Articles in the Charter Schools category

Ravitch: We can learn a lot from Finland — and from our own public schools

Diane Ravitch praised the Finnish schools in a recent speech in Washington, D.C. But it was another nation’s public education system — and the remarkable progress it has made over the past 40 years — that most impressed the celebrated author and education historian.

What country is this? The United States, of course. During that time, student achievement has increased overall, even as today’s student population has become more racially, economically, and culturally diverse. Graduation rates also are rising. And “dropout rates,” said Ravitch, a keynote speaker at NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference in San Diego, “are the lowest they’ve been in history.”

But if you read some of the anti-public school literature out there, or watched some purportedly “balanced” news reports, you could easily be fooled into thinking something much different, said Ravitch, who spoke at the Economic Policy Institute about her new book on public school reform, Reign of Error.

As an example, Ravitch cited a 2012 report called “U.S. Education Reform and National Security,” by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, now head of Rupert Murdoch’s strongly pro-voucher News Corp. The report claims, contrary to the evidence Ravitch cites in the Long-Term Trend report of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), that U.S. schools are so bad they have “become a grave security risk.”

Ravitch devotes much of her new book to the high performing public schools in Finland, a place where she says teaching is a highly respected — and highly selective — occupation, where teachers and principals belong to a common union, and where public education of the highest quality is seen as a national obligation.

“They don’t have charters,” Ravitch said. “They don’t have vouchers. …. There is no Teach for Finland.”

U. S. schools are doing a lot right, too, Ravitch said. In fact, some of the highest-scoring nations on international tests — Singapore among them – are looking at how U.S. schools embrace creativity and teach problem-solving skills. Ironically, with the recent emphasis on high-stakes testing, she added, “We’re moving in the opposite direction.”

“And now we have kindergarten children taking bubble-in tests,” Ravitch said. “This is insane.”

Ravitch criticized the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, which she said “has put $5 billion into the pursuit of higher test scores.” She said the money could have been put to better use in efforts to address the growing segregation of many public schools by race and income, particularly in the South and West.

“We’re not trying to solve the real problem, which is child poverty,” Ravitch said. “Poverty is the elephant in the room.”

Elaine Weiss, national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also spoke at the event. Weingarten said budget cuts have harmed school systems across the country, opening them up to criticism and threats of privatization. However, studies consistently show that privatization does not lead to higher student performance while resulting, in many instances, in greater economic and racial segregation.

Lawrence Hardy|October 22nd, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Charter Schools, Comparative Education, Conferences and Events, Curriculum, Diversity, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, Race to the Top (RTTT), School Board News, School Vouchers, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|

NSBA: Allegations of misused funds by charter school operators show need for school board oversight

According to The Washington Post, D.C. authorities filed a lawsuit Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court in which former senior managers and the board chairwoman of D.C.-based Options Public Charter School (OPCS) are accused of diverting millions of taxpayer dollars intended to fund student programs.

The lawsuit claims that improper payments of more than $3 million were made since 2012. The filing alleges a “pattern of self-dealing” in which large payments were made to for-profit companies that OPCS managers founded while running the charter school. The OPCS enrolls about 400 at-risk students in middle and high school, many of whom have disabilities, for which the charter school receives thousands of dollars in extra taxpayer-based payments because they have special needs. The OPCS board chairwoman is D.C.-based WUSA9 news personality J.C. Hayward.

“The alleged charges surrounding this local issue should spark national attention and concern,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association. “While charter schools authorized by local boards of education assure the public of transparency and accountability, those solely in the for-profit sector without the oversight of a public school board offer a degree of risk that does not effectively serve the public interest. Strong local governance protects students’ interests. If these allegations are proven true, it is yet another case in point that local school boards are what best serve the public good.”

According to the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB), Options Public Charter School opened in 1996 as one of D.C.’s first five charter schools. While the initial charter was issued by the D.C. Board of Education, oversight for the past six years (including the period during which the abuses are alleged to have occurred) has been the responsibility of PCSB, an appointed board with no direct accountability to the public.

NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. noted that any misuse of public funds would ultimately hurt students and the public schools that serve D.C. families.

“The diversion of tax dollars from traditional public schools into charter schools lacking the oversight of a public school board serves neither students nor taxpayers,” said Negrón. “Diverting scarce monies into such programs limits the ability of traditional public schools to carry out their mission to educate all children.”

Joetta Sack-Min|October 2nd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Governance, Public Advocacy, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA praises House passage of ESEA bill

The National School Boards Association (NSBA)  is pleased that Student Success Act, H.R. 5, passed the U.S. House of Representatives today by a vote of 221-207. H.R. 5 is the House’s version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.

Key elements of NSBA’s bill, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, H.R. 1386, were incorporated in H.R. 5, with some provisions included in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce bill and others in an amendment on local school district flexibility offered by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.).

“The Student Success Act provides states and local educational agencies with the flexibility they need to create and implement innovative approaches to improve academic performance to prepare all students for post-secondary education or the workplace ,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “School boards are pleased that the bill focuses on specifically ensuring that the U.S. Department of Education does not encroach on local school board governance.”

Gentzel continued, “NSBA supports the bill’s overwhelming shift in direction to ensure that greater flexibility and governance will be restored to local school boards during this Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.  The bill clearly acknowledges that the footprint of the federal government in K-12 education must be reduced.  Despite NSBA’s concerns with several provisions, NSBA supports final passage of the bill given the overall benefits of the final legislation.”

Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R -Va.) Title I portability amendment, which NSBA opposed, passed by voice vote this morning.  This provision, as well as funding concerns with the House bill, will be addressed after the U.S. Senate passes its ESEA bill, and both the House and Senate ESEA bill goes to conference.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 19th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs|Tags: , , |

NSBA urges House to approve ESEA bill this week

In anticipation of a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives later this week, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has written to all House members to urge them to support the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization. Specifically, NSBA is supporting an amendment that would  give school districts greater input in the development of federal regulations, and it would prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from extending its authority to make regulations outside specific legislative authority.

NSBA also has concerns about the funding authorizations included in the bill, H.R. 5. It has urged House members to support the reinstatement of Maintenance of Effort requirements to ensure that schools receive adequate state funding in an era of tight budgets.

Finally, NSBA announced its opposition to an amendment that would require school districts to reallocate Title I funds on a per-pupil basis and set up a system of public school choice. “Title I portability would cause irreparable harm to high-needs schools and the students they serve,” the letter states.

H.R. 5, also called The Student Success Act, “makes significant improvements to restore greater flexibility and governance to local educational agencies that will enable these agencies to better meet the unique needs and conditions of their local schools and students. It also re-affirms the appropriate roles and responsibilities between the Executive and Legislative Branches of government that are vital to the representative decision-making at the federal level that under girds public education as a democratic institution across all three levels of government,” the letter states.

Joetta Sack-Min|July 17th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , |

Not much data available on school turnaround models, new CPE report finds

Turnaround strategies for low-performing schools are getting a lot of attention from states and the federal government—which are spending billions of dollars on those efforts. But do these strategies work?

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE)  finds that while there have been some successes there’s not much evidence yet that many of these strategies will work on a larger scale.

The report, “Which Way Up?  What research says about school turnaround strategies,” reviews numerous methods of school improvement to determine which, if any, hold the most promise, but finds that in most cases it’s too early to tell.

“With the significant federal investment and mandated models to ‘turnaround’ low-performing schools, we have limited research to date on the effectiveness of these strategies and little guidance on what actually works,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “We know that school improvement funding is extremely important, but it should encourage innovation, instead of mandating unnecessary federal restrictions.”

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has placed a larger focus on turnaround strategies by identifying schools with low performance and sizable achievement gaps. The main federal turnaround program, the School Improvement Grant (SIG), targets schools in the bottom 5 percent nationwide with four models of reform ranging from replacing staff to shutting down a school. These strategies are echoed in the federal Race to the Top grants and so-called Parent Trigger laws being introduced in a handful of states.

One federal study showed that two-thirds of SIG grant recipients posted gains with the infusion of federal funds, but because the report was based on only one year’s data, it was too early to draw conclusions.

“The focus on the nation’s lowest performing schools is vitally important so we can make sure all students have the benefit of a solid public education,” said Patte Barth, CPE’s Director. “In these efforts, education policymakers need to balance the need for evidence-based strategies while tapping the potential for local innovation, especially in cases like turnaround strategies where the data is limited.”

In examining research on the impact of school closure, restart, transformation, and turnaround models, the report concludes:

  • Research is limited. There is some evidence of success, primarily for schools undertaking more dramatic turnaround reforms, but data collected over a longer period of time is needed.
  • The vast majority of SIG schools — about three-quarters are choosing the “transformation model” which provides the most flexibility for local planners.
  • Replacing a majority of teachers—required in the turnaround model—presents challenges for some schools. Rural schools are particularly challenged to find enough teachers to meet the replacement requirements.
  • Rural schools also face difficulties with the restart model since they have limited access to private management organizations. The closure model also may not be feasible if they have no other schools in which to send students. Even in urban areas, a closure model seems to be promising only when students can transfer to schools with higher achievement rates.
  • Replacing a principal may show promise, as some studies indicate principals are second only to teachers in their impact on student learning.  But the strategy is new and again, the data is limited.

NSBA has repeatedly voiced concerns about the U.S. Department of Education’s mandates and overreach, which hinder school officials’ abilities to address their unique local needs. In response to NSBA concerns, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (HR 1386) has been introduced and now has 15 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would ensure that the agency engages local school boards much more to preclude federal requirements that are ineffective and beyond local school district capacity.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 1st, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Mayoral Control, School Reform, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , |

California superintendent: Develop positive relationships with charters

Whether you embrace the charter school movement — or see these schools as unwelcome intruders that steal your students and siphon off funding — it is in the best interest of your school board to develop a positive working relationship with your community’s charters.

That was the message delivered at a Monday workshop led by Francisco Escobedo, superintendent of California’s Chula Vista Elementary School District, and Peter Fagen and Melanie Petersen of Fagen, Friedman, & Fulfrost, a legal firm specializing in education.

Although it’s never too late to reach out to charter school operators, a great time to start work on that relationship is during the charter approval process, panelists said. That is especially true if the school board is the authorizing body and works closely with charter organizers to ensure that their business and academic proposals are likely to succeed.

Such communications also could limit the risks that your school board will have to pick up the pieces if the charter ultimately fails financially or academically.

Another opportunity to strengthen your relationship with charter organizers is to offer to provide payroll, food, teacher training, transportation, or special education services for a fee, Escobedo said. Such collaborative business arrangements can expand day-to-day interaction between district and charter leaders, and it can help the school district to recoup some of the state funding lost to the charter.

“The charters often find they can’t do it [provide the services] and … they need a larger entity or system to help them, he said. “So creating that relationship with them is a critical way to build ties.”

It also can be profitable. In Chula Vista, Escobedo said, several charter schools pay between $800,000 and $1.6 million annually for services provided by the district.

To make any relationship work smoothly, Petersen recommended that a school district assign a single administrator to oversee coordination—both to keep an eye on the charter’s progress and to “ask about problems before they get out of hand.”

With charter school laws varying across the nation, some school boards will face greater challenges in working with their local charter schools, panelists noted. But there really is no option but to try. The number of charter schools keeps growing, and your children are going to be attending these schools

“It’s not an us vs. them situation,” Peterson says. “These are our community’s students, even if they’re going to another school. It’s your obligation to see that they’re going to get the best education possible … in a program that’s sustainable.”

And, to do that, panelists said, your school board has to be engaged with those schools.

Del Stover|April 16th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, School Reform|

Develop a positive relationship with your community’s charter schools

Whether you embrace the charter school movement—or see these schools as unwelcome intruders that steal your students and siphon off funding—it is in the best interest of your school board to develop a positive working relationship with your community’s charters.

That was the message delivered at a Monday workshop at NSBA’s annual conference led by Francisco Escobedo, superintendent of California’s Chula Vista Elementary School District, and Peter Fagen and Melanie Petersen of Fagen, Friedman, & Fulfrost, a legal firm specializing in education.

Although it’s never too late to reach out to charter school operators, a great time to start work on that relationship is during the charter approval process, panelists said. That is especially true if the school board is the authorizing body and works closely with charter organizers to ensure that their business and academic proposals are likely to succeed.

Such communications also could limit the risks that your school board will have to pick up the pieces if the charter ultimately fails financially or academically.

Another opportunity to strengthen your relationship with charter organizers is to offer to provide payroll, food, teacher training, transportation, or special education services for a fee, Escobedo said. Such collaborative business arrangements can expand day-to-day interaction between district and charter leaders, and it can help the school district to recoup some of the state funding lost to the charter.

“The charters often find they can’t do it [provide the services] and … they need a larger entity or system to help them, he said. “So creating that relationship with them is a critical way to build ties.”

It also can be profitable. In Chula Vista, Escobedo said, several charter schools pay between $800,000 and $1.6 million annually for services provided by the district.

To make any relationship work smoothly, Petersen recommended that a school district assign a single administrator to oversee coordination—both to keep an eye on the charter’s progress and to “ask about problems before they get out of hand.”

With charter school laws varying across the nation, some school boards will face greater challenges in working with their local charter schools, panelists noted. But there really is no option but to try. The number of charter schools keeps growing, and your children are going to be attending these schools

“It’s not an us-versus-them situation,” Petersen says. “These are our community’s students, even if they’re going to another school. It’s your obligation to see that they’re going to get the best education possible … in a program that’s sustainable.”

And, to do that, panelists said, your school board has to be engaged with those schools.

Del Stover|April 15th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|

Interview with NSBA Conference speaker Diane Ravitch: ‘Schools belong to the people and not to corporations’

From 1991 to 1993, Diane Ravitch served as Assistant Secretary of Education in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Today, the author and education historian says the institution she served at the federal level is under an unprecedented threat from powerful interests intent on privatizing public schools.

In 2010, Ravitch published The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermine Education. A keynote speaker at the 2013 NSBA Annual Conference in San Diego, she recently talked with ASBJ Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy.

Why is this a dangerous time for the public schools?

I see the trends intensifying, and there is now a full-blown privatization movement. At the time I wrote my last book, I thought there was some kind of an accidental convergence between, on the one hand, the testing movement associated with No Child Left Behind, and a growing, nascent privatization movement. I now have concluded that these are not an accidental convergence, and that one feeds into the other: The testing is being used as part of a larger narrative about the alleged failure of American education.

Charter schools — especially for-profit ones — are a challenge to public schools, but they still serve only a small fraction of students. Why are they such a big threat?

We’re going to cross a threshold. The charter movement began with the idea that educators were so incompetent that if you could just turn over the schools to private managers, whether they were educators or not, they would do a better job, and that they would perform miracles. It began with this rhetoric of saving minority kids from failing schools — that’s sort of standard lingo. And so there are many cities now where charters are not an inconsequential part of the education spectrum.

Proponents of vouchers and privately run charter schools say they want to give parents more choice. Isn’t that a positive message?

They use all the progressive language to do things that, distinctly, are not progressive. When you close down public education, that’s not progressive. If the American public understood what was really happening, there would be this huge outcry, but it’s always bathed in the rhetoric of, “We want to help minority kids, save them from failing schools.”

And public education’s response?

We don’t have all that wonderful messaging. Instead, we’re constantly playing a game of saying, “Stop saying these things. You’re wrong.” It makes you sound very defensive. And they say, if you don’t agree with them — this is one of their favorite lines — you’re a defender of the status quo.

So if you believe in public education, if you believe in democratic control of local schools, if you believe in local school boards and state school boards, if you believe the people who are members of the community should have some say in what happens to the schools their children attend, you’re a defender of the status quo. If you believe that teachers should have a professional preparation and that they should be committed to the classroom, you’re a defender of the status quo. If you believe teachers should have some academic freedom and some protection for their freedom of speech and their right to teach, then you’re a defender of the status quo.

How should supporters of public education respond?

First of all to call it what it is, to recognize that what’s going on is a conscious effort to privatize American public education — and the public doesn’t want that. I think it helps to show that, even by the “reformers’” own measures, privatization does not produce better education. It leads to terrible consequences.

You say charters are already weeding out disabled children, who cost more to educate and tend to bring test scores down. What are some other consequences?

We now have many studies showing that charter schools are more segregated than public schools, even in districts that already have a high degree of segregation. This is something that under Brown v. Board of Education shouldn’t be permitted. And yet it’s going on. The UCLA Civil Rights Project has done studies showing that charters are more segregated, both for black and Hispanic kids. We’re rolling back some of the most important gains in our history.

What’s the role of school board members in confronting all this?

We have to reclaim the democratic aspect of public education: Schools belong to the people and not to corporations.

Lawrence Hardy|March 14th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Charter Schools, Leadership, No Child Left Behind, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, School Boards, School Reform, School Vouchers|Tags: |

Education Talk Radio previews NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference

Kanisha Williams-Jones, Director of Leadership & Governance Services at the National School Boards Association (NSBA), was a guest today on Education Talk Radio providing a preview of NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference. Thousands of school board members, administrators, and other educators will be coming to San Diego to take part in the April 13-15 event.

Listen to the broadcast:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio

The conference will feature more than 200 sessions on timely education topics, including federal legislation and funding, managing schools with tight budgets, the legal implications of recent court cases, new research and best practices in school governance, and the Common Core State Standards. A series of sessions will focus on school safety and security.

Expanded education technology programming will include site visits to the University of San Diego and Qualcomm’s Mobile Learning Center to explore its research laboratory on mobile learning; Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to examine the technology in science education and STEM; Encinitas Union School District to view its One-to-One Digital Learning Program; and the San Diego Zoo to learn about the cutting-edge learning tools used to teach at-risk students. U.S. Navy SEALs will show leadership and team building skills during another workshop.

The meeting also includes one of the largest K-12 educational expositions, with some 300 companies showcasing their innovative products and services for school districts.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

It’s not too late to register, visit the Annual Conference website for  more information.

School boards need more flexibility with turnaround reform models

School board members who attended NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C., Monday were briefed on the latest research and status of the turnaround reform model embedded into many federal and state reform laws and requirements, including federal Race to the Top grants.

“These strategies are in all the major federal programs at this point,” said Katherine Shek, a legislative analyst with NSBA. She outlined the four reform models of the turnaround program, including turnaround (replace principal and at least 50 percent of staff); conversion to a charter school or giving the governance to private management group; closuring the school and sending students to higher performing schools in the district; and transformation, which requires replacing the principal and putting in a number of reforms and supports.

By far the most popular option for school board members and state leaders is transformation, which gives the district the most flexibility in making decisions and changes.

Jim Hull, senior policy analyst of NSBA’s Center for Public Education told the audience about an upcoming research report from CPE that shows that the research on the effectiveness of these turnaround strategies is mixed. Several strategies are clearly meant for urban schools – rural schools don’t have the labor pool to fire half of their teachers and it is difficult for them to recruit new principals.

Hull said, “For federal and state law to be so prescriptive doesn’t match with the research. Flexibility is needed. It should be up to local school officials to decide.

Kathleen Vail|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, FRN Conference 2013, Leadership, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , , |
Page 2 of 712345...Last »