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Charter Schools Daily Update

Charter Schools Daily Update

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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.