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Charter Schools Daily Update

Charter Schools Daily Update

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Studies showing benefits of charter schools are not statistically significant

PR Newswire,. June 9, 2020, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/reports-claiming-charter-school-benefits-110000595.html, Reports Claiming Charter-School Benefits Hampered by Methodological Issues

BOULDER, Colo., June 9, 2020 https://cdn.millennialsd.com/PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — Two recent reports attempt to tease out some less-studied charter-school impacts. One asks whether levels of student misbehavior range lower in Pennsylvania charter schools compared with traditional public schools. The second asks whether the competitive threat from new charters alters how public school principals in Texas allocate campus budgets. University of California, Berkeley professor Bruce Fuller reviewed Are Charter Schools Safer Than District-Run Schools? Evidence from Pennsylvania and Effects of Charter School Competition on District School Budgeting Decisions: Experimental Evidence from Texas. The first report is published by the Reason Foundation, and the second is distributed by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University as part of its EdWorkingPaper series. Researchers at the Reason Foundation authored both reports. The first study describes how rates of reported low-incidence student infractions are lower in charters, on average. Analyses that include some statistical controls continue to yield results favorable to charters. The author concludes, “The public charter school sector advantages suggest that increasing access to public charter schools in Pennsylvania could improve school climate outcomes for students.” But the report concedes that the controls included in the regression models are limited and that the results are correlational, not causal. As Professor Fuller notes, it remains unclear whether these differences stem from selection of certain kinds of families into charters or from distinct organizational practices. The lower incidence rate in charter schools pertains to campuses in Philadelphia County, serving large shares of disadvantaged elementary and high school students, but not in other parts of the state. The second report aims to show that competition from the opening of an imagined nearby charter school can increase principals’ preference for budget autonomy and change how they allocate campus budgets to differing positions and instructional resources. The authors assert that their study offers “experimental evidence” that “anticipated charter school competition has large negative effects on school leaders’ reported spending on certain categories of support staff.” Yet Professor Fuller explains that few statistically significant effects, including any impact of the hypothetical “treatment,” could be discerned from the study for either of the two outcomes. In addition, generalizability of any findings from this paper is low, because only eight percent of Texas principals chose to participate in the statewide survey. Overall, Professor Fuller concludes, the two reports pose provocative questions about the possible advantages of charter schools, worth testing empirically, while falling short in building evidence to back their claims.

Find the review, by Bruce Fuller, at:

https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/charters

Find Are Charter Schools Safer Than District-Run Schools? Evidence from Pennsylvania, written by Corey A. DeAngelis and published by the Reason Foundation, at: https://reason.org/wp-content/uploads/are-charter-schools-safer-evidence-from-pennsylvania.pdf

Find Effects of Charter School Competition on District School Budgeting Decisions: Experimental Evidence from Texas, written by Corey A. DeAngelis and Christian Barnard and distributed by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University EdWorkingPaper Series, at: https://edworkingpapers.com/sites/default/files/ai20-198.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu

Virtual charter schools have not filled learning gaps

Stever Rogers, June 10, 2020, https://www.wtvq.com/2020/06/10/virtual-learning-not-effective-early-study-finds/, ‘VIRTUAL’ LEARNING NOT AS EFFECTIVE, EARLY STUDY FINDS

Joseph Waddington, an assistant professor in the University of Kentucky College of Education Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation, is part of a research team that analyzes student performance in charter schools. Virtual charter schools are offered in 21 states across the U.S., including in Indiana, where the majority of Waddington’s research data is collected. The results of the study published in April do not bode well for virtual learning. The research team found that students who switched from traditional public schools to virtual charter schools saw test scores in mathematics and English/language arts drop substantially, and the lower scores persisted over time. When students across the U.S. abruptly shifted to online learning, Waddington and his colleagues considered whether their performance would mirror that of students in virtual charters.“Researchers, policymakers, teachers, school administrators and parents alike have all been concerned about the negative consequences for student learning resulting from the dramatic shift to online instruction during COVID-19, amongst other health, safety and socioemotional outcomes,” Waddington said. “We knew we could not directly compare virtual charter schools and the online learning taking place during COVID-19. However, we thought it would be beneficial to provide the community with a research-informed discussion of the two online learning environments, since many individuals have been eager to catch a glimpse of the potential impacts on student achievement. The discussion was published by Brookings, a nonprofit public policy institute based in Washington D.C. It, along with the study published in Educational Researcher, was authored by Brian R. Fitzpatrick and Mark Berends at the University of Notre Dame, Joseph J. Ferrare at the University of Washington-Bothell and Waddington at UK.  A bill allowing charter schools in Kentucky, HB 520, was signed into law in 2017. Kentucky’s charter school legislation does not allow for virtual charter schools.

Charter schools empower black parents and provide critical choices in education

Greg Childress, June 9, 2019, http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2020/06/09/are-charter-schools-the-answer-to-systemic-racism-in-public-schools-or-are-they-the-problem/

Charter schools are “uniquely positioned” to address the systemic racism and inequities that plague America’s system of public education, says Alex Quigley, chairman of the North Carolina’s Charter School Advisory Board. “Charter schools are inherently disruptive to a longstanding system of education that has historically failed low-income children of color,” Quigley said. “It’s been over 65 years since Brown vs. Board of Education and our system of education has arguably made marginal progress ensuring that children receive a high-quality education regardless of their zip code.” Quigley, a Durham charter school principal, made his comments Monday during a CSAB meeting. He said the quality of school a child attends often depends on how much their parents can afford to spend on a house. That, he said, creates a “de facto system of school segregation based on income, and most often race.”  CSAB Chairman Alex Quigley “Even black and brown children who have the economic means to purchase a more expensive house or are bussed into ‘better schools’ that are majority white are forced to attend schools dominated by a predominately white suburban power structure in favor of integration only as long as they remain the majority and retain control,” Quigley said. Roughly 116,000 of North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students attend charter schools. That’s about 7.6% of the state’s public school enrollment. White students account for 54% of charter school enrollment while blacks make up 26 % percent of students enrolled in charters. Hispanics are the next largest group charter school students at 10.7%. Quigley said charter schools offer parents of color power and choice, which they’ve historically been denied. “Why should parents who lack economic means not be able to choose where their children go to school?” Quigley asked. “Choice shouldn’t be a privilege; it should be a right, but it can’t happen unless we ensure excellent schools of choice abound.” He said that when parents choose charters, the transfer of power is immediate.“So, parents don’t have to wait for another 65 years for the government to attempt to solve seemingly intractable issues such as income inequality before their kids can go to a decent school,” Quigley said.

Charter schools do not reduce racism

Greg Childress, June 9, 2019, http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2020/06/09/are-charter-schools-the-answer-to-systemic-racism-in-public-schools-or-are-they-the-problem/

Natalie Beyer, a member of the Durham Public School’s Board of Education and outspoken critic of charter schools, challenged Quigley’s remarks. “In North Carolina, charter schools are unfortunately not a valid policy tool to address racism and social justice concerns,” Beyer said. “Rather due to minimal state oversight, charter schools tend to be more racially isolated than local public schools and over time have led to ongoing issues of resegregation.” Beyer added that charter schools have become a way for white and affluent families to “opt out of their local public schools, which has led to further disinvestment and underfunding.” Quigley started Monday’s meeting by addressing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic  and the civil unrest that has gripped the nation since George Floyd died in police custody 14 days ago. A chilling video of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee planted lethally on Floyd’s neck sparked outrage across the nation and throughout the world  Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.Three other officers on the scene are also charged in Floyd’s death. Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng each face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. “I’m compelled to not be silent on the issue of racism, white privilege and the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Their lives mattered. Black lives matter,” Quigley said.

Charter schools do not harm traditional public schools

Marcus Winters, June 9, 2020, Marcus Winters is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an associate professor at Boston University and the author of a new report, “Do Charter Schools Harm Traditional Public Schools? Years of National Test-Score Data Suggest They Don’t.”, Winters: Does Expansion of Charter Schools Harm Nearby District Schools? My New Study Finds That No, It Doesn’t

I shed light on this issue in a new report for the Manhattan Institute. I used a data set recently constructed by the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis that tracks test scores for all U.S. public school districts from 2009 to 2016, adjusting for the fact that the states administer different tests. The analysis included districts with at least 10,000 students, which account for about half of the nation’s public school students.  For the sake of the vast majority of students who remain in traditional public schools, I am relieved to report that the predicted demise did not occur. There is no distinguishable relationship between the percentage of students within a district who were enrolled in a charter school in 2009 and changes in the test scores of students enrolled in traditional public schools between then and 2016. Indeed, if a relationship exists but was too subtle for my model to detect, it is more likely that districts with high charter school concentrations made larger-than-expected gains over this period.  Importantly, the (lack of) relationship between charter school concentration and traditional public school gains over this period is evident whether charter schools compose a large proportion of the schools in the district or a small one. Among districts with very large charter sectors, some traditional public schools made meaningful gains while others saw declines. Among districts with little or no charter competition, similar numbers experienced increases and decreases in test scores. Remember that result the next time you read a news article linking the struggles of a particular public school district to local charter school expansion. While it is easy to find specific examples of areas with high charter school exposure and high/low changes in outcomes, when we take a broad view of the data, no clear relationship emerges.  To be clear: I don’t claim that my results prove that charter schools don’t impact the performance of traditional public schools. I can’t rule out that other factors might have systematically improved performance within districts that have also experienced charter school expansion. These data simply don’t provide me the opportunity for the type of analysis capable of making such a causal claim. (Though it’s worth noting that the several studies that do use such research strategies tend to find that exposure to charter schools either has no effect or a small positive effect on traditional public school quality.) That said, the worst-case read of my results is that even if charter schools did hamper traditional public schools, those schools have responded in ways that at least counterbalance that negative impact. Under no scenario, however, can it be interpreted from the data that exposure to a highly concentrated charter school sector systematically destroys traditional public schools.  As we near our fourth decade of experience with charter schools, the burden of proof must shift squarely to those who would continue to argue that competition from charters is killing the traditional public school system. It hasn’t happened so far, despite rapid charter school growth. There’s simply no reason to believe it will happen in the future.

Charter schools help all students, not just advanced students. The mission of charter schools is to recruit and improve the weakest students

Arkansas Democrat Gazette, June 7, 2020, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2020/jun/07/this-is-cherry-picking/, This is cherry-picking?

The argument goes that students (and parents) who care about their schooling will flock to charter schools, leaving the most challenging students behind at the local neighborhood schools, thus weakening the traditional school system as a whole. It’s an argument used again and again, although those making it seem to forget that many charter schools open their classroom seats to children using a blind lottery system. And under such a system, it is impossible to cherry-pick anybody. Then there is a story such as the one that appeared this past week in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Which takes a sledgehammer to the entrenched arguments. The story might have got better play by the local media if so many things weren’t happening all at once. The protests, the virus, the launch, the mayor, the president, the governor. All are competing for front-page space this month. But Cynthia Howell’s story, the one anchoring the Arkansas section on Wednesday, might have long-term consequences for hundreds of students and families across the state, too. That is, six new charter schools could be up and running in Arkansas starting next year. And by next year, we don’t mean this August, but the August after–in the 2021-22 school year. That’s how long it takes to turn this battleship around. More’s the pity.Nothing is a done deal, yet. The applications for these schools have to be reviewed by the state Charter Authorizing Panel this summer, and the state Department of Education gets final say. But if things work out (for the students), new charters could open in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Springdale, Hot Springs, Harrisburg and Osceola. Every one of those schools could be approved without exceeding the state’s cap of 34 open-enrollment charters. Why the state has such a cap is another editorial entirely. But two paragraphs of Cynthia Howell’s story caught our eye, and attention: “Responsive Education Solutions of Lewisville, Texas, is proposing two new schools in Arkansas: Premier High School of Hot Springs and Premier High School of Springdale. “The two schools, which would target students who have dropped out of their traditional high schools or are close to doing so, will join four other Arkansas campuses already operated by Responsive Education Solutions . . . .” This is cherry-picking? Steven Gast, superintendent of the Responsive Education schools in Arkansas, put it this way: “The Premier model is so unique and so different. It’s one of those few types of schools that doesn’t carry a kind of competitive stigma with it. A lot of new charters–in the eyes of the local public school–almost become a threat because it looks like they are trying to take kids away from the local school. The whole mission of a Premier is to go after and recover those kids who have already left the system.”

Online charter schools only have weak academic results

Anthony Lonetree, June 6, 2020, https://www.startribune.com/minnesota-s-online-schools-attract-interest-amid-pandemic/571076352/, Minnesota’s online schools attract interest amid pandemic

 

But MDE has flagged online charter schools for falling short on graduation rates. Many schools also post lackluster results on the academic side, especially in math, a longtime sticking point for online schools nationwide. A Star Tribune review of 2018-19 test score data showed the state’s online schools averaged just 27% in terms of students who tested as proficient in math. Results for individual schools ranged from 8% of students meeting the math standards at Insight School of Minnesota in Brooklyn Center to 43% of students being proficient at Cyber Village Academy in St. Paul. On the graduation front, the Star Tribune analysis finds that 53% of online students graduated within four years in 2019, compared with 91% of students in traditional schools and 63% in charter schools.

Virtual charter schools fail

Brian Fitzpatrick, Mark Berends, Joseph J. Ferrare, and R. Joseph WaddingtonTuesday, June 2, 2020, Virtual charter schools and online learning during COVID-19, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2020/06/02/virtual-charter-schools-and-online-learning-during-covid-19/

Virtual charter schools deliver instruction in online or blended (online with some face-to-face instruction) formats and operate in 21 states. Like other charter schools, virtual charters are publicly funded, do not have admissions criteria, and have their charter (or contract) authorized by a state-approved entity. Families may choose to enroll their children in a virtual charter school for myriad reasons. At first glance, virtual charter schools offer students and their families the ability to tailor learning experiences to specialized needs. However, if such advantages are available to students in virtual charters, there is no evidence that the benefits transfer into gains on student test scores. We recently published a peer-reviewed study in Educational Researcher in which we examine the effects of attending a virtual charter school in Indiana on student outcomes in grades 3-8. In the study, we analyze longitudinal student records provided by the Indiana Department of Education from 2011-2017. As of the 2016-17 school year, Indiana had 10,984 K-12 students enrolled in four virtual charter schools. Because the state maintains administrative records in concert with annual assessments (called the ISTEP), we were able to analyze the performance of students in virtual charter schools. We do this by identifying students who switch from traditional public schools to virtual charter schools. We match these students to their traditional public school classmates with similar characteristics (i.e., race/ethnicity, sex, poverty status, and achievement), and then compare their performance in virtual charter schools to their former peers.[1] We find the impact of attending a virtual charter on student achievement is uniformly and profoundly negative, equating to a third of a standard deviation in English/language arts (ELA) and a half of a standard deviation in math. This equates to a loss of roughly 11 percentile points in ELA and 16 percentile points in math for an average virtual charter student at baseline as compared to their public school peers (see Figure 1 above). There is no evidence that virtual charter students improve in subsequent years. We could not “explain away” these findings by looking at various teacher or classroom characteristics. We also use the same methodology to analyze the impact of attending brick-and-mortar charter schools. In contrast, we find that students who attended brick-and-mortar charters have achievement no different from their traditional public school peers (see Figure 2 below). Our confidence in these results is further buoyed by other studies of virtual charter schools in Ohio and nationwide having similar findings. It is entirely possible that such dismal findings of virtual charter schools seemingly mirror the anticipated negative consequences of online instruction stemming from coronavirus-related school closures. However, we hesitate to connect the two because of many notable contrasts. On one hand, some differences suggest that students in public schools transitioning to online learning resulting from COVID-19 may end up having worse outcomes than a typical virtual charter school student. Virtual charter school operators have an established infrastructure to deliver online learning and students self-select into these schools. These schools also engaged students in online learning environments and provided resources for them long before the pandemic. Meanwhile, most traditional public schools and districts (and even brick-and-mortar charter schools and private schools) had minimal online learning provisions and infrastructure for students and their families prior to COVID-19. In fact, many established virtual charter providers have advertised resources and consulted with public schools that are rapidly transitioning to online instruction.  On the other hand, some differences suggest that students in public schools might not experience as steep of a setback as peers who attended a virtual charter year-round. In our study, we find that virtual charter schools have an average of 100 students per class, which is substantially higher than their counterparts in traditional public schools (24) and brick-and-mortar charters (22). We have no evidence that student-to-teacher ratios in traditional public schools have increased as a result of the shift to online learning. Compounding this issue is the fact that all virtual charter schools in Indiana (and most virtual charters nationwide) are operated by for-profit educational management organizations. We do not know the degree to which these organizations are driven by profit maximization, which may have negative consequences on student learning, but we do know that virtual charter schools in Indiana are mired in financial scandal. In addition, students who transitioned to online instruction in public schools in the past few months have spent most of the school year with their teachers. The relationships they have built in person could ease the transition to virtual learning. Despite the difficult circumstances of the current conditions, teachers in public schools across the country appear to be putting forth determined efforts to meet the needs of their students Considering these issues in conjunction with the research evidence, we believe that virtual charter schools are ill-equipped to take on a more prominent role in light of this global crisis, and recommend that both parents and school administrators be extremely wary of virtual charters’ attempts to expand during this crisis. Based on their dismal track record, policymakers should instead focus on greater oversight and accountability for these schools. Perhaps the worst policy response during the COVID-19 crisis is to promote these schools, though this is precisely what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is currently pursuing. At the same time, we simply cannot say whether the poor performance of virtual charter schools reflects a disadvantage inherent to online instruction, the unique disfunction of this particular sector of schools, or some combination of the two factors. As a result, we are hesitant to ascribe the magnitude of virtual charters’ deleterious impacts on student outcomes to the online learning environment resulting from COVID-19. We view the dismal performance of virtual charter schools in the range of possible performance outcomes for students transitioning to virtual schooling, though we genuinely hope most students outperform this benchmark. Although we expect most students will be worse off because of the forced transition to online instruction, we suspect that whether or not the harm of the transition is comparable to students attending virtual charter schools will depend on how well individual schools managed the transition. As most school systems appear to be making good-faith efforts to continue engaging students’ growth during closures, the virtual charter result is likely a worst-case outcome for most students. This is hardly cause for optimism, and our educational system is a long way from delivering effective online instruction to all students. We anticipate that disadvantaged students stand to lose the most ground. Therefore, a more appropriate policy response would be to focus on equity-based support systems and resources to aid students and their families in their recovery during and after this global pandemic.

Charter schools have inadequate support staff

Stephanie Koons, June 2, 2020, Professor, students examine charter school hiring practices, https://news.psu.edu/story/621818/2020/06/02/research/professor-students-examine-charter-school-hiring-practices

It takes more than high-quality teachers and educational leaders to help students thrive in school. Research led by Ed Fuller, associate professor of education (educational leadership), indicates it’s also important to have professional support personnel such as nurses, counselors and librarians on site, for the development of the whole student. The research team found those important resources are far less likely to be present in charter schools than in public schools in Pennsylvania, which Fuller said could have a particularly damaging effect on urban students living in poverty. “Our goal is to push legislators and local policy makers to expand access and ensure all schools have access to these personnel,” said Fuller. Fuller, along with Zoe Mandel, a doctoral student in the Department of Education Policy Studies (EPS), and Jessica Bard, an undergraduate majoring in education and public policy (EPP), have produced policy briefs that outline the importance of nurses, counselor and librarians, in addition to examining access to these types of school personnel across the state.

Charter schools critical to Native Americans

Fiona Harrigan, June 1, 2020, https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2020/06/02/opinion-preserve-funding-native-american-charter-schools/5306758002/, Detroit News, Opinion: Preserve funding for Native American charter schools

COVID-19 has rattled Michigan’s economy, and the state’s education budget will take an estimated $1.2 billion hit this year. And as legislators look to trim expenses, history would suggest that charter school funding could be first on the chopping block. Michigan’s 150,000 charter school students will undoubtedly suffer from a cut to funding. But the cost could be especially detrimental for the state’s Native American students.  For 41 years, Native American students from Michigan were sent to the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial School to learn how to assimilate into white culture. Around 300 students passed through Mount Pleasant every year to be indoctrinated, forced to surrender their traditions in the name of integration. The school shut its doors in 1934.  Today, school remains a painful proposition for the nation’s half a million Native students. Native high school students are suspended more than twice as often as white students, drop out at rates roughly twice the national average, and have a graduation rate of 72%, the lowest of any racial demographic. The picture is certainly bleak in Michigan, where Native students have a graduation rate of 69.94% (compared to 84.65% for white students).  Though charter schools are scarce, their successes will challenge the institutions that have failed generations of Native Americans, Harrigan writes Though charter schools are scarce, their successes will challenge the institutions that have failed generations of Native Americans, Harrigan writes. (Photo: File photo Unfortunately, these issues are exacerbated by rigid curriculum, which often pushes cultural erasure and harmful stereotypes. Nebraska’s textbooks, for instance, have described Native Americans as lazy and drunk, and no state’s educational standards include mention of current Native issues. Native students struggle to see themselves in the material they learn, so they tend to disengage.  Since most Native students attend traditional public schools––92% as of 2014––educational alternatives are more important than ever. One in particular shows great promise: charter schools, where teachers have ample leeway in customizing lessons to specific classroom needs. It’s the perfect formula for Native education, which benefits from non-mainstream instruction. Thankfully, Native-focused charter schools already exist. And though it’s still unclear how these schools affect academic outcomes, they’re an encouraging alternative to the inhospitable status quo.  Michigan currently has three Native-focused charter schools, with one –– the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe School –– winning a number of awards. For many of Michigan’s Native students, these schools open doors that were previously closed. As Dan Quisenberry, President of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, expressed, “Charter schools are giving Native American students hope for a brighter future that wouldn’t exist otherwise.”  For another success story, look at how Sovereign Community School in Oklahoma City is providing a safe environment for kids to explore their indigenous backgrounds. At Sovereign, students see their heritage everywhere, learning geometry through beadwork, literature through indigenous authors, and environmental science through traditional ecological knowledge. Other charter schools have become leaders in indigenous language revitalization efforts. The Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Immersion School of Hayward, Wisconsin offers students sophisticated linguistic education through joint Ojibwe and English instruction––a combination that teachers credit for their students’ 100% proficiency rate in state reading and writing measures.  Sadly, charter schools remain inaccessible to most Native students. As of 2018, 64 charter schools served students on reservations, on Bureau of Indian Affairs lands, or in high-concentration Native populations (i.e., over 25% of students were Native). That’s less than 1% of charter schools across the U.S., which total over 7,000 as of 2018. There are still battles to be fought.  To many Native students, traditional schools are yet another roadblock to social and economic advancement. They’re places where indigenous backgrounds are disregarded and students’ mental health suffers. And though charter schools are scarce, their successes will challenge the institutions that have failed generations of Native Americans. For their histories and their futures, Native students deserve that alternative.

Charter schools were quickly able to adapt to COVID-19 and transition to online learning

Mitchell, 5-29, 2020, Baker A. Mitchell is founder of The Roger Bacon Academy, which manages four charter schools in and around Wilmington, NC, with combined enrollments of more than 2,100 students in grades K through, Why Many Charter Schools Were Better Prepared for Covid-19, https://www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2020/05/29/why_many_charter_schools_were_better_prepared_for_covid-19_110428.html

“U.S. schools were not prepared for an overnight shift to virtual learning,” USA Today reported recently, a fact that became obvious to most parents as soon as schools were shut down by the pandemic. In fact, however, some schools—including many charter schools—were better prepared than most traditional public schools.  As Robin Lake and Bree Dusseault of the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell noted recently, charter networks in particular were able to make “rapid leaps from the classroom to the cloud.”  That’s because charters typically are more nimble and less bureaucratic than traditional public schools, recruit teachers and administrators who often have prior experience dealing with time-sensitive challenges, and rely more heavily on technology than traditional public schools, all of which apply to the four Title 1 charter schools managed by The Roger Bacon Academy (RBA), the charter management organization I founded in southeastern, North Carolina.  Parents have many reasons for choosing one school over another: convenience, educational rigor, academic focus, safety, values. When they select one of our schools, it’s typically because we have safe and well-mannered campuses and our students do extremely well on North Carolina’s annual end-of-grade tests.  Parents know this when they choose us. What they don’t know is that I, and a number of our key people, come from professions that stress attributes such as rapid response, analytics, on-the-run decision-making and high-tech innovation—all keys to being successfully goal-driven. For example, I’m an electrical engineer, former Associate Biomathematician with the University of Texas, and retired entrepreneur.  After selling my computer company, I began volunteering as a science instructor at local elementary schools. That’s how I met Thaddeus Lott, principal of Wesley Elementary School in north Houston, a high-achieving school with a student body of 1,100 low-income African Americans.  Despite the barbed wire fence surrounding the school for protection, the students were well-behaved and academically advanced, reading Shakespeare in the fourth grade, for example. That’s how I caught the education bug: from a successful school reformer. While the RBA schools are admittedly highly structured and traditional—we’re firm believers in Direct Instruction—we also had several advantages when Covid-19 closed us down.  First, our classrooms are outfitted with some of the latest technology, which our teachers were using every day to interact with students in delivering instruction. Likewise, most of our administrators were tech savvy.  Secondly, we’ve always been firm believers in “lateral-entry” hiring, bringing outsiders with diverse backgrounds into our schools as teachers, managers, and administrators. For example, we currently have a former meteorologist as a science teacher, a former analytical chemist as head of quality control, compliance, and human resources, and our lead headmaster is a 28-year Marine Corps veteran for whom rapid decision-making, leading and motivating teams, and improvising on the run are second nature. We had one other advantage as well. Unlike traditional public schools, charters by their nature are less encumbered by unnecessary bureaucracy.  o, when we had to transition to on-line instruction, we were able to move quickly. By March 23—shortly after the governor ordered schools closed—we already had surveyed parents, many of them low-income, to assess their computer needs; we had produced training videos for our teachers; and we had rostered all of our 2,153 K-8 students into more than 400 live Zoom classes covering every grade and subject at each school. Between April 6 and 10, we distributed 776 loaner computers to students and teachers who needed them. Whiteboards were designed, produced, and distributed for teachers to use at home. And we started familiarizing teachers and parents on the new normal on April 13, holding dress rehearsals for teachers, students, and parents to shake out any problems with their live, on-line classes. On April 20 we were ready to go, with every teacher providing a full day of live on-line classes in each subject. Attendance that day was 88 percent and has grown slightly higher since. strategist, suggested in a 2019 Forbes column, organizations “need to be less rigid and more improvisational” than they’ve been. He wasn’t talking about schools, but they need it more than most.   Second: Technology is not an option. Our classical curriculum (which includes cursive in first grade and Latin beginning in fifth grade) may be considered old-fashioned, but the technology we use for instruction and management is cutting edge. It’s a necessary investment.  Third: Schools need to broaden their view of diversity and embrace individuals with expertise in fields other than “education.” In our case, it’s business, the sciences, and the military. That diversity enabled us to jump on the challenge and quickly support teachers to get the job done.   And we didn’t have to wait for paperwork to be approved. That’s number four: Bureaucracy slows things down, reducing efficiency and innovation while increasing costs. Less bureaucracy is better, especially during these challenging times.

Charter schools have been able to provide full wrap-around services during the pandemic

Dullingham & Dunaway, May 26, 2020, Rhonda Dillingham is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools, Kate Alice Dunaway is the Executive Director of the Invest Collegiate charter school in Charlotte, North Carolina, https://www.ednc.org/perspective-nc-charters-are-positioned-to-respond-to-hard-times-in-education/, C charters are positioned to respond to hard times in education

As educators and charter school leaders, we have seen our colleagues address the needs and insecurities of their students, families and communities across the state. Since early April, charter schools have converted their classrooms, cafeterias, and office spaces into community centers, food supply posts, medical shelters, and safe spaces for children regardless of enrollment at the school.  And with over 100,000 students in North Carolina charter schools, charter school leaders have a dual responsibility of educating students and ensuring their basic needs are met. But this is not new for charter school leaders or the sector. Charter schools consistently educate and provide wraparound services to students, families, and communities in need. And they do it with a leaner budget than district schools.  Charter schools received 65.4% of their funding from state appropriations in fiscal year 2018-19, and most often, charter schools are overlooked for ancillary funding that would address students’ needs outside of the classroom. In recent years, charter schools were not awarded grant or full state funding for school safety, including preventative support like school psychologists and resource officers, as well as school transportation.  In rural districts, transportation can be a barrier to school attendance for students, and charter schools can incur significant costs to provide safe passage to and from school. And, this demand for school-home services has only increased in the wake of COVID-19. Yet charter schools are poised and equipped for fast, innovative responses to the critical needs of our families and students. Within days of Cooper’s announcement, charter school leaders and advocates were able to ensure that students would still receive high-quality instruction, rigorous content, and equitable access to online and remote learning tools. As a sector, we are committed to building grade level proficiency by introducing new concepts and maintaining the same structure of the extended school day. Yet it is becoming increasingly harder to meet these needs with a fraction of the funding that traditional public schools receive. With home and classrooms merging, parents have seen the value of their child’s teachers like never before. Due to our inclusionary classroom and school practices, we have situated ourselves to welcome families into our curriculum planning, instructional time, and school culture in innovative and collaborative ways. Charter schools are leading the effort to think outside of the box to support our students and families as they explore this unknown terrain of hybrid learning.  And, charter school leaders and educators are vigilantly responding to the economic, academic, and emotional needs of their students through inclusive family engagement and cutting edge educational and social-emotional tools.

Public charter schools in Pennsylvania are providing effective online education

Meyers, May 20, 2020, ANA MEYERS is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools., Public charter schools will continue do their part amid virus pandemic, https://m.citizensvoice.com/opinion/public-charter-schools-will-continue-do-their-part-amid-virus-pandemic-1.2629852

The coronavirus pandemic has shown the need for all of us to adapt to changes in many aspects of our lives. Education is one the sectors that has experienced drastic changes. For most schools, the COVID-19 crisis has required a shift from classroom teaching to online instruction. Now is the time for parents, educators and state officials to work together to ensure that our children have the opportunities to learn during this difficult period. I applaud Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera and his staff for their efforts to continue education services. It is clear they are acting in the best interest of Pennsylvania’s children by asking all schools to assist students with learning opportunities during the mandatory closure. Pennsylvania public charter schools, both cyber and brick-and-mortar schools, are doing their part to ensure children receive the instruction they need. Public cyber charter schools sent a letter to the Department of Education, offering guidance and assistance to any brick-and-mortar school, public or private, as it adapted its traditional curriculum to virtual learning for its students. Public cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania have been instructing students online for the last 20 years. They have the experience and tools to teach a large number of students from all backgrounds and economic statuses. Their knowledge is invaluable for a school struggling with online instruction. Recently, school counselors from PA Distance Learning Charter School held a teleconference with their colleagues from across Pennsylvania to discuss distance school counseling. They shared the best practices, strategies and tools with their colleagues. For many brick-and-mortar school counselors, meeting students online rather than face to face is a new experience. The Philadelphia School Partnership announced the purchase of 15,000 Chromebooks for public charter students and private school students to assist in their move to online learning. The Propel Charter Schools system in Pittsburgh mailed 1,600 Chromebooks to students who did not have a computer or access to the internet. These education leaders immediately went to work and identified solutions to give students the learning opportunities they deserve. It is imperative that schools and educational groups work together to do everything they can to ensure students are not being left behind. Public charter schools hope this spirit of cooperation among school officials continues as lawmakers begin to debate the state budget. Before the pandemic, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed $280 million in funding cuts to public charter schools, including cuts to our most vulnerable students in special education. Some state lawmakers supported legislation that would effectively close public cyber charter schools, which would force more than 37,000 cyber students to return to their local school districts. This pandemic clearly has shown there is a big difference between offering a comprehensive, online education program for thousands of students and offering a limited, blended learning program for a select few. Public charter schools already receive approximately 25% less funding per student than school districts. More funding cuts would be devastating to charter school children and their families. Public charter schools will continue to do their part to identify solutions and take action to help students learn as we endure this pandemic together. And the 143,000 students in Pennsylvania’s public charter schools will continue to be educated by the schools they have chosen to attend. This pandemic also has underscored the value and importance of Pennsylvania’s public charter schools. As state lawmakers discuss public education funding, we ask that they consider the value offered by charter school leaders and why thousands of families in Pennsylvania chose a public charter school as the best educational opportunity for their children.

Charter schools able to rapidly adapt and provide online education

Kimball, 5-17, 20, Robert T. Kimball, Ed.D., is associate vice president for charter schools at Grand Valley State University and chair of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, Detroit News, pinion: Charter schools lead in innovation during pandemic, https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2020/05/18/opinion-charter-schools-lead-way-during-pandemic/5199284002/

National Charter Schools Week was celebrated last week, and charter public schools are showing us what they have to offer: innovation in teaching and learning. When our nation’s public schools were faced with an unprecedented challenge — the need to rapidly transform from in-person instruction to distance learning — charters led the way. Because of the design principles that the charter community is founded on, charter public schools were able to rapidly deploy teachers and technology to reach students and keep learning moving forward. At first this transition occurred organically, in response to parent demand, and then more formally, as states required the creation of distance learning plans.  Studying how this occurred in the charter sector is not important just for those schools, but for all public schools. A first-of-its-kind study released by Grand Valley State University studies how a group of 78 charter public schools are doing it. Grand Valley is Michigan’s largest oversight agency of charter public schools. Its schools are geographically and programmatically diverse and educate more than 34,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The university commissioned an independent analysis of these schools’ distance learning plans.    The study found its charter public school teachers are seizing the opportunity to push learning beyond traditional boundaries and expectations. Grand Valley charter public school teachers are using multiple methods of instruction, prioritizing instruction in the core content areas, and monitoring student learning in their distance learning plans. For example, the study found that 87% of Grand Valley schools are delivering instruction in combinations of print, live virtual sessions, and pre-recorded videos to reach all students. Online lessons are being made real by connecting with industry professionals. Distance learning plans are more than academics though. The study found that ensuring students’ and families wellness is the entire schools’ responsibility, not just teachers. For example, William C. Abney Academy, Grand Valley’s K-6 school in Grand Rapids, is using “wellness committees” of bus drivers, lunch aides, and non-teaching staff to ensure that students and families remain connected to the school and engaged in learning. Even for Grand Valley’s Montessori schools, which rely on personal interaction and hands-on learning, the study found that schools are effectively replicating their in-person Montessori programming. In short, this is a proof point from the charter community showing that schools can innovate. This study also offers important insights into the rapidly-changed role of the teacher. Everything from greeting students with email or virtually instead of a smile at the classroom door to monitoring student participation by logins rather than a quiet conversation after the bell is so different than what is taught in our colleges of education. Their work today is a test of their resilience and professionalism. Is the how perfect? No, far from it. Access to devices, internet connectivity, the ability of parents to engage, and the level of rigor students are being exposed to is uneven. Outcomes must be assessed. However, just as the first cell phones were clunky and got better over time, the longer and more widely used distance learning becomes the more it will improve. Already we are making progress toward positive change. Real solutions to inequities that we all knew existed, inequities that were controlled for by traditional in-person instruction, are finally being discussed by educators and policymakers alike.

Charter schools are successful, diverse, and accountable

Center for Education Reform, May 14, 2020, http://knoxfocus.com/archives/the-daily-focus/charter-schools-week-future-now/

So much more to learn and to say about charter schools but here are a few takeaways to share with your friends and families:  Successful. Study after study that compares like students finds that charters outperform their public school counterparts. Where there are more charter students, the contrast is even more stark. Florida, Arizona and California yield as much as an 8-10 percentage point difference in reading and math. Even on the nation’s challenging report card where it’s clear all of our kids are not doing well, charters outperform traditional public schools. Diverse. Forget the trash you hear once in a while from opponents (duh) and from some alleged proponents (sigh) but according to the newest CER data soon to be published, the nation’s charters are diverse and overrepresent at-risk and minority children. Accountable. Year after year and throughout the months they are in operation, charters have to account to not only parents, but state boards, authorizers, legislatures and numerous other agencies to which they file reports and demonstrate transparency.

Charter schools innovative during the pandemic

Independent Women’s Forum,  May 13, 2020, https://www.iwf.org/2020/05/13/coronavirus-gives-us-another-reason-to-celebrate-charter-schools/, Coronavirus Gives Us Another Reason To Celebrate Charter Schools

Congress established National Charter Schools Week almost exactly two decades ago, when a bipartisan resolution was passed recognizing it, and signed by then-President Bill Clinton. Throughout the duration of the Clinton administration, from the early 90s to the end of the millennium, state after state passed legislation allowing charter schools – public schools exempt from many of the operational rules and red tape that plague the traditional school system – to open up and serve students and families. Most importantly, charters are schools of choice: families choose to enroll their students and sign on to a school’s mission. Because they’re alternatives to traditional public schools, charters often open in neighborhoods where the local school is not providing students with the pathways to success that they deserve. Charters serve disproportionally minority and disadvantaged student populations. Despite welcoming students with additional challenges, overall charter schools have succeeded in producing academic gains across the country. For example, in Washington D.C., which has a large charter sector, charters graduate their students at a rate 24 percent higher than comparable public schools. And they’ve done so while consistently being denied the equal funding they’re guaranteed by law (overall, charters receive just 72 cents on the dollar sent to traditional public schools). The innovation charter schools provide and encourage is especially important now. During the pandemic we’re all living through today, charters have stepped up to the plate, some sharing innovative virtual and hybrid models with any willing districts, and expanding in states that have allowed them to do so in order to flexibly serve families during this time. For example, Florida Virtual School has enrolled new students, not just in its native Florida, but in Alaska, where special legislation has allowed families to join a school that is used to meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities of virtual learning. Another charter school network in New York is operating mobile busses with Wi-Fi to deliver lessons to underserved communities with little internet access. There is no one way for learning to succeed during this difficult time. But charter schools provide key flexibilities that district schools often fail to or cannot. Unfortunately, barriers to charter expansion and success still exist in many states, leaving more than one million students on waitlists around the country. And during a time when all education sectors should be working together to make things easier for teachers, families, and students, additional roadblocks have been thrown up to prevent charter schools, particularly virtual charters, from rising to meet the need. Political turf wars between education services are unproductive at the best of times. In this moment, they’re throwing up additional challenges during an already-difficult time for millions. Charter schools have come a long way since President Clinton signed the National Charter Schools Week resolution into law. From the hard-fought battles to open the first few schools, to the more than 7,000 that operate in 44 states and D.C. serving three million students, charters have had a grand three decades. For the sake of American children across the country who rely on the opportunity they provide, let’s hope the next three decades are even grander.

Charter schools investing in and strengthening communities, they are also leading in online learning

Nina Rees, May10, 2020, Nina Rees (@ninacharters) is president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the former deputy undersecretary for innovation and improvement at the US Department of Education, and the former deputy assistant for domestic policy to the vice president of the United States, Washington Examiner, Public charter schools show the rest of us how to go above and beyond, https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/public-charter-schools-show-the-rest-of-us-how-to-go-above-and-beyond

Crises have a way of revealing exceptional people and organizations. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve seen schools everywhere rising to the challenge of educating students in entirely new ways while also meeting needs beyond education. Schools have been community partners in getting meals to families, sharing resources with healthcare workers and first responders, providing mental health services to students and caregivers, and much more. This is happening in all types of schools, and all educators deserve credit for how quickly they’ve transitioned to a new normal. But as someone who spends a lot of time with school leaders, I’m especially proud of how public charter schools stepped up to help their communities in the past two months. In some ways, charter schools are uniquely suited to adapt quickly to change and adjust curricula. Innovation is in their DNA. They have more control over their budgets and the ability to redirect resources to where they’re most needed. And since charter schools generally receive less funding than district-run schools, they’re used to using resources creatively, doing whatever it takes to deliver what their students need.Charter schools have quickly adapted to digital learning When school doors closed, charter schools quickly adapted to the new reality of distance learning. A high proportion of charter schools are in low-income areas where technology gaps are widest, so providing access to computers and the internet became a top priority. Phalen Leadership Academies of Indianapolis moved swiftly with limited resources to set up a grab-and-go system to give students food and homework packets to help them stay on top of their schoolwork and has been following up by providing hardware for online learning. In California’s Central Valley, Wonderful College Prep Academy charter schools prioritized the distribution of good Wi-Fi connections to students in its largely agricultural region. Of course, technology is only as good as what it’s delivering. Idaho’s Gem Prep is an established innovator with both online and brick-and-mortar schools. Its leaders understood that transitioning from in-person to distance learning requires special preparation for teachers, students, and parents. They drew on their online experience to smooth these transitions, and they’ve made their approach, including online learning expectations for students, available to everyone, including educators and students outside their network. Some of the nation’s most renowned charter networks, including KIPP, Success Academy, and Uncommon Schools, also established frameworks and lesson plans for online learning and made them available free to any school, not just schools in their network and not just charter schools. They’re also updating their resources as they learn more about what’s working and what’s not. 

Charter schools increase college admissions, have best adapted to COVID

New York Post, May 3, 2020, https://nypost.com/2020/05/03/new-yorks-charter-schools-sending-hundreds-of-kids-to-college/, New York’s charter schools are sending hundreds of kids to college

All 98 seniors at Success Academy’s HS of the Liberal Arts are headed to college this fall, including to the University of Chicago, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Tufts, Wharton and Georgetown.Other top local charter networks will add hundreds more to that exciting total — a tremendous sign of how these alternative public schools boost opportunity, especially for the lower-income, black and Hispanic students who are so often served badly by the regular system. More than 95 percent of the 200-plus graduates a year from KIPP NYC College Prep in The Bronx, for example, also head to college — including Columbia-Barnard, Duke and other top-ranked universities. And the four high-schools in the Brooklyn-centered Uncommon Schools network have similar success. “Charters have more flexibility to think about the system as K-16 for their kids, while district schools are more rigidly caught in an outmoded K-12 dynamic where higher education is separate and apart,” notes James Merriman of the NYC Charter Center. Just as important, charters actually put education first — even as many regular public schools throw up their hands when challenged, because their true top priority is serving the needs of the adult staff and administrators. Notably, Chancellor Richard Carranza’s system has basically given up on enforcing standards in the face of the coronavirus crisis: Meaningful graduation requirements, and normal grades for K-8 kids, are out the window. Heck, Carranza’s schools can’t even manage to make teachers communicate with students on a daily basis: The United Federation of Teachers won’t allow it, because rules for remote learning aren’t spelled out in the union contract. Success and other charters, meanwhile, are not only making remote learning work — they’re still grading normally and generally upholding standards despite the challenges of the pandemic. Success Academy to maintain grading system amid coronavirus disruption

KIPP, Uncommon and other high-performance charters like Ascend have yet to compile and release final numbers for their graduating seniors this year. But the 98 Success grads between them have earned $26 million in college scholarships and financial aid — after the class achieved an average SAT score of 1268, almost 200 points above the national average.And future Success senior classes will be larger: The network’s been growing rapidly for over a decade — though that growth rate has slowed thanks to Mayor de Blasio’s hostility, which has forced Success to open fewer new elementary schools than it wanted to start more city children on a real path to higher ed. From the start of kindergarten and now pre-K, Success works to prepare children for college — making sure they learn enough in lower grades to progress to the right subjects in middle school so they can do genuine college-prep work in high school. Without the charter-school law that then-Gov. George Pataki rammed through in 1998 — and the work of hundreds of charter-school teachers and staff in the decades since — tens of thousands of city children would lack the opportunities that Success and its fellow charters provide. It’s disgraceful that de Blasio and so many other local politicians still seek to limit such opportunity, and even deny it altogether.

May 7

Charter schools can be tailored to hold students academically accountable and in accordance with or above state standards

Nelson Smith, 5-7-2020, “Analysis: Seeking New Ways to Evaluate Charter Schools Serving the Highest-Needs Students — That Might Work for Others Shuttered by COVID-19,” No Publication, https://www.the74million.org/article/analysis-seeking-new-ways-to-evaluate-charter-schools-serving-the-highest-needs-students-that-might-work-for-others-shuttered-by-covid-19/

With the coronavirus pandemic bringing the school year to a sudden halt before spring tests and high school graduations, school administrators and state policymakers are struggling with how to evaluate schools when there are big gaps in data. Now imagine if this happened every year. That’s the situation presented by alternative education campuses (AECs), schools that serve former dropouts, pregnant and parenting teens, formerly incarcerated students and others with extraordinary risks to successful learning. For those who operate and oversee such schools, conventional metrics such as state test scores and four-year graduation rates often say little about the actual quality of their programs.

Roughly 700 such campuses are found among the nation’s 3,000-plus charter schools. In recent months, work has accelerated on ways to find new forms of accountability for these out-of-the-box schools. In February, before in-person meetings were replaced by Zoom, more than 40 charter school authorizers met in Columbus, Ohio; Atlanta; and Hayward, California, to look for new methods and metrics for AEC accountability. They’re part of a network created by A-GAME, a federally funded initiative housed at the National Charter Schools Institute in Michigan. For public schools of all kinds, progress of students facing poverty, disability and English language deficits is routinely broken out in state and federal accountability reports. But AECs serve students whose lives and learning have already been seriously disrupted. Typically, they enroll for multiple years, far behind grade level proficiency and missing credits needed for high school graduation. Almost inevitably, their state test scores and graduation rates will lag well behind other schools’.

For charter schools, AECs pose a special challenge. While districts often provide alternative offerings in the form of special programs whose results may be submerged in broader averages, charter AECs are autonomous. Their charter contracts must be renewed periodically, with high-stakes decisions based on attainment of quantifiable goals. For these intensely mission-driven schools, a four-year graduation rate may look dismally low — unless you know that students arrived so far off track academically that they have no hope of graduating in four years. Test scores that would earn an automatic “F” on a state rating system might tip a school toward closure; but when many of the students hadn’t attended school or held a pencil in their hands for several years, the picture might look different. A dearth of meaningful data can leave charter school authorizers in a quandary: Should they recommend a new charter when they can’t really justify it with hard evidence, or risk closing a school and leaving students adrift because the assessment system doesn’t fit their reality? Data from Jim Griffin and Jody Ernst, founders of A-GAME partner Momentum Strategy & Research, offer some insight. Griffin and Ernst are former leaders of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, where they advised that state in drafting its pathbreaking alternative education framework. For most of the past decade, they have been collecting and sifting through statistics on how AEC students fare on state tests and nationally normed assessments such as NWEA. What they’ve discovered is that these students not only trail their peers on achievement measures but also show different growth patterns. Their findings put a dent in the argument that simply adding a growth factor to accountability frameworks solves the problem of staggered starts.

In 2018, the institute and Momentum won a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program, building on earlier work by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. It’s being managed by Naomi Rubin DeVeaux, who was deputy executive director at the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board. In its initial phase, the project produced a resource guide, “Measuring Quality,” offering recommendations from an initial 11-member National Authorizer Leadership Team on how to reframe accountability for the unique circumstances of alternative education campuses. The guide proposes narrowing the definition of AECs to those with a stated mission to serve highest-risk students and with a preponderance of students having at least one critical risk factor. It suggests that authorizers work directly with their AECs to create demanding goals, starting with broadly accepted indicators such as academic performance and career readiness, but setting targets that avoid pitting AECs against mainstream schools with traditional populations.

A key part of the project is creating a solid basis for apples-to-apples accountability. At present, only Ohio, Colorado and D.C. use other AECs as the comparison set in their alternative frameworks. In response, Momentum is building out its national Alternative School, Performance and Policy Database, currently housing public data from more than 20 states and forming the backbone of the A–GAME data tool. It enables any state or authorizer to gauge how a given AEC is doing against a nationwide sample of schools serving similar youth. Since alternative campuses work daily to help students surmount troubling situations, evaluating their success must go beyond academics. The guide suggests strategies and resources for measuring non-academic or social-emotional factors such as motivation, persistence and engagement. And whereas conventional accountability systems rely on a limited battery of tools to measure college and career readiness (AP and SAT scores, for example), the guide suggests diversifying that portfolio with assessments like Work Keys or the Armed Services Vocational Assessment Battery, metrics such as the percentage of students gaining an industry credential, and other measures that may be more directly germane to students’ intended paths. Members of the now-expanded A-GAME network collectively oversee about 70 percent of the nation’s alternative charter schools. Following the regional meetings, they returned to work with individual schools to design new goals. Now, as educators have pivoted to online solutions, A-GAME is also helping network members share insights about supporting AECs in this unprecedented situation, since their students may be especially vulnerable to the effects of sudden dislocation. Comprehensive state accountability systems that depend on uniform metrics and ratings have been showing strain for some time now. Perhaps this moment, when conventional measures have evaporated and millions of families have suddenly turned to intensely personalized instruction, might be an ideal time to look at how the charter sector is expanding the boundaries of school accountability. As institute founder Jim Goenner notes, this work has implications far beyond charter schooling or, for that matter, “alternative” schooling. “At heart,” he says, “accountability should be about whether a school is living its mission. Every school district in the country is grappling with the fact that accountability in the ESSA era has become too standardized and rule-bound. But because chartering is all about pushing the envelope, the authorizers we’re working with actually have the freedom to explore new ways of doing things. “I’m willing to bet that school districts will be eager to try some of these tools and strategies — not just for ‘alternative’ programs but for regular public schools that serve students who arrive with a wide variety of backgrounds and challenges.”

May 6

Some charter schools are closing due to poor academics

Blythe Bernhard, 5-6-2020, “Carondelet Leadership Academy charter school in south St. Louis to close for poor academics,” STLtoday, https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/carondelet-leadership-academy-charter-school-in-south-st-louis-to-close-for-poor-academics/article_86a3c3ae-6eb4-591a-8bb2-1d711ad7ddb1.html

Last month, the Missouri Charter Public School Commission declined to renew the school’s charter contract because of poor academic performance. Families of the 400 students in kindergarten through eighth grade will receive help transferring to new schools for the fall, and the 50 teachers and other staff members will get job assistance, said Robbyn Wahby, the commission’s executive director. “And then, hopefully, over the next few years we can get a high-performing school into the neighborhood,” Wahby said. Charter schools are free and open to students living in the St. Louis Public Schools district boundaries. They operate under separate boards — allowing for more freedom and innovation, advocates say — while being held to the same state standards for performance as other public schools. Charter school enrollment has grown to nearly 12,000 students in St. Louis, or more than one-third of the city’s public school student population. About half of the 30-plus charter schools that have opened in St. Louis since 2000 have been shut down for academic or financial failure. St. Louis College Prep closed last year after a state audit found falsified attendance records. Charter advocates say the closures are a positive sign because failing schools aren’t allowed to languish. Carondelet Leadership Academy opened in the Patch neighborhood in 2010. It ranked lowest among St. Louis charter schools in 2018 with 11% of students scoring proficient or advanced in math and 13% in English. The Missouri Charter Public School Commission took over sponsorship of the school in 2019 from the University of Missouri-Columbia. That year, 21% of the school’s students scored proficient or higher in English and 22% scored proficient in math. The students’ I   at the school expressed their disappointment in the closure, saying it was unfair to judge the school’s academic performance now, after the coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of statewide testing this spring. “We had to make the hard decision,” Wahby said. “They did not meet the performance contract. They were moving in the right direction, but they could not put together a compelling enough case that they could turn this around.” At a teleconference board meeting Monday, teachers, parents and students cried as they talked about feeling abandoned and betrayed by the school’s closure. They said the school community was a family environment where they felt safe and loved. One parent said it was “heartless” to force families to look for a new school during the pandemic shutdown, which prevents in-person visits.

May 5

Public schools are using the techniques of charter schools to raise the success rates for students

Kristen Taketa, 5-4-2020, “School districts may switch to blended learning, an area dominated by charter schools,” San Diego Union-Tribune, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/story/2020-05-03/school-districts-may-switch-to-blended-learning-an-area-dominated-by-charter-schools

It took many school districts in San Diego County weeks to get ready for distance learning. For some charter schools, or public schools run independently of school districts, it took days. For years, charter schools called “personalized learning” schools have offered one or a combination of online learning, teacher-supported home-schooling and blended learning, where students physically attend school only part of the week. When traditional schools finally reopen later this year, it’s likely they will have to operate more like these charter schools and offer one or more of these options, experts say. Promote health. Save lives. Serve the vulnerable. Visit who.int It likely will bring far-reaching changes to the role of student and teacher, some predict. New normal? County school officials predict that blended learning will become the new norm for public education once students physically return to school later this year. San Diego Unified’s school board vice president said blended learning is the “most likely scenario” for reopening California’s second-largest school district. That’s because there won’t be enough room in many schools for adequate physical distancing, unless schools limit how many students are in school on any one day.

Blended learning could be the norm for as long as a year and a half, until a coronavirus vaccine is developed and widely used, according to the San Diego County Office of Education. Even with blended learning, it’s likely traditional schools will experience more competition for students from charter schools who have long-established distance learning programs, said Bob Mueller, program specialist for the county education office. Some families may think it’s still risky to send their children to school and may prefer keeping them at home. Some charter schools already have seen a spike in demand since schools closed in March. Springs Charter Schools, a Southern California network of schools serving 9,800 K-12 students, with locations in Chula Vista and Vista, has received more than 2,000 admission applications for the next school year since schools closed, said Kathleen Hermsmeyer, Springs’ superintendent. That’s more than usual, she said.

Shortly after the school closures, Springs opened an online school free for anybody with an email address. About 5,000 people have signed up for the free school, which includes weekly video lessons by teachers, assignments and answer keys for grades K-12. Some parents said they want to enroll in Springs because they doubt their traditional schools will provide quality distance learning next school year, Hermsmeyer said. Springs offers a range of schooling options, from five-days-a-week, on-person school attendance, to blended learning, to five-days-a-week home schooling. Roxana Marachi, an associate professor of education at San Jose State University who specializes in equity issues, said she is troubled by the increased attention to and increased marketing of virtual charter schools during this pandemic. “Right now, it’s a time when everyone is going scrambling to try to find alternatives … and so, unfortunately, it’s also a high time for the potential of exploitation of our communities,” said Marachi, who is education chair of the California State NAACP. Not only have there been several fraud scandals associated with some virtual charter schools, but research shows their overall performance as a sector has been dismal, Marachi said, due to issues with quality of instruction, minimal teacher contact with students, problematic oversight and more.

A 2015 national study by Stanford University found that a majority of online charter school students performed significantly worse than their traditional school peers. It was a difference equivalent to not going to school for 40 percent of the year for reading and not going to school for an entire year for math. The virtual charter school industry also relies heavily on educational technology companies to provide instruction, which Marachi sees as problematic because she said there is no solid evidence educational technology programs are effective for learning. Educational technology also comes with a host of data privacy issues, she said. Not for everyone, Distance learning has proven challenging for most traditional schools. State and local school officials say they are expecting mass student learning loss because of school closures and students’ uneven access to distance learning. Even leaders of personalized learning charter schools acknowledge that distance learning is not appropriate or easy for everyone. They say students have to be motivated to do the work and have parents who can help them with learning. Learning from home also presents problems for working parents who rely on school for child care. “It’s not possible for all families,” Hermsmeyer said. “If the parent is not able to provide a stable home situation to provide home-schooling, that’s not gonna work.” Charter schools are open to any students, but families choose to enroll their children there and know what they’re signing up for, so they may be more likely to already have the involvement and resources needed for students to learn from home. School districts, meanwhile, must educate any students who live in their boundaries and must make distance learning work for everyone, regardless of whether parents want it or are equipped for it Still, charter school leaders say, there are many benefits that come with personalized learning and at-home schooling.

They see it as an effective alternative to traditional schooling, which tends to use the same curriculum, school structure and teaching methods for most students With personalized learning, school leaders say, the teacher works with each student to create a customized learning plan tailored to the student’s learning style, needs and interests. Many personalized learning schools allow students to choose what learning projects they take on. For example, a third-grade student could choose to do a research project on dinosaurs in which they practice reading comprehension, evidence analysis, writing and more, Hermsmeyer said. For many students, at-home education also can be a respite from the social pressures of brick-and-mortar schools, including bullying, Hermsmeyer said. What’s different with blended learning Blended learning also means the teacher plays a different role, charter school leaders say. With limited face time in class, a teacher’s class time is better spent holding group discussions or solving math problems together, rather than giving lectures or assigning busywork like worksheets, Hermsmeyer said. Teachers also are no longer the central source of a student’s instruction, said Terri Novacek, executive director of Community Montessori and Dimensions Collaborative in San Diego County, which are personalized learning charter schools. There is technology out there that can teach kids how to read and write and calculate and do science labs,” Novacek said. Teachers instead spend more time crafting student learning plans and guiding students in their learning, Novacek said. That’s why Novacek’s schools call their teachers “educational facilitators” rather than “teachers.” “You’re more of a partner,” Novacek said. “Your job is to ask the right questions, not give the right answers.” Springs also employs instructional aides who meet with students one-on-one or in small groups for tutoring, Hermsmeyer said. Those aides also check in with students and call them if they don’t show up to class.

Charter schools succeed in preparing students for college

Post Editorial Board, 5-3-2020, “New York’s charter schools are sending hundreds of kids to college,” New York Post, https://nypost.com/2020/05/03/new-yorks-charter-schools-sending-hundreds-of-kids-to-college/

All 98 seniors at Success Academy’s HS of the Liberal Arts are headed to college this fall, including to the University of Chicago, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Tufts, Wharton and Georgetown. Other top local charter networks will add hundreds more to that exciting total — a tremendous sign of how these alternative public schools boost opportunity, especially for the lower-income, black and Hispanic students who are so often served badly by the regular system. More than 95 percent of the 200-plus graduates a year from KIPP NYC College Prep in The Bronx, for example, also head to college — including Columbia-Barnard, Duke and other top-ranked universities. And the four high-schools in the Brooklyn-centered Uncommon Schools network have similar success.

“Charters have more flexibility to think about the system as K-16 for their kids, while district schools are more rigidly caught in an outmoded K-12 dynamic where higher education is separate and apart,” notes James Merriman of the NYC Charter Center. Just as important,   Notably, Chancellor Richard Carranza’s system has basically given up on enforcing standards in the face of the coronavirus crisis: Meaningful graduation requirements, and normal grades for K-8 kids, are out the window. Heck, Carranza’s schools can’t even manage to make teachers communicate with students on a daily basis: The United Federation of Teachers won’t allow it, because rules for remote learning aren’t spelled out in the union contract. Success and other charters, meanwhile, are not only making remote learning work — they’re still grading normally and generally upholding standards despite the challenges of the pandemic. Success Academy to maintain grading system amid coronavirus disruption

KIPP, Uncommon and other high-performance charters like Ascend have yet to compile and release final numbers for their graduating seniors this year. But the 98 Success grads between them have earned $26 million in college scholarships and financial aid — after the class achieved an average SAT score of 1268, almost 200 points above the national average. And future Success senior classes will be larger: The network’s been growing rapidly for over a decade — though that growth rate has slowed thanks to Mayor de Blasio’s hostility, which has forced Success to open fewer new elementary schools than it wanted to start more city children on a real path to higher ed. From the start of kindergarten and now pre-K, Success works to prepare children for college — making sure they learn enough in lower grades to progress to the right subjects in middle school so they can do genuine college-prep work in high school. Without the charter-school law that then-Gov. George Pataki rammed through in 1998 — and the work of hundreds of charter-school teachers and staff in the decades since — tens of thousands of city children would lack the opportunities that Success and its fellow charters provide. It’s disgraceful that de Blasio and so many other local politicians still seek to limit such opportunity, and even deny it altogether.

Charter schools succeed in preparing students for college

Post Editorial Board, 5-3-2020, “New York’s charter schools are sending hundreds of kids to college,” New York Post, https://nypost.com/2020/05/03/new-yorks-charter-schools-sending-hundreds-of-kids-to-college/

All 98 seniors at Success Academy’s HS of the Liberal Arts are headed to college this fall, including to the University of Chicago, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Tufts, Wharton and Georgetown. Other top local charter networks will add hundreds more to that exciting total — a tremendous sign of how these alternative public schools boost opportunity, especially for the lower-income, black and Hispanic students who are so often served badly by the regular system. More than 95 percent of the 200-plus graduates a year from KIPP NYC College Prep in The Bronx, for example, also head to college — including Columbia-Barnard, Duke and other top-ranked universities. And the four high-schools in the Brooklyn-centered Uncommon Schools network have similar success. “Charters have more flexibility to think about the system as K-16 for their kids, while district schools are more rigidly caught in an outmoded K-12 dynamic where higher education is separate and apart,” notes James Merriman of the NYC Charter Center. Just as important,   Notably, Chancellor Richard Carranza’s system has basically given up on enforcing standards in the face of the coronavirus crisis: Meaningful graduation requirements, and normal grades for K-8 kids, are out the window. Heck, Carranza’s schools can’t even manage to make teachers communicate with students on a daily basis: The United Federation of Teachers won’t allow it, because rules for remote learning aren’t spelled out in the union contract. Success and other charters, meanwhile, are not only making remote learning work — they’re still grading normally and generally upholding standards despite the challenges of the pandemic. Success Academy to maintain grading system amid coronavirus disruption

KIPP, Uncommon and other high-performance charters like Ascend have yet to compile and release final numbers for their graduating seniors this year. But the 98 Success grads between them have earned $26 million in college scholarships and financial aid — after the class achieved an average SAT score of 1268, almost 200 points above the national average. And future Success senior classes will be larger: The network’s been growing rapidly for over a decade — though that growth rate has slowed thanks to Mayor de Blasio’s hostility, which has forced Success to open fewer new elementary schools than it wanted to start more city children on a real path to higher ed. From the start of kindergarten and now pre-K, Success works to prepare children for college — making sure they learn enough in lower grades to progress to the right subjects in middle school so they can do genuine college-prep work in high school. Without the charter-school law that then-Gov. George Pataki rammed through in 1998 — and the work of hundreds of charter-school teachers and staff in the decades since — tens of thousands of city children would lack the opportunities that Success and its fellow charters provide. It’s disgraceful that de Blasio and so many other local politicians still seek to limit such opportunity, and even deny it altogether

Funding issues are preventing the spread and expansion of charter schools. Local communities are choosing local schools

Kaylin Jorge, 5-1-2020, “MNPS charter schools denied: ‘We can open charter schools or we can pay teachers’,” WZTV, https://fox17.com/news/local/nashville-school-board-denies-applications-for-five-charter-schools

Nashville’s education leaders have denied applications for several new charter schools. Those schools would have brought in 3,000 new charter seats to Metro Nashville Public Schools, WPLN reports. MNPS school board members cited funding issues with the schools and the City of Nashville. They also said each of the proposed charter schools failed to fully meet the district’s performance standards. Amy Frogge, a MNPS board member who represents district 9, said funding available has come down to a matter of adding charter schools or paying teachers, and the choice is pretty clear. “I want to second that but I just have a quick comment and again this is just a general comment: I just wanna say we have a limited pool of money of funds we’re now looking at cutting that pool quite a bit and we don’t know our budgetary future and it’s uncertain and we have a pretty clear choice to make: We have to prioritize where those funds go we can chose to open charter schools or we can chose to pay our teachers and staff members,” Amy Frogge said. “I mean really that’s what It comes down to. If we are approving charter schools at the tune of a few million dollars that can go to teachers and staff.” Here are the schools that were rejected: Ivy Prep Academy, the lone application for North Nashville. The application says it wants to open in 2021. KIPP Southeast Nashville College Prep Middle School, which would open in the 2021-22 school year. KIPP Southeast Nashville College Prep Elementary School, which would open in the 2021-22 school year. KIPP Antioch College Prep High School, which projects to open in the 2023-24 school year Nashville Collegiate Prep, which wants to open in the 2021-22 school year In a statement to FOX 17 News, Kipp Nashville said they will be resubmitting their request: “We appreciate the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education’s consideration and feedback. We will follow the process to resubmit our applications to both ease overcrowding and meet the demand of the over 900 families who have applied for 250 open seats at our current Antioch schools.”

May 2

Charter schools provide essential services to students and serve low income students of color well

Nina Rees, 4-29-2020, “Dispelling Charter Schools Myths,” Education Week, https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/04/29/dispelling-charter-schools-myths.html

In response to the recent opinion piece by Diane Ravitch, “The Coronavirus Just Might End School Privatization Nonsense,” (April 10, 2020) I feel compelled to correct several misstatements and inaccuracies that decry the critical role charter schools play in serving America’s public school students. While these typical union tropes are not original, they are particularly distasteful in this moment. We should be elevating everyone who is helping to take care of students. Yes, parents have been thrust immediately into the challenge of home schooling, and many are struggling to support their students. And, yes, teachers’ work may sometimes go underappreciated. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped many people gain a deeper appreciation of just how hard teachers work and how essential their special skills are to students. During this time, I have been heartened to see communities come together to support their neighbors. Many charter schools are providing meals, Wi-Fi access, online lessons, and support to all families, regardless of the type of school their child might attend. At this time, instead of doing something useful for students and families, Diane Ravitch and others who share her convictions have chosen to sow seeds of discord and spread alternative myths about charter schools. It’s shameful. The public consistently supports charter schools—when they are told the truth. All charter schools are public schools. Under the law, they cannot refuse students on the basis of prior performance. And they do an exceptional job of serving low-income students and students of color. There is no dispute about the value of teachers or that public schools are underfunded and teachers are underpaid. And there should be no debate about the fact that all students deserve a high-quality education. When schools reopen, let’s all focus on replicating the public schools that are providing that.