National Charter Schools Conference Celebrates Sector’s 20th Anniversary
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, thousands of teachers, administrators and policymakers will convene in Minneapolis this week for the National Charter Schools Conference, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the nation's first charter school, City Academy in St. Paul. "We thought it would be perfect to return to the birthplace of the national charter school movement, said Ursula Wright, the interim chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools."Not only is it critical for us to look back and assess the last 20 years but we also need to develop plans for the next 20 years.” Nationally, 2 million students attend public charter schools; an estimated 12.5 percent growth in enrollment this year. "Now is the time to circle the wagons because we know what works now," said Eli Kramer, interim executive director of Hiawatha Leadership Academy, whose school recently achieved the highest score among all Minnesota schools receiving federal poverty aid on a recent statewide school ranking. "It's time to replicate success and provide a quality education."
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Op-Ed: Taking Charter Schools into Next Chapter
In a Minneapolis Star-Tribune op-ed, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Vice President Todd Ziebarth and Charter School Partners Executive Director Al Fan celebrate this week’s National Charter Schools Conference, which honors the 20th anniversary of the birth of the public charter school movement and Minnesota’s legacy of launching the first charter law and charter school in the nation. The next chapter of the charter movement, Ziebarth and Fan write, will be about “the creation and replication of high-performing, high-achieving schools, particularly ones that serve students from low-income families…The commitment now must be that quality is paramount and academic achievement is a reality for every child.” While many of the top public schools in many cities are charters, the charter model only works if there is high accountability. Ziebarth and Fan urge Minnesota to pass Charters 2.0 in the next legislative session, a law which would create the environment to launch and replicate a new generation of high-performing schools, increase the pipeline of teachers effective in closing the achievement gap and close chronically low-performing charters.
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Op-ed: Raise Student Achievement with More Autonomous Schools
In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Manhattan Institute fellow Marcus Winters writes that the United States must improve its schools to create a globally-competitive workforce. Yet how can policymakers improve student achievement in the face of reduced school funding? “Schools don't need more funds;” Winters writes, “they need the freedom to use their funds as they see best.” Winters suggests a system of taxpayer-funded, relatively autonomous schools. “Every school would become, in effect, a charter school. Districts would still have a role in this kind of system, imposing performance standards that schools would have to meet to keep their doors open. But it would be each school's responsibility to adopt sound policies and use its resources wisely.” Random-assignment studies of students in in New York City, Boston, and Chicago found that public charter schools produced better educational outcomes than their traditional public counterparts.
Source: Wall Street Journal
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Editorial: Dallas District Should Lease Closed Buildings to Charters
A Dallas News editorial writes that the nine school buildings closed by the Dallas school district represent an opportunity for both the district and the city’s public charter schools. “Charter schools face a constant challenge to find property they can convert into space to apply their innovative educational solutions. These privately run public schools receive some state money but little or nothing to buy or build facilities…Uplift and KIPP are two major charter operators looking to expand in Dallas. Freed of many state requirements, they have had demonstrable success, a reason tens of thousands of Texans have their children on charter school waiting lists.” Rather than leave the buildings empty, “The better idea is to lease some of those nine school buildings to willing charter operators, whose rent would more than offset maintenance costs — and enhance educational opportunities for more Dallas schoolchildren,” the News suggests, especially given the sharing arrangements underway in places like New York City and Denver. “As a community win-win, this seems too good to pass up.”
Source: Dallas News
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Maine Charter School Commission Tells Governor It Won’t Be Rushed
According to the Kennebec Journal and the Bangor Daily News, the Maine Charter School Commission will not consider two applications to open virtual public charter schools this fall, despite the objections of Governor Paul LePage. LePage wrote a letter to the commission last week arguing that it has enough time to act before schools starts in September. The commission has stated it needs more time before acting on the applications. “We want to work with these charter schools and understand them better so that we can ensure they will be successful," said Commissioner William Shuttleworth. Commissioner Richard Barnes said that while “virtual education is not new territory,” and has worked well at the University of Maine, he stressed that commission members “are the authorizers, not the operators,” and so must evaluate applicants for their ability to succeed.
Sources: Kennebec Journal, Bangor Daily News
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A Standoff Over a Virtual Charter in North Carolina
On his Education Week blog, Sean Cavanagh writes that the controversy over the creation of a virtual public charter school in North Carolina “underscores one of the most fundamental questions over charter schools: Who should have the power to create them, and oversee them?” The state board of education delayed acting on the North Carolina Virtual Academy’s charter application, seeking more time to create guidelines for online charter schools. Meanwhile, the Cabarrus County Board of Education approved the school’s opening. When the state board objected, a judge ruled that the state lost jurisdiction over the charter’s final approval when it delayed action. The state board is appealing the decision; 90 of the state’s 115 local school boards have joined the state board’s legal action. The virtual academy plans to eventually enroll 6,526 students from school districts statewide; their per-pupil funds would go to the charter school. “There's a need for more public school options," said Jeff Kwitowski, a spokesman for K12 Inc., which would provide curriculum and academic services at the virtual academy.
Source: Education Week
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