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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 pursuit of

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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 in the classroom, and

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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.


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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Newswire: May 8, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 19

FREEDOM TO LEARN. This week the nation celebrates National Charter Schools Week, with a Presidential proclamation that trumpets charters as “incubators of innovation… give educators the freedom to cultivate new teaching models” and more. In today’s global economy, the prerequisite for the U.S. to be competitive is a world-class education system. And, charters are leading the way to securing a quality education for all children. Here’s a round-up of the latest headway made by charter schools and their advocates:

• BASIS Tucson, a high-achieving charter school located in Tucson, Arizona, is ranked number one charter school in U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 rankings of high schools. But, the charter goes one step further securing the number six rank of all high schools nationwide! Even better news: BASIS Tucson is bringing its high-octane, high-quality learning to Washington D.C. this September.

• Massachusetts education officials are lifting a temporary moratorium on proposals to open charter schools in several cities across the state, including Boston. Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts commissioner of elementary and secondary education, points to fever-pitched demand as the reason. Case-in-point, the Boston Globereports that in Boston, the wait list at charters ranges from 550 to 2,647 students!

• Legislation that would allow higher education institutions to become charter school authorizers is heading to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who indicates she will sign the bill.

• The prestigious Frank Newman Award for State Innovation, presented by the Education Commission of the States, this year goes to New Hampshire for its success in moving beyond the time-worn Carnegie units, exemplified in the state’s Great Bay eLearning Charter School, which along with several other schools was named as part of the state’s Circle of Excellence. The Great Bay charter boasts high-quality learning in a 21st-century environment.

• Cherokee Charter Academy was host to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal as he signed

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Week to Highlight Charter Schools’ Transformative Effects

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
May 7, 2012

Across the nation, schools, policy leaders, parents and communities are gathering to celebrate National Charter Schools Week. This public school reform has had more impact on revolutionizing public education than any other single effort in history.

“Charters cause a transformative effect on children, families, communities and state policy,” said Jeanne Allen, president of The Center for Education Reform. “Because of their impact, not only are they propelling student achievement forward for the 2 million children in them, but charter schools are also causing traditional education to act and react in dramatic ways.”

From Los Angeles to Chicago and Michigan to Florida, charter schools are the cause of new blended learning opportunities becoming more mainstream in conventional public schools. Union contract reforms got their start from charter schools showing how teacher freedom and flexibility improves student achievement. Parental choice has expanded through numerous sectors because charter schools demonstrated that choice empowers parents and improves all other schools.

Throughout its 20 year long history, charter schools have proven to those who once said poverty was an excuse for failure that everyone can learn if given the right environment that personalizes the learning process.

Despite the impact, the public remains largely unaware of the importance of this revolutionary reform effort and how it works. The fact that charter schools are public schools, free from much bureaucracy and permitted to innovate is not common knowledge. Charter Schools Week is devoted to growing awareness of this important reform.

Several resources are available to help create better understanding:

  • The Essential Guide to Charter School Law – 2012 Charter School Laws Across the States
  • The State of Charter Schools: What We Know – and What We Do Not

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