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Paul PCS Presents “My Brother’s Keeper” Event

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Paul Public Charter School (PCS) held a panel discussion among African American education experts, parents, teachers, and community members to inform the public of the educational climate as well as to answer questions.

The panel was composed of African American individuals from diverse backgrounds with a common goal of improving student education. The variety of areas of expertise allowed for multiple perspectives and lenses through which topics were evaluated.

The importance of data and data driven decision-making were key talking points throughout the event. Many questions posed by the moderator Karl Reid, were answered by referring to data and/or stressing its importance. While enjoying my food that Paul PCS had graciously provided, I got a chance to speak with Dr. Bridges, Executive Director of the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute. He informed me that data show that parents consider school safety a leading variable when rating school quality.

Submerged beneath the discussion of cut and dry statistics, laid the heartfelt appeals of parents and students. Presenters stressed the importance of setting high expectations and pushing their students to meet them. As I have seen from my tour at BASIS, this appears to be a common guiding principle across charter schools. According to a student at Paul Charter School, pushing students with high expectations may at times cause them to become defensive.  With hesitation in his voice, he asked how the panel might push students but refrain from making students defensive.  The panel stayed quiet for a few seconds, taken back from the honest alternate perspective, and proceeded to explain that setting high expectations was for the student’s own good.

I can only imagine young students and parents alike sitting in the audience with overwhelming potential, stifled by the labels of society, letting their imagination soar and their drives unleash as they gaze upon

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BASIS School Inc.

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Visiting BASIS DC was my first experience touring a charter school.  Having been a former public school student and an in-class tutor, I inherently evaluated BASIS by comparing its school model to that of a traditional public schools.  Enthusiastic teachers, actively engaged students and personable staff resonated in an environment one can only describe as revolutionary. BASIS DC has essentially acknowledged the fundamental component to learning — empowerment.

In the past, I witnessed students fall victim to teachers who set low expectations of their students. This lack of expectation created an atmosphere in which students did not have a chance to build their self-confidence.  Dialogue between teacher and student sounded like “well, see if you can pass this test” or “try not to fail this time.” As a result, students failed to see themselves as achievers, thus actualizing the self-fulfilling prophecy.

On the other hand, BASIS DC makes a critical point to emphasize high expectations and accountability on the part of the student.  This is a crucial achievement. BASIS DC takes into consideration a phenomenon that no other school has (that I know of). As Executive Director of BASIS School Inc., Dan Nienhauser said, “If you set a high bar, kids will reach the higher bar. If you set a low bar, kids will reach the low bar. We set a very high bar.”  In addition, students are held accountable for producing good work. Student-signed posters hang throughout the halls stating, “Show respect, Take Responsibility, Make Improvements,” which serve as a constant reminder of this principle.

It is very fulfilling for me to see that BASIS DC continually pushes students to be the best that they can be. I hope that it my act as a shining model to charter schools across the nation.

Tigran Avakyan, CER Intern


Great Hearts Academies

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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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