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Morning Shots

AppleTree Early Learning PCS Visit

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of attending a tour of AppleTree Early Learning PCS Southwest with the First Fridays program. The morning began with my own hopeless attempts to find the school, as phone maps have clearly not updated their charter school location system. After many circles around the block, two students, clad in uniforms and backpacks, finally flagged me down. They greeted me with smiles and high fives and we all entered the school together; from that point on, my experience at Apple Tree was nothing short of friendly and enthusiastic. It became evident that the teachers, students, and parents all share an overwhelming pride in the school and everything that it stands for.

As a charter school serving many families of Ward 6, AppleTree Early Learning PCS Southwest’s mission is to close the achievement gap for those who need it most. The School operates under the Every Child Ready model, which essentially tells teachers what to teach and how to teach it. This straightforward method helps teachers instruct with intention. Through ECR, teachers test students five times a year and use that data to create small groups with specific purposes. During the time I spent in the classrooms, I noticed that one of the teachers would call out a few names and have a private lesson at a table with a few students struggling with the same issue. ECR ensures that teachers are instructing with a target in mind and that each student’s needs are being addressed.

What I noticed most during the tour was the focus on the blend of structure and free choice. Even though the students are young and their activities seem trivial, every decision they make has purpose. They choose where they play during centers, but they learn patience, teamwork, and manners. In

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Top of the Chart(ers): Health of Public Charter School Movement Panel

With the newly released State-by-State analysis, the panel room was buzzing with people eager to hear just how rankings were assigned. Todd Ziebarth, Senior Vice President of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), began the panel by posing the question, “How do you even start to rate the charter school movement?” The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked schools in the United States by addressing 11 indicators ranging from new charters, closed charters, geographic distribution, innovative practices, and quality. In ranking schools, they preferred charters that focused on underserved students and utilized sources of innovation. While NAPCS plans to add more information to provide a fuller picture, especially regarding innovation efforts, the overarching issue was very clear: data collection for this report was far too difficult. If information isn’t accessible to a group conducting an intricate study, how are people who just need information for life choices able to access this data? There needs to be a priority on data accessibility so that people can accurately gage charter health.

Delving into the NAPCS’ ranking comparisons, Todd noted there is some correlation between states with high-strength laws and higher rankings and states with weaker laws and lower rankings. There are, however, exceptions to the rule. New Jersey, for example, has a low ranked charter law, but it has strong, independent charter schools in a relatively smaller sector that outperform restraints that come along with its weaker law. Nevada, picking up the #26 last place ranking (this report didn’t look at all states with charter school laws), has no law that caps charter school growth or an independent state authorizer. Instead, the multiple entities and lack of charter school funding keeps the schools in shambles and is probably a reason that no communities had more than 10% of their public school

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Best Of Both Worlds

Everyday we are inundated with technology. We wake up in the morning and watch television, we listen to the radio on the commute to school; but when we arrive to a traditional school, technology becomes a banned distraction entirely. As technology is enhanced, education has the opportunity to improve simultaneously. Blended learning is a unique method of teaching that combines in-person instruction with online learning. Instead of just throwing some iPads into a classroom, blended learning relies on the effective use of technology in which both students and teachers benefit. Websites like “Edmodo,” a teacher/student interaction page that resembles Facebook, and computers with required books already loaded onto them are small examples of technologies that make a real impact. Center School District Superintendent George Welsh said, “I foresee a time when technology will take the place of textbooks.” In the classroom and in the checkbook, the blending of online and site-based learning has the potential to completely change the way we approach education.

The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation uses four primary blended learning models: rotation, flex, self-blend, and enriched virtual. Rotation model ensures that students switch between online instruction and in-class lessons. This method seems familiar to the structure of elementary classes in which there are always different stations for separate activities. An example of a rotation model-based setting is a “flipped classroom” where students learn lessons virtually and then apply them in class. Self-blend model involves students taking traditional courses at school and additional courses at home.

When I attended traditional high school a few years ago, many online classes were offered in addition to the required courses. This seems to be the most natural high school level implementation option for blended learning because it is not a major adjustment. Enriched Virtual model is simply when students take

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