Articles in the Charter Schools category

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: , , , |

Savannah school board president honored with national urban education award

This year’s winner of the Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award is Joseph A. Buck, III, president of Georgia’s  Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education.

Buck, a school board member since 2006, received the award during the 45th Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Conference in Atlanta. CUBE honored Buck for his efforts to improve student achievement and management in the school district as well as his efforts to increase community engagement in the district’s public schools.

The Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award is given to individuals who demonstrate a long-standing commitment to the educational needs of urban schoolchildren through school board service. Benjamin Elijah Mays, whom the award honors, was a teacher, minister, author, and civil rights activist who served as president of Morehouse College and the Atlanta school board from 1970 to 1981.

Buck spent nearly 40 years as an administrator at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, most recently as vice president of student affairs. During that time, he also built partnerships between the university, the school system, and key businesses. Two local programs that he has helped implement include Leadership Savannah and Leadership Georgia, which help local professionals gain leadership skills. Buck recruited many teachers and administrators to these programs and used his positions on the groups’ boards of trustees to build partnerships between schools and the business community.

When Buck became Savannah-Chatham’s school board president, the school district was on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and was facing declining enrollments and mistrust from the community. Working with a new superintendent, Buck helped expand a school choice system and bring back students to neighborhood public schools.

Buck has supported charter schools in his school district, and helped build a new charter facility using the education special purpose local option sales tax. He also is a member of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s education advisory group, which meets quarterly to discuss issues facing schools in the state.

Del Stover|October 9th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, Charter Schools, CUBE, NSBA Recognition Programs, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , , |

ASBJ columnist has advice to promote public schools

A recent Gallup poll shows that most Americans think private, parochial, and charter schools do a better job educating students than public schools—but are those assumptions valid?

American School Board Journal (ASBJ) contributing editor Nora Carr writes about the notion—often based on false assumptions and incorrect data—that public schools are failing.

“In the battle for public education, charter schools are winning,” Carr writes in ASBJ’s August issue, which is available online. However, “Most public schools already offer what charters and private schools offer–and then some.”

Carr shows numerous examples—including marketing campaigns, community engagement strategies, and advertisements—that school boards can use to take back their message.

For instance, Texas’ Fort Worth Independent School District developed a new brand and an aggressive, multi-faceted campaign around its 50 choice programs and schools, Carr writes. The district’s “Gold Seal” campaign, which focuses on “college bound and career ready” students, advertises “a private school preparation without the cost” and promotes programs through the district’s website, www.fwisd.org/choice.

The Gallup poll showed 78 percent of Americans say children educated in private schools receive an “excellent” or “good” education, while 69 percent say parochial schools and 60 percent say charter schools do the same, according to Gallup. Only 37 percent said the same for public schools, and 46 percent made that statement about home schooling. (42 percent said public schools provide a “fair” education.)

Other sections of the Gallup survey showed that, similar to past years, the majority of Americans gave high marks to their children’s schools, while giving public education overall much lower grades.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 30th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Charter Schools, Public Advocacy, School Board News, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

Pennsylvania, NY reports raise concerns about charter and SES funding

Reports have surfaced in recent days that have state policymakers in Pennsylvania and New York taking a harder look at the money going into charter schools and federally funded tutoring programs.

Pennsylvania “could save $365 million each year if it fixed the state’s flawed formula for funding cyber and charter schools,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Those projected savings—which other news accounts suggest are closer to $300 million—are based on a report by state Auditor General Jack Warner, who estimates that Pennsylvania spends an average of $13,400 to educate every charter school student. That figure is about $3,000 more per student than the national average.

More information about the funding and academic impact of cyber schools can be found in NSBA’s Center for Public Education report, “Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools.”

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association responded to the report with a statement that noted, “Auditor General Jack Wagner’s recent report of charter and cyber charter school funding adds quantifiable numbers to what school board directors across the state have been saying for years–the funding formula is unfair and results in taxpayers spending more than necessary on these schools.”

“Charter and cyber charter funding formulas must be reflective of actual instructional expenses, predictable and based on logic,” PSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reports that a group of for-profit tutoring companies, who depend on funding under the federal Supplemental Education Services (SES) program, “have been working back-channels in the state Senate and Assembly” to stop state education leaders from shifting SES funds toward other interventions that might prove more useful to students and schools.

This lobbying effort was launched in response to reports finding that the SES program suffers from “bloated budgets, profiteering, and corruption.” According to the Huffington Post, one official discovered a SES provider that “collected $860,000 for tutoring students who never showed up.”

Del Stover|June 21st, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, School Reform|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs: Lost in cyber space?

NSBA has long been a leader in educational technology — and that’s no exaggeration. Through its Technology Leadership Network and its regular conferences and site visits, the association has championed technology in the classroom for more than 20 years.

So when NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant questions whether the explosion of online charter schools is causing “too many students to get lost in cyber space,” as she does in her recent Education Week blog, she’s hardly coming from Luddite territory.

“All this has taken place with no research to back it up,” Bryant writes. “In fact, what little research and anecdotal evidence exists on full-time virtual learning shows alarmingly low graduation rates, course completion and test scores.”

A new report from NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says the biggest takeaway from its study of this burgeoning field — and market, for profit-making companies — is how little we know.

For example, what impact would increased enrollment in cyber schools have on real communities, many of which have long seen the public schools as key to maintaining strong ties between citizens?

Writes Gary Obermeyer, of Portland, Ore., in response to Bryant’s blog: “While I am a strong believer in and advocate for online learning, I do not support the notion of ‘virtual schools.’ My primary concern is for the health and vitality of communities. Schools should be grounded in communities, so that students’ learning experiences can be tied to local issues/concerns, through which they learn to care about and contribute to the community.”

In fact, technology intelligently used can actually help tie communities together by giving disadvantaged students the tools they need to become more active participants. As Ann Flynn, NSBA’s director of education technology, writes in a letter to the editor this week to the Washington Post:

“Public schools must provide the technology resources that level the playing field for all students, thus allowing them to excel in core content and develop media literacy,” Flynn writes in response to a Post story on the widely varying use of technology in area schools. “The skills supported through appropriate interactions with technology will define the literate person of the 21st century; those without such opportunities will be left behind.”

Lawrence Hardy|May 19th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Educational Technology, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |
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