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States Show Little Progress On Annual Education Scorecard

Nineteen Years Of Charter School Policy Analysis Reveal Lawmakers Must Strengthen State Laws

CER Press Release
Washington, DC
March 16, 2015

Of the 42 states and the District of Columbia that have charter school laws, only one-third earned above-average scores for implementing a strong policy environment according to the 16th Edition of Charter School Laws Across the States 2015: Rankings and Scorecard released today by The Center for Education Reform (CER).

“It is abundantly clear that little to no progress has been made over the past year. Charter school growth does continue at a steady, nearly linear pace nationally, especially in states with charter laws graded ‘A’ or ‘B,’ but an even more accelerated pace would allow charter schools to play a more central role in addressing the demands and needs of our nation’s students,” said Kara Kerwin, president of CER.

“Strong charter laws feature independent, multiple authorizers, few limits on expansion, equitable funding, and high levels of school autonomy,” said Alison Consoletti Zgainer, CER Executive Vice President and the report’s lead editor. “Many states that appear to have all of the critical components of a strong law struggle with the implementation of key provisions, which is why the rankings over the past few years have shown little variance and have remained relatively stagnant.”

Only four states and D.C. earned As, with D.C. holding on to the number one seat for seven years in a row. Eight states earned Bs, 19 Cs, and 11 earned Ds or Fs. Thirteen states saw changes to their ranking since last year, but any changes to laws within the past year have been modest at best as this ranking and scorecard demonstrates.

“The lack of progress made in statehouses across the country over the past few years to improve the policy environment for charter schools can be chalked

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Jacques: Slow down on charter school reform

by Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News
October 24, 2014

Michigan charter schools are feeling a little picked on lately.

Since July, these public schools which educate about 10 percent of the state’s students have received nearly 100 percent of the criticism coming from Democratic lawmakers and other education leaders.

In recent months, Democrats have introduced three pieces of legislation that ultimately seek to limit charter schools and single them out for additional accountability and transparency when all public schools could benefit from more scrutiny.

And earlier this summer, state Superintendent Mike Flanagan put 11 of the state’s 40 charter authorizers on notice, jeopardizing their ability to charter any future schools.

The common thread behind all this action against charter schools stems from a detailed series of media reports that came out in June.

Lawmakers and other leaders quick to jump on the anti-charter bandwagon should take a breather considering a report released Monday that analyzes the reporting and finds it falls short.

The Media Bullpen, the independent news branch of Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, took a close look at data and came to very different conclusions about the health of Michigan’s charter school community. The center works to promote school accountability and choice around the country.

“Michigan spends $13 billion of taxpayers’ dollars on K-12 public education, yet not a single traditional public school has been closed by the Michigan Department of Education or a Michigan school district for academic reasons,” Kara Kerwin, Center for Education Reform president, said in a statement. “Michigan’s charter school closure rate is 22 percent, while the national charter school closure rate is 15 percent. The fact that Michigan has one of the highest charter school closure rates in the nation shows that authorizers in the state take accountability and the public’s trust to educate students to their fullest potential

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Charter Schools Make The Most of Public Funding

New Evidence Finds Charter Schools More Cost Effective and Yield a Greater Return on Investment

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
July 22, 2014

Charter schools are on average more cost effective in delivering learning gains than traditional public schools, according to a new report released today by the University of Arkansas.

The first of its kind, “The Productivity of Public Charter Schools,” conducted on a national scale, analyzes the cost effectiveness and return on investment in the public education system.

“Not only are charter schools doing more with less, they are on the whole demonstrating a superior ability to act as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform. “The importance of this body of research cannot be understated, as it ties charter funding to the most important aspect of education – student outcomes.”

For every $1,000 invested, charter schools delivered 17 additional points in math and 16 additional points in reading on the eighth grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Cost effectiveness was most pronounced in the District of Columbia, where charter schools were 109 percent more cost effective in terms of math scores, and 122 percent more cost effective in reading.

According to the Center for Education Reform’s 2014 Survey of America’s Charter Schools, charter schools on average received 36 percent less funding during the 2012-13 school year.

“These findings make funding inequities at the state level between charter and traditional schools all the more egregious,” said Kerwin. “Imagine the influence public charter schools could have on U.S. student outcomes if they received money in the same manner and the same amount as traditional public schools, including funding for facilities.”

“It’s critical lawmakers take note, as this research underscores the importance of having strong fiscal equity provisions in a state’s charter school law.”

Great Hearts Academies

This is Part VII in a series dedicated to National Charter Schools Week.

People often say that small business owners on Main Street are the backbone of the economy, and provide real sources of inspiration for the rest of us. The same is true of the mom-and-pop charter school operators in American education reform.

Armed with fortitude, a desire to serve students, and a whole lot of elbow grease, these courageous activists set up schools that at the outset may appear to have a small presence, but end up making a big contribution to their community.

The founding of Arizona-based Great Hearts Academies is emblematic of this approach in delivering better schools, and speaks directly to the can-do attitude of any student or educator.

The passage rate for Great Hearts high schoolers on state testing for reading, writing, math science is far above state averages as of 2013, ranging from a 13 percent higher passage rate in reading to a 35 percent boost in math.

Between 85 and 96 percent of Great Hearts graduating classes go on to four-year colleges.

“Our goal here is to bring a classical, liberal arts curriculum that will close the achievement gap,” says Natalie Young Williams, Headmaster of Great Hearts’ Teleos Preparatory Academy.

Due to successes and an unwavering commitment to setting high expectations for graduation rates and subject proficiency, Great Hearts has since been able to expand into multiple campuses across Arizona for hard-working students in other communities, with plans to open new campuses across state lines in 2015.

Based on the Great Hearts ‘philosophical pillars,’ students also think twice about using sarcasm or derision with their colleagues, and opt instead for personal and intellectual collaboration and growth.

“Each of our graduates is characterized by a life-long commitment to the

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Charlotte Secondary School

This is Part VI in a series dedicated to National Charter Schools Week.

The staff at Charlotte Secondary School(CSS) in North Carolina just seems to get it.

They understand that being charter school educators gives them a responsibility to innovate and find the best possible methods of improving student learning and mastery of material.

Acting on this responsibility (and because they have the bureaucratic freedom to do so), teachers are implementing a digital learning pilot program, particularly in mathematics.

The school’s algebra and geometry teacher currently supplements regular lessons with content delivered via mobile and online devices that students can access at school or at home. Students requiring extra time and instruction, a concept not all that foreign to subjects such as algebra and geometry, can also stop, start and review learning material at their own pace.

Still in the pilot stage and powered by the Georgia-based N2N Services Inc., CSS educators tell CER that parents are able to look over their kid’s shoulder since they can access online content at home, and can make comments to teachers based on what’s being taught and how students are doing.

With teacher schedules being jam-packed during the school year, teachers are looking forward to the summer as an opportunity to develop and review the program further.

In addition to the digital learning program, the founding mission of CSS also emphasizes a comprehensive education that emphasizes civic mindedness and critical thinking to solve ‘real world’ issues.

After opening as a middle school in 2007, CSS has been working since 2013 to expand its high school offering following its recognition as a ‘School of Distinction.’ By the fall of 2015, CSS administrators fully expect to be serving approximately 560 students in grades 6-12.

Schools like CSS provide tangible examples that innovation truly starts

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Setting the Record Straight on Charter Schools During National Charter Schools Week

by Kara Kerwin
The Chronicle
May 8, 2014

Americans are fans of fantasy and myth – the resounding success of franchises like Twilight and Harry Potter offer strong evidence to support this claim. But when it comes to our education system, Americans must learn to distinguish fact from fiction.

This is especially true of our nation’s charter schools. Despite the fact that over 2.5 million children are served by over 6,500 charter schools across the country, the majority of Americans have been swayed by tall tales and misinformation about the role of charter schools in our public education system.

One of the most common misconceptions is that charter schools are privately funded institutions. A recent survey from the Center for Education Reform (CER) found that only 20 percent of Americans correctly identified charter schools as public schools. Charter schools are in fact independent public schools that are held accountable for student results.

Another myth asserts that charter schools take money and resources away from the public school system. This could not be further from the truth. Like district public schools, they are funded according to enrollment and receive funding from the district and the state according to the number of students attending. In fact, charter schools actually do more with less, receiving 36% less revenue on average than traditional public schools.

When a student’s family relocates and moves from one public school system to another, the public school system itself does not lose any money. The same can be said of a student moving from a conventional public school to a charter school. When a child leaves for a charter school the money follows that child. This benefits the public school system by instilling a sense of accountability into the system regarding its services to the student and parents and its fiscal obligations.

Additionally, research

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CHAMPS Charter School of the Arts

This is Part V in a series dedicated to National Charter Schools Week

Three days. 700 schools. A whole lot of head-to-head battles between custom-made robots.

In the end, it was students from CHAMPS Charter School of the Arts in Van Nuys, California who came out victorious in the VEX Robotics High School World Championship.

The SPUR-FLYS team members who hail from CHAMPS shared their win with high school students from Ontario, Canada and Auckland, New Zealand, meaning the SPUR-FLYS are literally world champions.

This is not the first championship for the SPUR-FLYS, a team name that combines the speed of their robot with ‘butterfly,’ who won the same title back in 2009 and are also back-to-back high school state champs.

The string of victories are needless to say derived from hard work and determination, but are bolstered by the charter school’s successful STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) coursework model, which is essentially STEM’s more artistic cousin.

Being a charter school, CHAMPS educators have the autonomy to develop, exciting and versatile learning plans, giving students a plethora of course offerings and the ability to advance their education in ways that fit their needs and interests.

Outside of robotics, students boast impressive achievement numbers, surpassing statewide benchmarks and are graduating at higher rates. Consequently, U.S. News & World Report listed CHAMPS as one of the best high schools in the country, contributing to the solid showing of charter schools overall.


URGENT ACTION NEEDED – Federal Charter School Program


May 7, 2014

TO:  U.S. Charter School Leaders

CC: Parents, Advocates, and Friends

FROM: Kara Kerwin, President

RE:  URGENT ACTION NEEDED  – Federal Charter School Program

Tomorrow, the United States House of Representatives is slated to vote on the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, which reauthorizes both the federal Charter School Program and the Charter School Credit Enhancement Program.

As you know, we were concerned with some elements of the proposal and shared those concerns with charter leaders across the country. Last week, CER headed to Capitol Hill to offer our feedback and share the concerns of charter leaders to seek some clarity.

We met with the House Education & the Workforce Committee staff and senior counsel, as well as Members and their staff. We shared our frustrations together and agreed to promote the best, and most important parts of this proposal, which have been drowned out by advocates and opponents alike.

H.R. 10 – the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act is indeed about fostering innovation in the charter school sector. At its core, and the signature piece of the proposal is to incentivize states to encourage new schools that can meet the educational demand found in communities across the nation.

A lot of emphasis has been placed on other key and equally important components of the proposal to help replicate and expand existing high-quality charters. But H.R. 10’s sponsors recognize that those “high-quality” schools would never exist if they too weren’t once just a start-up, a “mom and pop” operation, with an innovative and bold idea to transform student learning.

H.R. 10 supports, first and foremost, “the startup of charter schools,” AND “the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools.”

H.R. 10 also “assists charter schools in accessing credit to

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Budget Neglects More Than Half of All Charter Schools in New York State

Fundamental Flaws in State’s Charter School Law Must Be Addressed to Ensure Equity; Politics Do Not Trump Good Policy

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
April 1, 2014

The New York Legislature, together with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, crafted a budget passing late Monday night that financially favors a select few charter schools in New York City rather than giving charter schools – and the students they serve – statewide equitable treatment.

“Claims that the New York budget is exceedingly friendly to charter schools are little more than political spin,” said Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform. “Some charters have been granted protections from opponents they surely deserve, and this is a good thing. But overall this budget creates a tiered system in its treatments of charter schools, and the fundamental funding inequity flaw in the state’s charter school law remains intact.”

The new state budget provides facility support that is limited to new and growing charter schools in New York City only. City schools in private facilities and all charter school students outside of New York City get nothing. This means that more than half of all public charter schools in New York state will receive absolutely no school facilities aid.

Additionally, the budget agreement contains an extension of a freeze in base per pupil aid for charter schools for another three years while spending on other public school students goes up, representing a distinct funding disparity for charter school students across the state.

“State policy needs to enact what’s best for all children, and the budget agreement passed Monday favors a select number of charter schools at the expense of many others,” said Kerwin. “Playing politics with schoolchildren as pawns like this is downright wrong and unacceptable.”

“An equitable budget treats a student in Brooklyn the same as a student in Utica or a

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Wyoming ranks low on accommodation of charter schools

by Leah Todd, Star Tribune

Wyoming’s charter school laws are among the most stringent in the United States, a new national report from the Center for Education Reform says.

That may be a reason that only four charter schools exist in the state, said Kari Cline, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Public Charter Schools.

Charter schools are independently run, publicly funded schools that operate under a contract, or charter, which establishes the school’s mission.

Such an agreement can allow charter schools to do things not done in traditional schools, Cline said.

Charter schools have grown steadily since the first charter school law was passed in the U.S. in 1991, said Alison Consoletti Zgainer, executive vice president of the Center for Education Reform and lead author of the report, which was released Monday.

The group advocates for laws that will accelerate the process allowing charter schools to gain approval in each state.

To the Center for Education Reform, strong charter laws allow more than one entity to approve a charter school, place few limits on a charter school’s expansion, fund charter schools equally and allow a charter school autonomy.

Wyoming passed its current charter school law in 1995. Under the law, only a local school board can authorize a new charter school.

Other states allow private organizations, a university or a state charter commission to approve charter schools.

“In order for more charter schools to open or for communities to embrace the possibility, we really have to address multiple authorizing structures,” Cline said.

Entities approving charter schools must be trained in what it takes to start a new school, she said.

“For us, it’s not about changing the law or the landscape to allow the proliferation of charters,” Cline said. “Because Wyoming is never going to be a Colorado, with hundreds of charter schools. Many of our communities

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