Articles in the Charter Schools category

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: , , , |

Expanded K-12 privatization on the horizon

School board members can expect continued political activity to promote charter schools, vouchers, school choice options, and to expand the privatization of K-12 education.

That was the message of Roberta Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, who gave a political update on these issues Monday at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

The charter school movement currently dominates efforts to redesign the traditional public school system, she told conference attendees. At least 1.8 million children—or 4 percent of the K-12 student population—currently are enrolled in publicly funded charter schools.

“Charters are the big name in the game today,” Stanley said, noting that they enjoy strong political support from some urban mayors, governors, state lawmakers, and such federal officials as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama.

Helping fuel this policy push is money from several large foundations, as well as private entrepreneurs who see the opportunity to tap into billions of dollars in education funding.

NSBA policy isn’t to oppose charter schools but to insist that their authorization and their accountability be the responsibility of school boards, so that the future of children’s educational opportunities remains under the control of the local community, she said.

Accountability is an issue that’s going to continue to surround the charter school movement in the years ahead, Stanley said. More data is needed on the academic performance of these schools, and state and federal lawmakers will need to address better procedures for closing down poor-performing charters.

Although school voucher advocates still are active, school board members will find that a more fast-growth phenomenon is the “explosion of cyber, virtual, and online schools,” Stanley said.

Enrollment in virtual schools is growing at a rate of about 3 percent annually, yet some studies suggest these schools aren’t successful for all students, she said.

That’s not to say that online schools have no future role in K-12 education, Stanley added.

“I understand one of the best [roles] for cyber schools is credit recovery, working with kids who lag behind or are homebound or sick,” or to expand course offerings in smaller or rural schools, she said.

Where school leaders need to watch carefully is in states where state policymakers are too eager to push all-day online learning or seek to use virtual schools as a cheap alternative to brick-and-mortar schools.

“Students need oversight. Students need to be taught to be civic-minded, to learn teamwork-building skills,” Stanley said. “We don’t get that with a child sitting in his or her bedroom at a computer.”

To strengthen its advocacy efforts on these issues, NSBA works with a coalition of 60 education and civil rights groups to broaden the message that serious issues remain to be addressed regarding school choice, she added. This coalition also seeks to block poor policy decisions that will hurt public education.

“This is as sharp a coalition as I’ve ever worked with,” Stanley said. “And we are right on top of it, so we can try to nip these things in the bud.”

Del Stover|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Online learning, Privatization, School Boards, School Reform, School Vouchers|Tags: , |

Are public schools really failing? Two views

Are public schools failing or are they the victims of bad press? Two education commentators debated the issue at the third general session at NSBA’s FRN meeting on Sunday in front of an audience of school board members in Washington to learn about federal issues and meet with their members of Congress.

Richard Rothstein, author and research associate of the Economic Policy Institute, outlined what he called the “conventional story of public education” – our schools are failing and after 20 years, the achievement gap has not budged. Public schools must make radical changes by removing underperforming teachers, create more competition, and increase testing at every level.

“As you know, the system can be cured of its problems if the diagnosis is faulty,” said Rothstein. “We have a flawed diagnosis so our reforms have little to do with the real problems.”

In fact, Rothstein said, NAEP scores show that black children are scoring higher today than white children did 20 years ago. But the achievement gap has not moved much because white children are doing better, too. “A full standard deviation improvement in a generation,” said Rothstein. “There is no other area of social policy where any set of reforms have achieved that kind of improvement.”

So why does the idea that public schools are failing persist?

“You have been doing poorly telling your story,” Rothstein told the audience. “Your reaction is to say you’ll do better instead of refuting it on the grounds that the charges are false. The conversation won’t be turned around unless you speak up more loudly about your accomplishments.”

Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, was on hand to offer a counterpoint to the argument that public schools were indeed not doing the best job that they could do in educating all children. He said that while he agreed with Rothstein that there has been improvement over the past two decades, he said it’s been in part because of the reform movement, not in spite of it.

“Charter schools for some of us are fresh start,” said Petrilli. “A chance to push away red tape and regulations, get central office and union contracts out of the way and give these schools space to be good schools. It has created some really good schools.”

Fordham’s mission is to promote school choice, including a network of charter schools in Ohio, and its leaders have frequently called to abolish school boards.

Rothstein countered Petrilli’s arguments about charter schools. “We know from data that disadvantaged students in charters don’t do better than public schools on average. If you leave out the great schools, the averages show that as many or more great public schools exist. We already have good public schools. What have we gained from the big push to charter schools?”

Kathleen Vail|January 27th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, FRN Conference 2013, School Boards, School Reform, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

Facts on vouchers to counter National School Choice Week

As the National School Choice Week begins, the Voucher Strategy Center at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) recommends several resources to counter arguments for vouchers and the privatization of K-12 education.

Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE), recently wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post outlining many of the problems with vouchers and other forms of choice that do not hold private and parochial schools accountable for their students’ learning. In  “School Choice Does Not Mean All Choices are Equal,” Barth  discusses recent research that shows many school options have not lived up to their promises, and instead merely drain resources and funds from each community’s public schools.

Barth also wrote a blog for CPE’s EDifier this week discussing recent allegations that a cybercharter school in Pennsylvania inflated enrollment numbers to gain taxpayer funds.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) is promoting a Twitter hashtag, #Vouchersfail, to share stories where school vouchers have proven problematic.

The AU has also set up a website, www.au.org/voucherFAIL, with research debunking propaganda being put forth by voucher proponents.

“No matter their motivation, these organizations share the same goal: shifting as many tax resources as possible from the public school system, which serves 90 percent of America’s schoolchildren, to private academies that play by their own rules and aren’t accountable to the taxpayer. Proponents of ‘School Choice Week’ would rather not talk about the many problems inherent in voucher programs,” the website states.

The Voucher Strategy Center also has resources and articles on the evolving field of school choice.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 26th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Conferences and Events, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Online learning, Policy Formation, Privatization, Public Advocacy, Religion, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |

School choice doesn’t lead to equal choices, CPE director writes for Huffington Post

Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, writes about the perils of the school choice movement in a new blog for the Huffington Post. Barth, a leading researcher, takes on claims that more choices lead to a better education for children.

She writes: “Unfortunately, the opportunities choice advocates propose do not bring a guarantee that the choice will be a good one for kids, and it can even be worse. School districts have been experimenting with choices for over 20 years, first in the form of charter schools and vouchers that individuals can take to private schools, and more recently, virtual schools. Clearly, some myth-busting schools of choice have demonstrated that low-income children can absolutely achieve to the highest levels — just as some noteworthy traditional public schools have. But research to date has not produced any evidence that ‘choice and competition’ in itself produces consistently better results.”

With the exception of schools such as KIPP Academies and the Harlem Children’s Zone, many alternative schools have not produced better academic results than the students’ previous schools, Barth notes.

Read the full article in the Huffington Post.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 9th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Privatization, Religion, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference to feature Geena Davis, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Ravitch

Registration and housing for the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13 to 15 in San Diego, is now open. Join more than 5,000 school board members and administrators for an event with hundreds of sessions, workshops, and exhibits that will help your school district programs and help you hone your leadership and management skills.

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.

Special discounted rates are available for early registrants who sign up by Jan. 10, 2013. NSBA National Affiliate and Technology Leadership Network Districts save even more.

View the conference brochure for more details. Be sure to check the Annual Conference website for updates and more information.

 

 

New Charter School Resource Center helps school boards assess information on charters

With the rapid growth of charter schools and their increasing implications for traditional public schools, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has launched the Charter School Resource Center, an online resource containing practical information and research to help state school boards associations and local school board members respond to charter legislation and policy in their states.

This comprehensive online tool focuses on the following key areas:

• Understanding of various state policies for charter schools and how they impact local school districts differently.

• Information on how to work with state legislatures when considering whether charter schools should be created and/or expanded.

• Guidance on assessing charter school applications and authorizing decisions with suggested questions and issues school boards should consider.

• Research addressing various elements of charter schools including student achievement.

“With a variation of state policy governing the oversight, operation and funding of charter schools, local school districts’ experience with charters varies substantially based on how state policy affects traditional public schools, “ said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy. “School board members can use the information on this website to respond to legislation in their states and to assess whether charters are a good fit in their communities.”

NSBA supports charter schools as a tool to renovate and boost student achievement, provided they are authorized by the local school boards in the communities where they are located. School boards currently authorize more than half of the nation’s 5,600 charter schools. The local school board is already the steward of public funds and accountability and should have the authority to decertify or not renew the charter of any school that fails to meet criteria set forth in the charter or as otherwise specified by the local school boards. NSBA also believes charter schools should have to abide by the same environmental, labor, due process, and fiscal laws as community public schools.

The Charter School Resource Center includes the following contents:

• Charter School Guide for School Board Members: Two new documents developed by NSBA give practical advice to school boards: “A School Board’s Guide To Understanding Charter Schools and Their Variations Across States” shows various types of charter schools and how they can impact traditional public schools; “A Charter School Toolkit for School Board Members” guides school boards in reviewing charter applications, including suggested questions school boards should ask and consider.

• NSBA Advocacy: NSBA’s position on charter schools, advocacy messages and happenings on Capitol Hill.

• Research: Information on research and articles about charter schools, including studies from NSBA’s Center for Public Education on a wide range of issues such as their impact on student achievement.

• In the News: Postings of charter school happenings across the country.

• State policy: Resources for charter school policy across the states.

The website will be updated as new information emerges. You can access it at www.nsba.org/charterschools. Please contact Katherine Shek, NSBA’s legislative analyst  with questions or suggestions.

Joetta Sack-Min|October 15th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards, School Reform, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |
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