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Local View: Charter schools are high-quality option

by Katie Linehan
Lincoln Journal Star
February 4, 2016

Much has been written recently regarding charter schools. To be clear: charter schools are public schools, open to all students, accountable to the public, and authorized by the state.

Charter schools do not cost taxpayers more. Rather, funding follows the student.

While many parents in Nebraska enjoy some ability to choose among existing schools, high performing public options are often at capacity.

Parents of means enjoy the opportunity to then choose among private school options. Low income parents, however, are left with fewer options and, far too often, their only options are low performing schools. Frequently, this results in a child’s zip code determining the quality of education she receives.

Despite increased spending and good intentions, student outcomes in Nebraska have failed to keep pace with the average rate of improvement in other states. Meanwhile, the achievement gap between white and minority children in Nebraska has grown and is now among the largest in the nation.

Charter schools are one example of a reform that has proven to benefit students, and under-served students in particular. The highest performing charter schools in the country are not only closing the achievement gap, but reversing it.

Given their positive outcomes, the charter school movement is growing. After twenty five years, charter schools are working for more than two million children in America, doubling the number of students served over the past decade. Forty three states and the District of Columbia have passed charter school legislation.

No charter school law has been repealed and weak laws, like that in Ohio, have been reformed. In 2015, students attending charter schools in Arizona performed as well as all students in the state of Massachusetts (the highest performing state in the country) on the

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Editorial: The speaker speaks up

Boston Herald
February 2, 2016

House Speaker Robert DeLeo doubled down on the benefits of charter schools last week, and frankly that’s a beautiful thing for the thousands of parents and students who are tired of being on waiting lists for the school of their choice.

In his annual address to House members, the speaker made clear that school districts that want charters “should be given the chance to pursue them, or any other option that they may deem necessary, in order to do right by their students.”

The next day DeLeo, appearing on Boston Herald Radio, said, “We have to give every child in the state the opportunity to succeed and quite frankly, I have so many parents who come in to talk to me, some of which are almost crying at the fact that they want to see their child in X, Y, Z school. And I feel that, who am I to deprive that child, if they have that opportunity, not to be able to attend a school of their choice?”

No child’s future should be determined by lottery — and yet that is the sad case for so many left on waiting lists by the luck of the draw. Gov. Charlie Baker is committed to expanding the number of charter school offerings in the state — preferably through legislation. But there’s the ballot question alternative if that fails.

And it speaks to the mindless opposition of the education establishment when Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni can say — as she did to State House News Service, “It is incredibly disappointing that the speaker appears to be buying into the anti-public education agenda.”

Well, charter schools are public schools — but whatever!

DeLeo said, “When I take a look at some of those MCAS scores , and see

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A School of Choice

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

This is the motto found on Columbus Preparatory Academy’s (CPA) website — a K-8 public charter school in Columbus, Ohio that’s not only earned a National Blue Ribbon distinction, but has also been recognized with an “Excellent with Distinction” award for four consecutive years.

Because public charter schools are free from traditional rules and regulations, while still being held accountable for results, CPA is able to help students succeed using an innovative curriculum and methodology called The Blitz©.

“The Blitz© is an exciting way to teach students to create, motivate, be a team player, and above all, be responsible for their own success in testing and academics. It is a year-long data tracking tool that customizes each individual student’s learning experience based on strengths and learning opportunities.”

CPA implemented The Blitz© in 2009 in part to respond to the challenges it was facing, such as inconsistent leadership, enrollment, teacher turnover, and parent involvement. During the school’s first few years, CPA was deemed a school in academic emergency by the Ohio Department of Education.

However after implementing The Blitz©, the school was able to achieve excellence, creating a culture that “embScreen Shot 2016-01-25 at 5.57.55 PModies a collaborative momentum toward closing the achievement gap… and a school-wide drive toward excellence, every student at CPA feels like a champion.”

Schools of choice like CPA are able to overcome challenges because they’re free from the traditional bureaucracy and red tape that can limit a school’s ability to innovate.

Today we celebrate schools of choice like CPA that are committed to doing whatever it takes to meet students’ needs and the policies that allow them the freedom and flexibility to do what

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A Leader’s Choice

“It’s not an experiment anymore. It’s not a demonstration. It’s not a what-if. After 20 years, we have overwhelming evidence . . . of kids, parents, families who have found what they were looking for in the charter school movement here in the Commonwealth of Mass.”

Those are words from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker as he addressed the crowd of parents, educators and advocates at the State House last week as they prepared to press lawmakers to lift the cap on charter schools.

Since October 2015, the Governor has been pushing legislation that would allow 12 new or expanded charter schools statewide annually in low-performing districts.

While eliminating caps completely and allowing for independent authorizers could really help charter schools grow and thrive in the Bay State, the expansion would without a doubt be a positive step forward, as the state has nearly the s37000kidsMAchartersame number of children on charter school wait lists (about 37,000) as they do enrolled in public charter schools (approximately 40,000). Compared to traditional district schools, public charter school students in Massachusetts score proficient or advanced in all subject tests at every grade level. In fact, some of the state’s urban charter schools with populations that are mostly low-income and minority students are ranked among some of the best schools in the state.

“Governor Baker is putting a lot of political capital on the line for school choice for some of the poorest students in the state,” Mary Kissel of the Wall Street Journal notes. Despite the fact that charter schools have disrupted traditional public education in positive ways, there’s still reluctance and backlash to expand choices because of pushback from groups like the teacher’s union interested in maintaining the status quo.

From the

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WA Charter School Update: Motion for Reconsideration Deadline Extended to October 23

September 21, 2015
from the Washington State Charter Schools Association:

State Supreme Court Grants WA Charters Additional Time to File Motion for Reconsideration


Last Friday, the State Supreme Court granted a request by the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) to extend the deadline to file a Motion for Reconsideration to October 23. This additional time gives WA Charters and our member public charter schools an opportunity to thoroughly explore the Court’s decision and the full range of its legal implications.

For example, the minority opinion argues that the same glitch the Court says disqualifies public charter schools from receiving public funding could also de-fund Running Start, tribal compact schools, schools for the deaf and blind, and any other public school program that isn’t directly supervised by an elected board. We requested more time to dive deeper into the ruling and its implications, and the Court has agreed.

In the meantime, all nine public charter schools remain open and continue to serve, engage, and inspire around 1,300 students across the state. Deanne Hilburn, whose sixth grade son Austin is attending Excel Public Charter School in Kent, said she is “so frustrated and angry” that this new and excellent school option could be taken away from her son. At Excel, Austin is thriving and more excited about learning than his mom can ever remember.

WA Charters will spend the next month preparing a Motion for Reconsideration and examining every possible option available to us to keep these public charter schools open for children like Austin for the remainder of the school year, and ensure parents and communities have high-quality public charter school options well into the future.

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Show your support for charter schools on social media with the hashtag #saveWACharterSchools!

FROM THE DESK OF… Jeanne Allen, Senior Fellow: Recommendations on the GOP Presidential Debate

In the hands of some very seasoned campaign advisors, most presidential candidates take a safe approach to debates. With a relatively short time to get your talking points out, numerous issues to cover and lots of competitors working hard to hog the stage, they are advised to stay focused. But the measure of a candidate is what they do – and say – when programming is impossible. Who these people are and how they’d do as our president is best measured by dealing with issues that every one of us can relate to, the most communal of issues. That’s why I’m hoping that the candidates find opportunities across every issue to demonstrate their understanding that education is the great equalizer, and its connection to the economy and our international competitiveness, our peace, our safety at home and abroad is all connected to how well we educate our youth and our adults. Education is a big field, of course, so I’ll be looking for the guy or gal who is able to talk about education in the context of the most important current events we face today in improving and revolutionizing our schools. In my book, the candidate who touches well on the following three most important themes will win my vote.

Number One: Celebrate charter schools

Charter schools provide choice and diversity to parents and teachers, and challenge the status quo to do better. They are held accountable by performance contracts and in states where charters are largely independent from state and local bureaucracies they thrive. Charter schools are the reason we talk about standards today, have performance pay and teacher quality on the table and have closed some achievement gaps. Charters have helped breathe new life into cities like Washington, D.C. and New Orleans (just two out of

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Answering the call…

The nation will never forget watching the levees break, the fear and pain on the faces of the people trapped, the destruction, countless lives lost too soon. Ten years ago to the date, a storm, an act of God, broke down almost every system and structure that was supposed to keep the great people of New Orleans safe.

There is no question that those systems and structures were severely flawed and broken before the storm. But one in particular – the traditional public schools – literally had tens of thousands of students falling through the cracks. Before the storm, every effort to bring substantive reform to education was fought and defeated by special interests. At the time, CER was intricately involved with the dozen or so folks locally trying to bring about substantive change.

When news of Hurricane Katrina hit, we were all glued to our televisions in horror, outraged that Americans were suffering because of it. There’s a lot of speculation as to the reasons why – flawed government, brutally failed efforts to evacuate – the list goes on.

On August 29, 2005 I made a phone call. What about the hundreds of families of the dozen or so charter schools we personally knew and worked with – were they safe? Dr. James (Jim) Geiser, the former director of Louisiana Charter School Association, now Senior Program Consultant at University of Georgia, answered the call!

Jim and several charter leaders and families made it to Baton Rouge. If my memory serves me right, a charter operator in Louisiana’s state capital gave them refuge.

I’ll never forget Jim’s words, “It’s all gone… You can’t even imagine the destruction. We’re desperately trying to find students and their families to make sure they are safe.”

I could hear the pain in his voice while he was multitasking to

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Karl Dean: Never enough great schools in Nashville

by Karl Dean
The Tennessean
August 24, 2015

“When is enough enough?”

That question was posed during the Metro school board’s meeting Tuesday night before the board voted to deny KIPP Nashville’s charter applications – applications that were recommended for approval by the district’s charter review committee.

It’s a question worth considering.

When will we have enough KIPP in Nashville? When will we have enough of the tireless efforts of Randy Dowell and his devoted team of school leaders, teachers and staff members? When will we have enough schools in our city successfully getting our youngest citizens to and through college?

KIPP has been part of the fabric of Nashville for more than a decade, changing the lives of some of Nashville’s most at-risk students. Kids like LaTrya Gordon, who attended seven other public schools before finding the academic environment she needed at KIPP Nashville, where she thrived.

As is true for all KIPP students, KIPP’s commitment to LaTrya didn’t end with eighth grade. During high school, her former KIPP teachers helped her navigate challenging housing circumstances so she could support her family.

Now a rising junior at Belmont University, LaTrya drives her brother to first grade at KIPP Kirkpatrick before interning at KIPP Academy Nashville, where she dedicates her time to helping the next generation of KIPP students succeed.

LaTrya’s story is not an anomaly. Just a few months ago, Gov. Bill Haslam recognized KIPP Academy Nashville as a Reward School for once again being in the top 5 percent in growth in the state.

Their scholars posted the school’s best reading and science results ever. KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School’s students posted growth scores in English and Algebra last year that were in the top 4 percent in the state.

And all of this happened in academic environments that can only be described by anyone who has

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Philanthropy makes up small portion of D.C. charter schools budget

By Moriah Costa
Watchdog
August 17, 2015

Only six percent of funding for D.C. charter schools comes from private contributions, disproving claims that significant philanthropic contributions gives charter schools an advantage over traditional public schools.

A report released by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute earlier this month found the majority of funding for charter schools comes from the D.C. government. The report is in line with other studies, including a 2011 analysis from the University of Arkansas that found nationally, traditional public schools often receive more money on average than charter schools.

“I think it’s one thing about where people say the funds come from and it’s another thing to look where the actual money comes from, so I don’t think this is all that surprising if we looked across in other states,” said Alison Consoletti Zgainer, executive vice president of the Center for Education Reform. “I think it’s just the rhetoric of charter schools being supported by philanthropy is louder than what the reality is.”

Zgainer said a 2010 survey her organization conducted found that only 8 percent of funding for charter schools came from private philanthropy. The findings were not published.

The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute did not respond to a request for comment.

About 44 percent of D.C. students are enrolled in a charter school. Both charter schools and traditional public schools receive funding per student. The report found that charter schools spent an average of $14,639 per student in fiscal year 2014. That’s in line with district schools, which received an average of $14,497 per student. Charter schools also receive an additional $3,000 per student for facilities, while district schools receive long-term building funds from the D.C. capital budget.

Of the 60 charter schools, 21 were high-performing financially and seven were deemed low and inadequate. Eighteen schools were operating at a deficit,

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Comparing Traditional and Public Charter Schools

There are many aspects of schools to compare or how one school is different from another. I recently conducted a survey about how traditional public and public charter school students and staff feel about all aspects of their school. The purpose of the survey was to analyze the opinions in both schools. The results showed different trends in the relationship between students and staff of traditional public schools and public charter schools.

In traditional public schools students tended to be closer to their teachers. Most teachers who were working at regular public schools had been working there for at least 5 years or more, which would help build relationships with students. The survey also reveals that students at traditional public schools are taking rigorous classes but not more than public charter schools. In public charter schools, students tend not to be as close the teachers. César Chávez Public Charter School hires new teachers almost every year, so it would be evident that students aren’t as close because of the changes made every year.

Even though there are many differences, students in both schools didn’t give a correct definition of a public charter school. The charter school students were closer to the definition of course, but still not quite correct. The students in each school also agreed that their school was better than the other. But who wouldn’t say their school isn’t better; it’s ok to be biased sometimes.

As I wrapped up my survey, I began to look at what the public charter school and traditional public school teachers said about the schools. All the teachers said almost the same thing, the school is good overall but attitude and behavior need to improve in some areas.

The survey was a success and I got great results. It was very interesting sending surveys online

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