reduced price lunch are achieving higher percentages at or above proficiency on state tests, while others who were not eligible for subsidized meals were making even greater gains in proficiency.”

“Our commitment at K12 is to serve all students, regardless of their academic or socioeconomic circumstance,” said Mary Gifford, Senior Vice President of Education and Policy. “We recognize that many of the schools we serve have a higher population who come from low-income households than the national average.  We are pleased that the instructional programs and wrap around family support services we are providing at these schools are demonstrating positive results.”

Texas Virtual Academy: In Reading, comparing TXVA students enrolled 3 years or more to those enrolled less than 1 year, proficiency percentages increased with longer enrollment for Free Lunch Eligible students by 20 percentage points, for Reduce-Price Lunch by 18 percentage points, and for Not Eligible by 15 percentage points. Notable at TXVA is the

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EdReformU™ Second Semester Now in Session

Foundational Charter School History Program Launched This Week

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
June 16, 2015

Thirty students from throughout the U.S. and a diverse array of backgrounds and organizations have been selected to join the first History of Charter Schools course, an advanced program created to help students achieve knowledge of the genesis of charter school laws, how the varying policies were first enacted and the impact of one state upon another and on communities within and across state lines. Students will acquire an understanding of the vast and unique political atmosphere of charter school policy, and be prepared to accomplish the creation of maximally effective charter school laws.

EdReformU™ operates much like a MOOC, using the QLearn Mobile technology platform created by Qualcomm for the nation’s leading universities, but provides opportunity for live collaboration and interaction with professors. It is led by CER Founder and president emeritus Jeanne Allen, who currently serves as Senior Fellow and Dean of EdReformU™. Classes are hosted as well by adjuncts of education reform.

“By using history as a guide, the possibilities to accelerate the pace of education reform, particularly charter schools, are endless,” said Allen.

The History of Charter Schools is a particularly important course. Despite the more than 20 years success of charter school laws as the first fundamental structural change made in the operations of public education since the creation of the common school, charter school policy suffers from legislative misunderstanding and implementation confusion.

The mission of EdReformU™ is to inform, educate and activate students in the history of the education reform movement. Participants will learn from the context of those early education reform experiences, which actually repeat themselves year after year, often unbeknownst to those involved.

This course follows the foundational education reform course, The Decline and Fall of U.S. Education,

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Lawsuit aims to block charter school from co-locating

by Carl Campanile
New York Post
June 15, 2015

The war against the Success Academy charter schools network of Eva Moskowitz continues with a vengeance.

A Manhattan federal suit filed Friday aims to block Bronx Success Academy 3 from co-locating at an under-used building at 1000 Teller Ave. shared by four other small schools.

The suit claims allowing Bronx SA3 into the building will violate the rights of special education students under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. About a quarter of the students are identified as having special needs and have individualized education plans, according to plaintiffs’ lawyer, Arthur Schwartz.

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Statement Regarding Maryland Governor Hogan’s Signature on Charter School Legislation

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
May 12, 2015

Statement by Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform:

“This morning Maryland became the first state in the country to roll back its charter school law at a time when it should be pursuing bold and dramatic change across its public education system.

“I am deeply concerned and disappointed by Governor Larry Hogan’s decision to sign The Public Charter School Improvement Act of 2015, which no longer reflects the much-needed change the Governor’s original proposal envisioned.

“The new law prohibits online charter schools, removes the State Board’s check and balance authority, stalls enforcement of equitable funding for charter school students, and removes the flexibility school districts already had in negotiating operational changes by requiring every single operational feature subject to a legal agreement.

“I am fully aware that the politics of Annapolis can be ‘tricky,’ but to completely ignore the warnings of local charter school leaders, news media, local businesses, parents and national experts is extremely troubling and does not put the interests of students first.

“I appreciate the Governor’s commitment to revisiting this issue in the near future, but if the politics of this past session are any indication, it is highly unlikely there is any legislative appetite to improve the already ‘F’ graded charter school law.”

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

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The Schools Baltimore Needs

Washington Post
May 8, 2015

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.”

The past decade has seen students in the 84,730-student system making gains, particularly in reading, but the educational outcomes are still depressingly low. Just 16 percent of eighth-graders and 14 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in reading on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress; the performance of Baltimore students ranked in the bottom third of the nation’s largest cities, according to Trial Urban District Assessment data. More than a quarter of high school students don’t graduate in four years. Nor is money the problem: Baltimore ranks near the top in per-pupil spending for big cities.

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 so hostile to charter schools that many children in Baltimore find themselves stuck with no options.

There are 31 public charter schools in Baltimore, enrolling 11,506 students — about 14 percent of public school students. The District, by contrast, has 112 charter schools, enrolling 37,684 students — 44 percent of public school students. Thousands of Baltimore students are on waiting lists for charters; KIPP Baltimore, for example, has 635 students queued up. But Maryland’s restrictive laws have kept good

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