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First Fridays: Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School

Today CER staff had the opportunity to tour Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, the first adult education charter school in the nation, thanks to a monthly charter school tour event sponsored by CityBridge Foundation, FOCUS and Charter Board Partners called “First Fridays”. (We had the opportunity to visit Yu Ying public charter school in March through this same program.)

CER team members Stephanie and Patrick watched on as a teacher helped students with native languages ranging from Spanish to Ethiopian understand the word “grandparents”. Struck with admiration for this teacher’s talent, they came back to the office and excitedly shared this teacher’s story with their coworkers.

Despite this teacher’s clear ability to educate, it turns out teaching wasn’t always her life-long dream. A little over fifteen years ago, this teacher decided a career change was in order, so she took a few tests and ‘teaching’ was one of her suggested career paths. As she was watching the local news one night, she saw a segment about Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, and felt compelled. Unfortunately, she couldn’t remember the name of the school, so she called up the news station. The reporter who reported on the Carlos Rosario piece called the aspiring teacher, and about two weeks later, the aspiring teacher had a job at that very school she felt so drawn to when that news segment aired.

Turns out following her instinct was dead on, as she has been at the school for fifteen years, and not only loves teaching, but credits her love of the job to the incredibly supportive administration and the collaborative environment the school fosters for its teachers.

And that, Edspresso readers, is the beauty of giving schools the freedom and flexibility they need to ensure

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Why I Chose a Charter School

Hello, I’m Briana McManus.

I am in the eleventh grade at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School – Parkside Campus and interning at CER for three weeks as a part of my fellowship to obtain job experience and to prepare me for life after high school.

While reviewing different articles, statistics, and facts at my internship, I wondered what influences help parents decide what school is right for their child? I came up with two factors parents consider to see if it is a good school for their child. Does an extra-curricular activity influence their decision? Or is the school widely known in the area or recognized worldwide?

In reviewing articles, the idea of extra-curricular activities made me think if this is why parents choose a certain school for their child. Are parents sending their children to schools because they will receive scholarships in sports? Is this because they are focused on creating the next big sports icon instead of the next person to win the Nobel peace prize? Or is this school mentioned in mainstream media? Is it well-talked about or well-known in their community? Are the good or bad stories in the media influencing a parent’s decision?

I know some people want to know why I chose a charter school and I want to say it is not because of sports, or being recognized nationally. My family and I chose this school because of the mission and vision that they wanted to achieve. In the process of researching schools, we found that Cesar Chavez had a 100 percent college acceptance rate, a 90.2 percent graduation rate, and was going to give me the opportunity to work with public policy issues, to gain job experience through my Fellowship, and take a year long thesis class to prep me for

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Raising Bar on Charter Law Shouldn’t Wait

A recent Bangor Daily News editorial incorrectly uses conclusions and data from CER’s State of Charter Schools report. The quote below is about judging an individual charter school, yet is used as ammo for an argument about why lifting the charter cap in Maine shouldn’t happen.

“It remains the case that the single most effective way to evaluate whether a charter school is succeeding is to measure value-added growth over time, including how that growth, retention, and, yes, parent satisfaction compare to the same factors in the schools those students would otherwise be attending,” Allen wrote in the Center for Education Reform’s 2011 analysis of what works and doesn’t work in the realm of charter school performance accountability.

There’s judging schools, and there’s judging school laws, and the editorial unfortunately mashes the two together in its argument against changing Maine’s charter school law. Yes, “performance based accountability is the hallmark of the charter school concept”, but giving charter schools a chance to thrive depends on the quality and implementation of charter school law. Having a limit on the number of schools allowed is not an indicator of a strong charter school law. Limits stifle the chances for innovation and growth, thus stifling the potential for great schools (that can be held accountable and judged based on all the factors mentioned in the quote above!).

Being Suspended = Best Day?

“The day I got suspended was my best day because it helped me change. Now I stay away from trouble…It feels great to be a leader and not a follower.”

Not many people would say getting suspended was their best day in school, but 2nd grader Vincent Smith Jr. of Urban Academy in Minnesota appreciated that day for the valuable life lesson it taught him:
“Getting suspended got me thinking. My Dad is in prison but he often calls me. He is good but he did something bad. I figured I was the same. I am good but I do bad things. Being bad is not cool.

This thoughtful reflection won the second grader first place in the 9th annual Minnesota Charter Public Schools Essay Contest, which garnered over 2,200 student entries. The contest winners get to take a trip to the state capitol and present their essays inside the Capitol Rotunda.

The contest is important because it not only awards outstanding student writers, but also helps legislators get a first-hand look at the accomplishments of charter school students. Check out pictures from the event and read more winning essays on the Center for School Change website.

Celebrating Volunteer State Charter Schools

This Saturday, Tennessee charter school leaders, teachers, and advocates will be honored at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville during the Tennessee Charter School Association’s 2nd annual gala.

Teacher of the year awards, among others, will be given out during the celebration.  CER’s very own VP of External Affairs, Kara Kerwin, was honored to help select the Teacher of the Year finalists. Read all about the finalists on the TCSA blog, and be sure to check back to see who won!

Congratulations, and THANK YOU to all those teachers out there working hard to improve educational outcomes for kids!

TX Charter Bill Moves Forward

“House OKs amended charter school plan”
by Lindsay Kastner
Houston Chronicle
May 16, 2013

The Texas House approved on Thursday an amended version of a bill to introduce sweeping changes to the state’s charter school system.

Senate Bill 2 passed on a 105-34 vote on second reading. It now faces a third reading before it can be reconciled with a similar version the Senate passed last month.

“I think the bill supports quality charters, helping them to expand and grow but at the same time helping to shut down the poor performers,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen.

Its author, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has called SB2 the most comprehensive charter school legislation since the state introduced the publicly funded and privately run schools in the 1990s. Previous efforts to change the system made it through the Senate but failed to gain traction in the House.

The bill would update rules on the renewal, expansion and revocation of charters, raising the current cap of 215 charters that can be authorized at any one time by allowing an additional 10 per year up to a total of 275 by 2019. Charter holders may operate multiple schools under a single charter.

It would also tighten nepotism rules – an amendment exempts current employees – and give operators the right of first refusal on the lease or purchase of unused facilities in traditional public school districts.

Patrick initially sought to provide charters with state funding for facilities, create a separate board to authorize new charters and to eliminate the state cap altogether.

He and other supporters have argued that Texas needs more charters to provide choices to families, including the more than 100,000 Texas school children on charter school waiting lists.

Critics of the bill questioned whether the state could maintain proper oversight of rapid charter school expansion. Later

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Visit A Charter School Today!

Find a School or Make a Virtual Visit during National Charter Schools Week, 2013

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
May 6, 2013

Thanks to partnerships with thousands of local and state organizations supporting or managing charter schools, The Center for Education Reform (CER) has, for 15 years, provided citizens and parents with access to a comprehensive directory of charter schools.

A glimpse of this data makes clear the breadth and depth of the purpose of National Charter Schools Week, the 6,200 schools which together are creating more and better learning opportunities for students and families. The directory provides an important point of access and objective information to the public. When viewed along side the Center’s Parent Power Index (PPI), a state by state ranking of how well the states perform in ensuring parents have the resources necessary to best educate their children, the directory can be a powerful tool to guide parents seeking to have or improve the educational landscape for their community.

“We’ve based our 20 years of experience on the simple notion that Information is Power. The more and better educated we all are about what is currently available to citizens, the more we can do to grow expanded equity and access for kids,” said Center for Education Reform President Jeanne Allen.

In addition to the Center’s charter school directory, CER has partnered with Noodle.org, the nation’s largest search engine of schools, services and support for families seeking education solutions from birth through adulthood.

The annual National Charter Schools Week runs this year from May 5-11. Nationwide and in states, organizations are providing an unprecedented number of tools and services to help increase understanding and awareness and challenge many myths and false assumptions that often characterize many state and local debates.

Additional local and state organizations also celebrating National

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Mississippi Governor Signs Charter Schools Act

‘New era’: Governor signs education reforms, including charter schools, into law
by Jimmie E. Gates
Clarion Ledger
April 18, 2013

Education reform measures signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant constitute real progress, business leader and education advocate Jim Barksdale said.

“Follow-through in future years — which will require funding — and faithful implementation are critical,” Barksdale said.

On Wednesday, in front of hundreds at Northwest Rankin High School, once attended by his two children, Bryant signed into law most of his education reform package including charter schools. He touted it as the most significant education package in the history of Mississippi.

“It is transformative. … It will begin a new era for education in Mississippi,” Bryant said. “The changes enacted by this legislation will help the state create and retain the best teachers, create public charter schools of excellence that will give our students in failing schools access to higher education, and create reading practices that will stop the exercise of social promotion.”

Kevin Gilbert, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, said he’s generally taking a wait-and-see approach — that is, will the provisions do what supporters say they will do and will adequate resources be provided for implementation.

Bryant lauded Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and other legislative leaders instrumental in getting the legislation passed.

“The goal we all share is that every child will have an opportunity for success,” Reeves said.

The legislation passed allows up to 15 charter schools a year to start in low-performing, D- and F-rated districts, without local school board approval. Local districts would have veto power over them in A, B and C districts. Reeves and others wanted only A and B districts to have veto power and other more expansive measures, but the House, with only a slim Republican majority and some GOP opposition, couldn’t pass

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Mississippi’s Modest Step Forward

April 17, 2013

Just hours ago, Governor Phil Bryant signed the Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013 into law.  When this legislation was first headed to the governor’s desk, the Center for Education Reform acknowledged this as a step forward for Mississippi, but emphasized that this legislation is not as bold or aggressive as the parents and students of Mississippi deserve:

“We join our colleagues in acknowledging that this is a step forward for Mississippi, but after sixteen years of debate in a state where only 21% of 8th graders can read at proficiency, parents and students deserve better and more aggressive action from their elected officials,” said Kara Kerwin, CER’s VP of External Affairs.

“Strong laws create strong schools. A conclusion we’ve made since 1996 evaluating the nation’s 43 charter school laws,” said Kerwin.

“Mississippi lawmakers had two decades of proof to see what works and what doesn’t in charter policy. They missed the mark on most of the key components of strong policy. Incrementalism is not good for all children.”

Click here to read the full press release

(Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Alabama public education is ranked low again

by Phillip Tutor
Anniston Star
April 17, 2013

Say this much about the Center for Education Reform: It’s not a fan of the quality of public education in Alabama.

The only proof you need is this passage from a recent CER report: “The only other thing this state has going for it is that its teacher quality index isn’t a complete failure. Parents also have access to a decent school report card to better understand their schools, but school board elections are held in October, a busy time for parents to get engaged.”


A recent CER effort ranked all 50 states in what it calls the “Parent Power Index.” Alabama ranked 46th — poorly, in other words, which is so customary in national reviews of states’ public education systems. At the heart of the poor ranking was the state’s lack of charter schools, which, as most Alabamians know, has been a hot legislative topic in Montgomery for some time.

From here, it’s interesting to view the two sides of the broader issue: In Alabama, proponents of our public education — such as the Alabama Education Association, local and state school boards, the governor’s office and the state Legislature — constantly talk of how proud they are of our schools and how convinced they are of their quality.

Yet, out-of-state agencies who study such things consistently point to real and obvious deficiencies. Rarely do the two sides agree.

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