Monday, October 11, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
Committee members and their designated position to the committe include:
*Rod Schmidt, St. Vrain Valley Schl District board of education, BOCES board member
*Bill Kurtz, Denver School of Science & Technology, charter school founder
*Carol Meininger, The Pinnacle Charter School, charter school business manager
*Stephanie Garcia, Pueblo 60 board of education, local board member with exclusive chartering authority
*April Wilkins, Peak to Peak, charter school teacher
*Alex Medler, Natl Assn of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), NACSA rep
*Francine Thompson, Douglas County Schl Dist, parent of a public school student who is also on the school advisory council
*Mike Nelson, Northstar & Skyview, parent of a district or CSI charter school student
* Al Loma, Colo Springs 11 board of education, local board member that shares chartering authority with CSI
* Kevin Stalker, Harrison 2 CFO, district administrator with financial expertise authorizing charters
* Mark Hyatt, Exec Dir-CSI, CSI representative
* Don Haddad, Supt. St. Vrain Valley Schl Dist, district administrator with expertise authorizing charters
* Denise Mund, CDE Schools of Choice Unit, CDE staff member
Over the next year and a half, the committee will make recommendation on charter school standards and charter school authorizer standards in addition to any possible recommendations for legislative changes or rule changes.
Initially, the committee decided to meet monthly, on the first Wednesday of each month, at various locations. Meeting agendas will be posted on the CDE website. The first meeting will be Nov. 3rd at the CO Assn of School Boards (pending confirmation of location). Each meeting will have a time for Public Comment.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
650 CHARTER SCHOOL STUDENTS TO ATTEND EDUCATIONAL WWII ASSEMBLY
Denver, CO – The Greatest Generations Foundation (TGGF) in collaboration with Woodrow Wilson Academy will hold their first American Hero Day for more than 650 middle-school students from six Colorado charter schools on October 11 at the Pinnacle Event Center.
Thirty American WWII Veterans will attend the event to speak about their own experiences of war, answer questions, and bring to life the history that students read about in books. Students will be able to interact one-on-one with veterans to learn their stories of heroism, bravery, and sacrifice.
In addition, TGGF will provide WWII memorabilia such as retired weapons, uniforms, and vehicles to give the students a hands-on approach to learning.
"The educational opportunity for our students to meet face to face with our American Heroes is exceptional," said Teri Oates, Founder, and former Board President of Woodrow Wilson Academy. "They can learn more from talking to those who fought for our freedoms than text books can ever provide."
TGGF is an IRS 501(C)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization dedicated to serving war veterans. Their mission is to promote recognition and respect for U.S. and allied war veterans while enhancing historical education for today’s youth. TGGF works to ensure that the dedication and bravery of each veteran is never forgotten, nor the value of their deeds be allowed to disappear.
"We want to make sure that the stories and lessons of World War II are not forgotten, even when there is no one left to tell them," said TGGF Founder and President Timothy Davis. "Preserving the legacy of these heroic men and women will happen most effectively through education and the retelling of stories to younger generations."
Students from Woodrow Wilson Academy, Jefferson Academy, Lincoln Academy, Crown Pointe Academy, The Academy, and Excel Academy will be attending American Hero Day.
"We are excited to see charter schools joining together for such an important and historic event – we applaud and support this joint effort," said Jim Griffin, President of the Colorado League of Charter Schools. "Each and every one of the charter schools involved in this event is focused on rich and meaningful education, and the more we can offer our students in terms of learning, opportunities, and life experiences, the better they will succeed."
"My hope is that the students walk away from this program with a greater understanding of our rich history of fighting for our freedoms, to be impacted by the men and women who serve our country, and to always remember that what we learn today will be forever embedded in their future," said Oates.
For more information about the event, contact Alicia Harms at email@example.com or for information about The Greatest Generations Foundation, visit http://www.tggf.us/.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
DENVER – DSST Public Schools (DSST) announced today that it has received a $1 million grant from Oprah’s Angel Network to support DSST’s expansion to serve more students in Denver. Oprah announced the gift to DSST on today’s episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The show features the documentary film Waiting for Superman, which will be released this coming Friday. The movie focuses on the state of public education in the U.S. The documentary focuses on the staggering signs that American children are falling way behind their counterparts in other countries, even as school spending increases.
“DSST Public Schools is thrilled by this national recognition of our work to help more than 1,000 Denver students get a college preparatory education,” said Bill Kurtz, CEO of DSST Public Schools. “Waiting for Superman does an outstanding job of outlining our country’s crisis in public education and the urgency with which we need to act on behalf of students nationwide. DSST is very grateful for the support of Oprah’s Angel Network to help us expand in order to double the number of four year college-ready graduates from Denver Public Schools. “
DSST was one of six high-performing charter networks from around the country featured on the show as examples of public schools that are serving students well. The money received by each school network from Oprah’s Angel Network will be used to expand and open more schools to provide more students with a high-quality college preparatory education.
Oprah’s Angel Network is the foundation launched in 1997 on an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Through support from Oprah’s viewers, the Angel Network has awarded funds to hundreds of organizations throughout the United States and in more than 30 countries around the world, helping numerous individuals by improving access to education, protecting basic rights and more.
About DSST Public Schools
DSST Public Schools (DSST) operates open-enrollment STEM charter schools and is part of the Denver Public Schools (DPS) system. DSST Public Schools currently serves over 1,000 students on two campuses. DSST Public Schools has been approved to open three additional secondary school campuses (grades 6-12) in 2011, 2012 and 2013. At full enrollment, DSST Public Schools will serve over 4,200 students, and will double the number of four year college-ready DPS graduates by 2020.
DSST Public Schools was founded as the Denver School of Science and Technology in 2004 with the founding campus at Stapleton. DSST: Stapleton serves students from all parts of Denver with a student population of 65% minority and 45% low income. DSST: GVR’s student population is 83% minority and 55% low income.
DSST: Stapleton is widely considered to be one of the leading open enrollment STEM schools (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the U.S. and has become a destination for educators nationwide. DSST: Stapleton has consistently been the highest performing secondary school in DPS and in Colorado, based on growth and absolute performance. DSST: Stapleton’s first three graduating classes earned 100% acceptances into four-year colleges. Fifty percent of DSST’s 2010 graduating class is first generation college-bound.
Additional information about DSST Public Schools and the admission process is available on the school’s web site at www.scienceandtech.org.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Districts and individual public schools are reviewing their framework reports now before they're made available to the public. Quirky things are coming out of the data used to make these calculations.
It's possible the data used to calculate the four performance indicators can be appealed to the State Board of Education. But the data that's used is all final and cannot be changed.
It'll be interesting to see how faulty data is addressed at the state level, but even more interesting will be watching the new interest school and district-level staff take in making sure the data is correctly reported in the first place.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Here are a few highlights for someone thinking about attending:
- A state-level panel discussing the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (f.k.a. No Child Left Behind).
- A panel discussing the use of Standard 11: Finance for charter schools from the perspective of the CSSI team member, business manager and administrator.
- The legal aspects to the Financial Transparency Act and what's required of charter schools.
- Fundraising for charter schools.
- Lessons learned from one charter school's audit.
- How to start a charter school business office.
- An update on the HB 1412 State Advisory Committee established to recommend charter school and charter school authorizer standards.
- Internet safety for schools.
- Property and liability insurance tips for charter schools.
- Information on the BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant.
Register for the Finance Seminar at: http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdechart/event_fin_bmn.htm
Charter school business managers meet throughout the school year every other month. The same link works to register for those meetings.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The federal guidance released on Sept. 1st states that a charter school that is an LEA will receive the funds directly. This doesn't affect any of Colorado's charter schools because none of the state's charter schools are their own LEA (Local Education Agency--the label attached to school districts).
The guidance also explains that management company employees are not eligible to receive Ed Jobs funds. Only about nine management companies operate in Colorado and those with varied administrative positions employed by the management company. Most commonly, the lead administrator and possibly another administrative position are employed by the management company and all other employees are employees of the charter school and not the management company.
Colorado's interpretation of the guidance is that teachers, or school-based employees, may be eligible for Ed Jobs funding. Positions paid for by the management company are not eligible.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
This website would be a great resource for students needing a bit more remediation for a concept that isn't quite clicking yet. Since the material is sequential, it builds upon previous knowledge.
Teachers can use this in the classroom for students who either want to advance more quickly or students who want to reinforce what they've already begun to understand.
Check it out. And see what Bill Gates is recommending!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
After twelve years of having a building on a small piece of land without an opportunity for expansion, Crown Pointe Academy celebrated this afternoon the move into their brand new facility at 86th & Federal in Westminster. The building is named after Bill Christopher, former City Manager for the City of Westminster.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Last night over a thousand people showed up to celebrate the grand opening of SkyView Academy in Highlands Ranch near C470 and Quebec. The school is located in what was formerly a Home Depot building. Currently they're only using about half of the building. The other half is being rented out every afternoon and evening because it's an indoor sports facility. The school's building has four volleyball/basketball courts, three soccer courts, a batting cage and speed development court.
SkyView Academy will use the Core Knowledge curriculum and will begin with serving the elementary school grades. They've already been approved for a high school to open next fall. The board plans on converting the athletic center into two stories of classrooms for the junior high and senior high.
SkyView's principal is well-known in the charter school community: Merlin Holmes. Merlin is a well-respected former high school science teacher, high school principal, K-12 principal, consultant for the Colo. Dept of Education and consultant for the National Heritage Academies, Inc management company. Merlin had an overabundance of applicants for his new staff and was very selective in developing a high quality team.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall spoke at the grand opening ceremony. He said he's been a long-time supporter of charter schools and commended the school's founders for their work and dedication to improving the community's students. He noted that today's students are tomorrow's leaders.
Founding board president, Jennifer Larson, addressed the crowd by acknowledging the work of several parents in addition to the founding board. She said the building has over 100,000 sf of space and sits on 14 acres. Their plans are to add on to the building since they won't need the 800+ parking spaces currently available.
Daughters of founders Jen Larson and Lorrie Grove introduced their new Executive Director, Merlin Holmes, and gave him several gifts that he would need for the school year. These gifts included a magic wand (because anyone named Merlin should have a magic wand), oversized clown glasses so he could continue to see to implement the grand vision, and a whoopee cushion so that he could be excused from some of the many meetings he's required to attend.
JHL was the contractor for the project, which was designed by SlaterPaul. The design is industrial with concrete floors and open areas above the classrooms. In its previous use, there were no windows. There are now large windows and the west side features a great view of the Colorado's mountain range. For the first time in the state's history, the charter school's authorizing school district -- the Douglas County School District -- floated Certificates of Occupancy for the charter school, essentially cutting the cost in almost half.
The founders of SkyView started NorthStar Academy six years ago. They originally intended to locate that school in Highlands Ranch, but couldn't find a facility. Once an existing charter school facility became available in Parker, they decided to locate their new charter school there. But many Highlands Ranch continued to drive a considerable distance to Parker. The founders voiced appreciation for the Parker site's principal, Cynthia Haws, and Dean of Curriculum, Kendra Sheffield, for their help with the SkyView application.
Update: Highlands Ranch Herald News article.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
According to a Longmont Times-Call editorial, this district policy provision is not warranted because the district's charter schools are doing well and the editorial questions why this change is proposed after a proposed charter school application last year had out-of-district founders.
Last year the Lotus School for Excellence proposed a new charter school using a model similar to the school they already operate in Aurora. The application was denied, in part due to their founders -- and proposed board members -- being from outside the school district. In the Lotus proposal they intended to use their existing governing board to also oversee the new school in Longmont.
It's apparent that the vital issue with this whole debate is where should the line be drawn in charter school authorizing responsibilities. This subject came up in the last legislative session when certain lawmakers wanted to see "something done about" schools like the Cesar Chavez School Network. The top three administrators of the Network were eventually terminated, but it was disclosed that they had extraordinarily high salaries and little accountability. Several lawmakers questioned who had the responsibility to ensure things like that didn't happen.
There are differing viewpoints on where the line should be drawn between charter school accountability and "regulation creep." The charter school philosophy embodies the right of a charter school to operate independently, in exchange for increased results. Leaders in the charter school community have expressed concerns over the years that gradually charter school autonomy has been eroded. In fact, this was an issue in the most recent charter school appeal hearing before the State Board of Education.
This debate about autonomy is likely to be a hot topic at the committee hearings established as a result of HB10-1412, which creates a committee to review charter school standards and charter school authorizer standards. The committee will meet this fall and ultimately, have recommendations for the State Board by August 1, 2011.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
To begin, watch the tutorial. If you don't understand why the state uses the growth model to examine student achievement, watch this video.
Not along ago each school district in the state received their data for the District Performance Framework and each individual public school's School Performance Framework. The data in these reports generate different levels of Accreditation. The State Board of Education accredits each school district in the state. In the past the Accreditation process could be a bit subjective. By using the District Performance Framework (DPF), the Accreditation level is based strictly on data.
The type of data used to determine Accreditation level is different for elementary, middle and high schools. By October 15th, districts must assign an Accreditation category to each of their public schools. By November 15th the State Board and Commissioner of Education will approve the school Accreditation categories and the related plans associated with underperforming schools.
There are four key indicators for School Performance Frameworks (SPFs). These are:
1. Academic achievement: the percent proficient or advanced
2. Academic growth: the median student growth
3. Gaps in academic growth: median growth for subgroups
4. Postsecondary & workforce readiness: graduation rate, drop-out rate, and the ACT composite
High schools are accredited on all four indicators while elementary and middle schools are only accredited on the first three indicators.
The School Accountability Reports are obsolete and the state is now using SchoolView to provide information to parents about their child's school. Parents can compare a variety of schools, using the Growth Model, and get specific information about each school through the School Performance Framework.
Many educators have been learning about the Growth Model and SPF at their trainings conducted before school began this month. Schools will have individual student achievement data to use in making decisions on the types of interventions each student may need. Parents should ask to see this information either at Parent/Teacher conferences or by visiting the school office.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
However, my memories of dropping my kids off for their first day of Kindergarten was the mothers wore sunglasses and didn't talk with each other after the kids went in. They were too choked up from that first day's goodbye!
The Kindergarten teacher at Jefferson Academy (the first charter school I worked on) is still there 16 yrs later. Her name is Bentley Ryberg and she taught my daughter who is now in college. Bentley is the absolute best! She's smart and she loves kids of that age. Kindergarten teachers are unique. Not everyone can deal well with students so young. But it's amazing to watch the transformation of these 5 and 6 year-olds over the school year. I recall learning the Open Court alphabet sounds right along with my daughter. And my daughter and I still talk about the field trip to the zoo where she and her classmates spelled "hippopotamus" to the sheer astonishment of a couple standing nearby.
The first day of Kindergarten is the very best. Most importantly, it's the best for the charter school's founders in order to completely understand why they went through so much work.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Some of the schools have been criticized for influencing students to accept Islam ideals and philosophies as a result of the school being "Gulen-inspired." Gulen claims no connection with any of the schools.
Fethullah Gulen promotes peace and communication between Turkey and Western cultures. Since 1999 Gulen has lived in the United States. Earlier this summer, Gulen critized Turkish involvement in the flotilla that attempted to deliver aid to Israel's Gaza Strip. Gulen said the Turkish aid group should have sought permission from Israeli leaders before attempting to deliver aid.
The Lotus School for Excellence in Aurora was founded by a group of individuals with connections to Turkey. The school originally opened as a secondary school and is adding an elementary school for this school year. Their grand opening celebration will be later this week where they have expanded their campus by taking over more of the church facility they occupy.
Last year Lotus leaders submitted new charter school applications in the St. Vrain Valley School District and Jefferson County School District. They later withdrew their application from St. Vrain, but appealed the charter denial out of Jeffco to the State Board of Education. Lotus lost that appeal.
A significant portion of the appeal hearing centered on the school's academic achievement data, which was mixed with some small gains. According to this year's Growth Model data, Lotus made Adequate Growth in reading, but not in math or writing.
Lotus plans to submit at least one more charter school application this fall.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Vanguard HS is an extension to the Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy. The secondary school is authorized by the state Charter School Institute while the elementary is authorized by the Cheyenne Mountain School District. The Cheyenne Mountain district wouldn't let the school's leaders use the words "Cheyenne Mountain" in the name for the new high school when it was initially approved. The secondary school's charter subsequently moved to CSI.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
DPS plans to use the money, up to 25 million, to improve literacy skills in middle school students through a partnership with the Bueno Center at CU Boulder and Padres and Jovenes Unidos.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
A quick search on the internet will reveal hundreds of lists saying what the best books are. Comparing these lists reveals that no one agrees; even if there are some books that appear more frequently than others. Everyone from popular magazines to bloggers are eager to decide what the best books are. I even have a professor who gives every student a copy of his “Highly Selective 100 Book List”. While each creator thinks his/her book list is the best, they seem to all utilize different criteria. These lists raise a very important question. What books should we be teaching students? There are many questions that this leads to:
· Is what a book says more important than how a book says it? A book can be very interesting to read, but make no strong statements. Also, a book can make a very powerful statement, but if the students can’t enjoy reading it, the book will have little to no effect on them.
· What influences are more important than others? Is a book with political influence more important than a book with social influence? What about educational influence or literary influences. Each of these can greatly affect which books make it into the classroom and which don’t.
· Should all races be equally represented in the classroom? Or, what about an equal representation of both male and female authors? What about trying to judge the quality of a book regardless of the gender or ethnicity of the author?
· Should we teach more than one book by the same author? Or, should authors be limited to one book in the classroom to make room for the students to be exposed to more authors?
This list of questions could continue on for awhile. With so many questions to answer it is no wonder that we can’t decide which books are more important than others. The most teachers have time for is to give the students a tiny window to view the vast ocean of literature. What a teacher can do is decide what those students see outside that window. So, what books do you think are most important for students to view through that window?
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Al Shanker, leader of the New York City's United Federation of Teachers, couldn't tolerate the idea that charter schools would operate with anything other than union teachers at the helm. And thus it remains today, proponents of teacher's unions oppose charter schools.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I've supported DonorsChoose in the past and have personally donated to them numerous times. Via the website, teachers can explain a project they'd like to have funding for and donors can donate to all or part of the project.
Support your favorite charter school by supporting DonorsChoose!
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Typically a charter school board enters into a performance contract with a management company. The charter governing board should have the authority to terminate a contract if the management company doesn't perform adequately. Well, unless the charter school is in Ohio.
Greg Richmond, from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), wrote an article for EdWeek explaining that charter school boards need to hold their management companies responsible for performance and authorizers need to ensure charter school board members are independent of the company and operate with the best interests of the charter school in mind.
Many of Richmond's recommendations were incorporated into the Colorado sample contract language created last year in collaboration with the state Charter School Institute, Colorado League of Charter Schools and the Colorado Department of Education. The sample contract language has an attachment with "Education Service Provider" provisions to enhance the chances of a good relationship with the management company. Fortunately, with the shared expertise of Richmond and others, Colorado was able to benefit from the lessons learned in other states.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Parents who were thrilled that the school received this prestigious recognition were shocked to realize they had been led along a primrose path. The former principal kept bragging about their official status and saying things weren't really as bad as DPS portrayed them to be.
Almost half of the state's charter schools use the Core Knowledge sequence and most are high performing schools. The Core Knowledge Foundation has two levels of recognition: official status and designation as a visitation school.
In order to receive official CK status, the school is visited by two consultants. The consultants' job is to verify if the school is teaching at least 80% of the CK curriculum with fidelity. So the obvious question is, how could a school become an official CK school and within a year DPS was citing the school for being in the bottom 5% of the school district based on academic achievement data? What exactly does "official CK status" mean anyway?
Today Gerald Terrell, from the CK Foundation, said that having the official CK status "label" doesn't justify poor performance.
Certainly having a particular label from the Core Knowledge Foundation is distinctly different than what's actually happening in the school classroom. Many of the CK charter schools in the state are doing well and many of those, without any recognition from the CK Foundation.
Nationally, Colorado is known for having a high percentage of Core Knowledge charter schools. In fact, the state is involved in a federal Institute of Education Sciences study on the impact of CK charter schools on literacy.
Leaders from the CK charter schools that are doing well are struggling with the Core Knowledge Foundation's decision to give official CK status to Northeast Academy Charter School. They don't understand it. And rightly so.
Friday, July 23, 2010
NACS is a K-8 charter school in the Montbello area of Denver (far northeast). The school uses the Core Knowledge curriculum.
The NACS board contracted with Ridgeview Classical Institute (a nonprofit in association with Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins) to take over the school in January. RCI made formal recommendations for changes in early February and April. These changes included school leadership, instructional practices, staffing, operations, board governance and curriculum.
The school's families had been led to believe that everything was going well for the school. Thus, the school community was shocked to learn of its poor CSAP scores and many were in denial. Several tumultuous meetings took place last spring as the families and staff struggled to comprehend the drastic changes that needed to occur at their school. The principal was terminated in mid-February and the majority of staff members were notified they wouldn't be asked to return the following school year.
Now the school is on the verge of a new start with a new princpal, assistant principal and the vast majority of the staff. There's also been turnover on the board as original school founders came back on the board to reignite the school's original vision.
The NACS board recently hired Troy Wathen to lead their school. Troy comes from Houston where he started and led a private school for the past ten years. Before that he taught and was an administrator in southern California.
Several of the new teachers at NACS come from the Teach for America program. Further, at least one teacher is returning after having left the school a couple of years ago. About eight teachers are returning from last year's staff. Many of the former and new staff spent two weeks in an academy in Fort Collins at Ridgeview Classical Schools in early June.
The classroom instructional approach to the Core Knowledge curriculum will be infused with the Classical approach, which embodies the Socratic method and discussion to drive deeper understanding. Mr. Wathen's previous school was a Classical school and as a teacher, he understands how to monitor student progress with this approach to ensure student academic achievement.
There's an enthusiasm building at Northeast Academy for the new opportunity for students to learn more and to become a quality school. The change hasn't been easy, however.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Lee was one of the first people hired after the formation of the Charter School Institute in 2005. At that point, he'd already created and was the director for the Colorado School Resource Center, a nonprofit that provided technical assistance to new and developing charter schools. Lee has been associated with the development of several charter schools, primarily in Jefferson County where his daughter attended a charter school.
Lee has a Masters in Economics, which he used to provide consultation to schools in regard to their finances. He also established business operations for the CSI. Lee served as the Interim Director of CSI between the resignation of Randy DeHoff and the hire of Mark Hyatt as Executive Director.
It's unclear at this time what Lee plans to do in the future. Knowing Lee, however, and his passion for charter schools it's highly likely he'll be volunteering his services for new charter schools.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Dear Education Secretary Duncan,
I am writing to point out a contradiction you posed to the nation's charter school movement in your address to us at the National Charter Schools Conference on July 1st, 2010. You began your address by issuing a clarion call to the charter movement to increase the number of schools that target a) low income and minority students, b) special education students, and c) students that have dropped out of the traditional education system. While I strongly believe that the movement is already doing this, I think they are also up for this challenge.
But here is the rub.
You followed up this set of statements by berating the leaders of the charter movement for not being bold enough to close the lowest performing schools. While I whole heartedly agree that chronically poor performing charter schools do need to be closed, I think you fail to see a contradiction between these two statements.
I pose you this question to help clarify my point; of the 200 charter schools on the bottom 5% of each states list, how many of those ARE the schools with missions to recover prior dropouts and serve predominantly special education students?
Unfortunately, I cannot answer for the nation but I do know that in Colorado there are 48 such campuses (including, charters, district run, and state schools). Of these 48 campuses, approximately 95% of them are either on Tier 1 or Tier 2 improvement status.
This, I believe, is not due to the effectiveness of the schools but is an artifact of the accountability systems that are in place. According to the 2008 data, Colorado's alternative education campuses (AECs)-including both charter and non-charter schools-averaged 13 percent proficiency in writing, 26 percent proficiency in reading, and 4 percent proficiency in mathematics (compared to the state averages of 53, 68, and 53 in writing, reading, and math, respectively). While this makes me sad to report, I am not terribly surprised given that the average student attending one of our AECs comes to the school between 2 and 6 years behind grade level.. Even if a school is successful at growing their students the equivalent of 2 academic years in one year's time, a great majority will not be able to pass a grade level standardized test.
Colorado appears to understand this, and has recently adopted an alternative accountability framework. This framework focuses a bulk of the accountability for these alternative schools on academic growth and on students' preparedness for postsecondary options, including workforce entry, military enlistment, and enrollment in a certificate program or postsecondary institution. The new framework also gives AECs the ability to report on measures that suit their students, allowing them to provide evidence based on formative assessments that can be given multiple times per year. This is extremely valuable as these high-risk students tend also to be highly mobile.
Until the federal government is prepared to acknowledge the needs of these students, as well as the efforts put forth by the schools whose missions are to serve them, there will not likely be an increase in the number of schools serving drop outs and special education students, charter or otherwise.
Authorizers grow leery of opening new alternative campuses because, under current accountability models, they so often fail. Districts, too, limit the number of alternative programs or schools they open for the same reason.
I encourage you to explore this further, perhaps calling for a survey of the alternative education landscape to help identify quality alternative school models and relevant accountability metrics, and not be so quick to point fingers and issue catch 22s to the charter movement. As a researcher who has dedicated much of the past four years on this topic, I would be delighted to share my findings with you.
Jody L. Ernst, Ph.D.
Friday, July 9, 2010
To be clear, Colorado's charter school movement is vastly different than charter schools in most other states. Our charter schools tend to do better and we tend to have more grassroots startup schools rather than charter schools run by management companies. Further, as a state, we've always focused on quality rather than quantity unlike states like California and Arizona.
The climate around accountability and performance in charter schools has changed over the years. Having been involved in charter schools since 1993, I've seen a shift from an excitement over a new way to do things to a more sophisticated look at how to make sure charter schools are doing well.
I was involved in starting new charter schools in 1994, 1996, and 1999. What's required in a charter school application today is completely different than back in the 1990's. In fact, when the Charter School Institute began in 2004, I was a primary author of their original Request for Applications and my boss and I wrestled with the question, "Are we raising the bar so high that concerned parents will no longer have the capacity to start a charter school?" You see, we both believe that average people, not necessarily professional educators, should be able to start and run a public charter school. Albeit with a lot of time, effort and a steep learning curve!
Additionally, charter school authorizers have dramatically increased their sophistication in reviewing new charter school applications, monitoring/oversight of operating charter schools and the fortitude to know when a charter school needs to be closed. The availability of information through the National Association of Charter School Authorizers has changed the landscape for authorizers. In Colorado, where in the past two years there's been a Model Charter School Application developed and sample contract language available now to improve authorizing practices, the capacity of authorizers to do their job well has increased exponentially.
I've only missed one authorizer's meeting since they began about four years ago and can honestly say that authorizers attending the meetings want to be fair and not play any tricks with their schools. But they also want to see their charter schools doing better than their average district-operated schools. It's a fair trade to assume that if a group of people want control of public funds in order to provide a quality education for students, they should do that better than others in the marketplace.
Colorado has seen 21 charter school closures. Although at first many closures were due to financial reasons, the past five years have brought at least four charter schools to close their doors. Most charter schools that close are in what's called the "death spiral": they're not doing well academically, so their attendance goes down, which means they can't meet budget.
Clearly charter schools that do not educate their students well should close. The same should be true of noncharter public schools, operated by school districts. Further, charter schools should be held to a high standard. The same standard applied to noncharter public schools. Singling out poor performing charter schools while ignoring the poor performance of district-operated schools is hypocritical.
In his remarks last week, Duncan said that the charter school movement was losing its influence on the national scene because it wasn't policing its own. His remarks seemed aimed at both academically low-performing charter schools and also the many charter school scandals in the headlines across the country in the past year (of which Colorado contributed plenty!).
Last year when Duncan spoke at the same conference, he said that he viewed charter schools as one of the four turnaround strategies he intended for the bottom 5% of public schools in the nation. That particular option is rarely used by districts in their turnaround efforts. Hmm, wonder why? Now the Secretary says charter schools themselves are to blame for not being more appealing. Really?
Or has the Secretary of Education simply run into opposition he is having trouble surmounting? Maybe when Duncan stepped into his new role as Secretary, he didn't anticipate the resistence from teacher's unions and education establishment who don't like the status quo being altered. Many educators voiced their displeasure with No Child Left Behind and with a change in national leadership were hopeful that things would go back to the way they were before. But they didn't.
Instead Pres. Obama and Secretary Duncan voiced support for charter schools by incentivizing states to be charter friendly in order to compete for Race to the Top dollars. But while taking that stand, they failed to put anything into the grant program for charter schools so instead, states are able to use RttT money without including their charter schools.
It appears as though the current administration wants to be identified as supporting reforms, such as charter schools, but is hesitant to take a strong, effective stand. Thus, charter schools are still the "little guy" and are getting kicked around by a system strongly in favor of the status quo.
So when I hear Arne Duncan's attack on charter school leaders for not policing their own, it sounds like an excuse. Something to hide behind. And I thought that last year, Duncan made bold claims about reforming the bottom 5% of the nation's public schools. I guess he found out that task is harder than he thought.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg was on a panel moderated by Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning at the closing day of the National Charter School Conference.
Boasberg said that charter schools have brought competition to the monopoly and that DPS was trying to embrace all high quality schools. He said there should be no distinction between charter schools and non charter schools.
Boasberg spoke about the Innovative Schools Act in Colorado and noted that seven DPS schools have selected that option. He also said that when DPS “stack ranked” all their public schools, two clearly rose to the top: Denver School of Science and Technology and W Denver Prep.
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education addressed the charter school conference today through a web link. In his opening remarks, Duncan repeatedly chastised charter school leaders for not taking a firmer stance against low-performing public charter schools. Duncan reminded attendees that at last year’s conference in Washington, D.C. he issued a challenge to charter school leaders to vocally oppose bad charter schools. He said that charter schools are vulnerable to criticisms when it is not policing itself and warned that if the charter school movement didn’t police itself, others would step in. Duncan said, “I strongly, strongly urge this movement to step in and close that void.”
Duncan also reiterated several of the common misperceptions about public charter schools and challenged the charter school community to address the criticisms that charter schools cream the best students, don’t serve the same percentage of special needs students and are seen as the problem instead of the solution.
The Secretary responded to questions posed by audience members. Duncan was pointedly asked what his administration’s response would be to the proposed cuts to charter school funds that Rep. Obey introduced yesterday. He vaguely stated that “this ball game isn’t over yet” and said they were in “an active conversation with Congress.” Duncan said there were other options without sacrificing their reform agenda.
Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ board president, Caprice Young, told Sec. Duncan that they would provide him with a list of the low-performing charter schools state charter school associations worked to close during the past year. Duncan contended that the charter school community needed to do more than just verbally agree with the principle that only good charter schools should be open. He said that the charter school community has not been policing its own. He pointed out that of the lowest performing public schools being targeted for turnaround, 200 of the 5,000 lowest schools are public charter schools.
People attending the National Charter School Conference were eager to get an update on the cuts to the Charter School Program funds in Congress. Yesterday, Rep. Obey (D-WI) amended the War Supplemental bill to provide for 10 billion for education jobs while making this funding available by cutting 200 million from the teacher incentive program, 500 million from Race to the Top and 100 million from the Charter School Program. Those hit hardest by the proposed cuts would be new charter schools that rely heavily upon federal startup and implementation funds to open their doors and successful charter schools that seek to replicate.
The proposed cuts are aimed at the Obama administration’s education reform projects. The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has incentivized states wanting Race to the Top funds by saying the state needed to be “charter friendly.” Many states have either increased their caps on the number of new charter schools or else considered legislation that was not passed.
Charter school lobbyists are eager to apply pressure on Congress today, before they break for the July 4th holiday. One U.S. Representative said charter school folks had generated more than 10 million email messages to Congress and asked the Alliance for Public Charter Schools to “call off the dogs.” Rep. Obey took action in the Rules Committee yesterday and further action could happen as early as today.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
- · It’s because of charter schools that districts are now trying to create “faux charter schools.”
· We’re showing that you can now run a system of charter schools without a central office breathing down your neck.
· We now serve 1.65 million kids; 40 chartering states plus DC (Mississippi signed on this year).
· Average charter school is now open 6.7 years.
· 26% operated by CMO or EMO; 65% are free standing (grassroots)
· Less than 3% of total national student population.
· In 14 cities more than 20% of the student population are in charters.
· RttT: 15 states lifted caps since RttT was announced
· Serious discussion about charter school law in Alabama, W Virginia, Kentucky, etc.
· Critics say charter schools are causing re-segregation; many are opened in inner cities where parents are desperate for a better education for their children. He's proud of the fact that children of color are flocking to charter schools.
· Authorizers are getting more aggressive in chartering only schools that are of of quality academically.
· We should support authorizers when they have to hold a standard for supporting quality.
· Increased funding for startups this year through replicating funds. President Obama plans to double charter school funding by the end of his term.
· The Ball State report said that the funding gap, between charters and noncharters, has increased in the past 5 yrs. The Alliance will attack the facility funding disparity.
* There have been t oo many negative headlines this year. Every person needs to support the highest standards of ethical behavior and draw a bright line between unethical behavior and that high standard.