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Maryland ranks near bottom in U.S. for charter school laws

Rachel S. Karas, Frederick News Post

Maryland’s charter school laws are among the worst in the nation, according to two studies released this year.

The Washington-based Center for Education Reform and National Alliance for Public Charter Schools evaluated the content and implementation of charter school laws in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

In January, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools named Maryland last out of 43 in its own ranking of charter school laws. The state dropped from 42 to 43 in the National Alliance ranking. The 2014 Center for Education Reform scorecard released March 17 showed that Maryland scored 39th — two places lower than in 2013.

Three public charter schools are now open in Frederick County: Carroll Creek Montessori, Monocacy Valley Montessori and Frederick Classical. Officials at the Montessori schools did not respond to a request for comment on the ratings.

Tom Neumark, president of Frederick Classical Charter School, said he is disappointed but not surprised that Maryland continues to worsen for charter schools.

“Charter schools are supposed to be independent, and that’s basically what Maryland law guarantees you don’t have,” he said.

The studies’ criteria for grading the laws included whether the state allows entities other than traditional school boards to independently create and manage charter schools, whether independent authorization actually occurs, how many new charter schools are allowed to open, how separation from existing state and local operational rules is codified in law, and various measures of fiscal equity.

States also earned or lost points for accountability and putting the law into practice, Center for Education Reform methodology said. Points were deducted if the law is not followed or charter schools are not being approved for arbitrary reasons not set in law.

Good charter school laws ensure freedom and funding, Neumark said, but Maryland’s do neither. Frederick County charter school teachers are employees of the local school system

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First Fridays: A Tour of an Exceptional Charter School

As another round of First Friday tours began at Center City Brightwood Public Charter School I was immediately surprised by the number of students in the school in correlation to the number of grade levels offered. The Brightwood campus is one of six Center City Public Charter Schools located in DC and serves 251 students between Pre-K and 8th grade. I thought at first this low number of students would come as a disadvantage to the school because they’ve seen almost stagnant growth since their opening in 2008. Once I was able to actively see the student to teacher ratio in the classrooms and the high level of interaction, I changed my opinion.

Center City Brightwood campus could increase the number of students in the future but for now, I see how the students can benefit from the little gap between teacher and student figures. More teachers allow for higher individual focus on students in the classroom, something that I always agree with. The school is focused on advancing students in Math and ELA curriculum. One Pre-K class I saw in particular was relying on a school approach called Total Physical Reading, or TPR. The kids were acting out the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, learning about the different elements of a story along with the teacher encouraging participation from the entire class.

I was lucky enough to have my tour guided by the Principal of Center City Brightwood, Shavonne Gibson, who has been with the school since 2011. She spoke of the school’s gains since she has been principal, such as recently working with the Flamboyan Foundation, which allows teachers to directly engage families by holding three Academic Parent Teacher Team (APTT) meetings across the year and by conducting home visits. I have personally never experienced home

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First Fridays- Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School Tour

As part of the First Fridays series of once a month charter school tours in DC, the school year kicked off with an interactive tour of a unique charter school in Columbia Heights. Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School opened its doors in 2011, currently serving students in grades pre-K through second. The school has plans to further expand into eighth grade as well as into a bigger building.

The tour began with a discussion of the goals of Mundo Verde and the practices they currently use. Each day, the students are emerged in a curriculum system that is in both English and Spanish languages. In one particular kindergarten class full of eager 5 and 6 year olds, the onlookers got to witness a teacher who commits to never speaking English in the classroom.

As a student myself I have learned a lot about what makes a great teacher and what constitutes a poor teacher. With today’s student success being largely based on teacher evaluations, it is more crucial than ever to put quality teachers in the classroom. At Mundo Verde I saw a teacher that was dedicated to a practice of engaging students in a completely Spanish-speaking environment. It is great, and even refreshing, to see what some schools are doing in terms of immersing their students in a new language and culture from an early age.

In other classes, young students were learning about sustainability, as the charter school focuses strongly on this aspect just as much as incorporating multiple languages. Although the “environmental movement” has been ongoing for over a century, the word “sustainability only began to carry weight in the last few decades. Sustainability is “all the rage” with continuing generations and Mundo Verde shows no difference of opinion, instilling upon the students the importance of water conservation

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Intriguing At Best, Rarely Accurate – Annual PDK Poll

The PDK annual poll on “The Public’s Attitudes Towards the Public Schools” is always intriguing but rarely an accurate assessment of what people think. Since I founded the Center for Education Reform, the poll has consistently defied commonly accepted polling practices that expect questions to be defined before they are asked. Thus year after year, while parents are clamoring for options and new innovations, and are frustrated with the status quo, the PDK-Gallup Poll reports support for convention and opposition to Parent Power. This is the first in many years the media has covered it!


Test score increases in D.C. are ‘very good news’

Proficiency tops 51% in math and reading

by Meredith Somers
Washington Times
July 30, 2013

Standardized test scores for D.C. public and charter schools are the highest they have been in six years, an accomplishment officials on Tuesday said should be applauded but also serve as motivation to continue to raise the bar.

The D.C. office of the state superintendent of education released the 2013 Comprehensive Assessment System scores, showing that 48.4 percent of public school students were proficient in math and reading while 55.8 percent of charter school students were at a proficiency level.

“This is a day for all of us to be proud of the direction we’ve taken in the city,” said Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith, addressing a crowded auditorium at Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast. “But we haven’t arrived. We are not where we need to be and none of us would suggest that we are.”

Results from the comprehensive testing show 51.3 percent of all students in the District are performing at proficient levels, a 4 percent rise from 2012 and a 17.8 percent rise since 2007. Math proficiency levels increased 3.9 percent to 53.0 percent, while reading scores rose 4.1 percent to a 49.5 percent proficiency level. In 2007, scores for both math and reading were below 37 percent proficiency.

“Statewide proficiency is far too low,” D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said. “This isn’t an easy path. It’s hard work every day. These results come at a turning point for education in the city.”

The District adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative in 2010 and is in the midst of a five-year effort which includes an emphasis on reading and math. Forty-five states, the District and several U.S. territories use the Common Core standards as a way to measure education, although a number of states in recent months

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Charter School Primer

Charters 101: A quick guide from CER on understanding charter schools.

Download or print your PDF copy of Charter School Primer


A Great Leap Forward For North Carolina’s Children

Statewide School Voucher and Tenure Reform
Likely to Give State a Boost on National Report Card

CER Press Release
Washington, DC
July 22, 2013

The Center for Education Reform (CER), the nation’s leading advocate for lasting, substantive and structural school reform, today called the positive movement on a statewide school-choice voucher program a “great leap forward for North Carolina families,” as it will help to ensure access to more and better educational options for low-income Tar Heel State students.

The North Carolina Legislature reached an agreement last night on the state budget, which includes offering a $4,200 scholarship for low-income families to choose a school that is the best fit for their children. The budget also addresses teacher tenure by eliminating tenure for new teachers and sets up a modest performance pay bonus system. A $6,000 scholarship for children with disabilities is also expected to pass this week.

“Parents in North Carolina have been clamoring for more power over their children’s education,” said Kara Kerwin, vice president of external affairs at The Center for Education Reform. “We applaud the bipartisan leadership in the state legislature that answered their call.”

North Carolina currently ranks 21st in the nation on the Parent Power Index©, which measures the ability in each state of a parent to exercise choices – no matter what their income or child’s level of academic achievement – engage with their local school and board, and have a voice in the systems that surround their child.

“States where parents have options to choose tend to yield higher growth rates in student achievement,” said Kerwin. “North Carolina’s work on school choice and teacher quality issues are a real boost for parents and students, but much more work is needed to expand choice so every child has access to better options.”

The Charter School Vs. Public School Debate Continues

by Claudio Sanchez
July 16, 2013

Charter schools turn 21 this year. In that time, these privately run, publicly funded schools have spread to 41 states and enrolled more than 2 million students.

But one key question lingers: Do kids in charter schools learn more than kids in traditional public schools?

There have been lots of skirmishes over charter school data over the years. But few have created as big a ruckus as the 26-state study of charter schools released recently by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO.

Like previous studies, the one from CREDO concluded that kids in most charter schools are doing worse or no better than students in traditional public schools. About a third, though, are doing better. And that’s a big jump from four years ago. The gains among blacks, Latinos and kids whose first language is not English have been impressive and surprising, says CREDO Director Margaret Raymond.

“The fact that we can show that significantly disadvantaged groups of students are doing substantially better in charter school in reading and math, that’s very exciting,” she says.

More and more charter school students are doing better, Raymond says, because they’re getting anywhere from three to 10 extra weeks of instruction compared to their public school counterparts.

“The average charter school student in the United States is benefiting from additional days of learning,” she says, “compared to where they were four years ago and compared to traditional public schools they otherwise would’ve attended.

None of these findings were in dispute. But when Jeanne Allen looked at the study, it upset her.

“The way that CREDO has manipulated data and made conclusions about policy based on that data is absolutely ‘un-credible,’ ” she says.

Allen heads the Center for Education Reform. She loves charter schools and would do

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Study: Charter schools are improving, but performance still close to public schools

by Jeanette Rundquist
The Star-Ledger
June 26, 2013

Students in charter schools fared better than those in traditional public schools in some states — including New Jersey — but a majority of charters across the United States still deliver no better education than traditional public schools in reading, and 40 percent are about the same in math, according to a new study released Tuesday by researchers at Stanford University.

The study, which updates a 2009 report and which Stanford researchers described as the largest study of charter school performance in the United States, looked at test scores from 1.5 million charter school students in 27 states or districts, including New Jersey, and compared them with their “virtual twin” students attending traditional public schools.

The study determined that about a quarter of charter schools performed better than regular public schools — specifically, 25 percent did better in reading and 29 percent better in math.

The original study, which looked at charter schools in 16 states, showed only 17 percent of charter schools outperformed traditional public schools in math, and 37 percent fared worse.

“The results reveal that the charter school sector is getting better on average and that charter schools are benefiting low-income, disadvantaged and special education students,” said Margaret Raymond, director of the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford.

New Jersey is one of 11 states or districts where charter school students’ performance outpaced traditional public schools in both subjects in the new study. The state was not included in the original research.

“It’s not saying 100 percent of New Jersey charter schools are hitting it out of the park,” said Dev Davis, research manager at CREDO. “Overall, they’re doing better than the national picture.”

New Jersey has about 84 charter schools, educating about 23,000 students.

Nationally, there are about 2.3 million students in privately run,

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From Charter School Student, to College, to Veterinarian Career

How does your school prepare you for college? What steps does your school take to give you the experience of college? As a junior attending Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy, the school has started to get me thinking about college and career options. The Chavez Schools mission is to prepare scholars to enter and succeed in competitive colleges. As a soon-to-be senior it is almost time to start looking for colleges, but like most seniors I am confused on which school is right for me.

I have been at Cesar Chavez since 7th grade and have always had the same idea of what I was going to become after school — and that was a veterinarian. Since building a relationship with the staff at Cesar Chavez they have always been supportive of my dream. They encourage scholars to be a part of advanced placement courses, to think about a career versus a job, and to think about being the employee or the employer.

My experience at Cesar Chavez has been good so far, and since being there I have been to many colleges, met with sororities, and researched colleges that fit my career path. At charter schools, it’s about opportunity, success, and change, and attending a charter school I can see how true that is. Senior year for me will be interesting because I will be applying to different competitive colleges, receiving many opportunities for scholarship programs, and going on many more college visits.

Since enrolling in Chavez, I have taken college tours at Delaware State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, American University, University of The District of Columbia, University of Maryland, Bowie State University, and Marymount University. I have had the pleasure of meeting with members from sororities such as Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and many

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