Articles in the Charter Schools category

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 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,

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: , , , |

Bryant: “Virtual Schools Need a Grounding in Reality”

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant wrote a blog, “Virtual Schools Need a Grounding in Reality,” for “Transforming Learning,” published by Education Week.  Her commentary is based on the new groundbreaking report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, “Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools.”

Bryant notes that, “Until we take a hard look at the potential and peril of virtual schools, lawmakers must tread much more cautiously.”

The report examines data on all types of online learning, but most notably finds that the data available on the fast-growing field of full-time virtual schools shows low rates of graduation, course completion, and assessment scores.

“The rate at which state legislatures have approved these institutions is remarkable,” Bryant writes. “What’s more remarkable, perhaps, is that the Center found these schools operate with few accountability measures, and states and districts are paying online providers from 70 to 100 percent of the costs of educating students in traditional schools, even though their actual costs should be much lower.”

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

Not all the news is bad, though. Through its 25-year-old Technology Leadership Network, NSBA has highlighted many successful examples of online learning through its Technology Site Visits and conferences, Bryant notes.

The Learning First Alliance is a coalition of 16 major education groups.


Joetta Sack-Min|May 17th, 2012|Categories: Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Online learning, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

Virtual Learning: Growing but untested, NSBA report says

Do K12 students benefit from taking some or all of their classes online? A new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says that while online education holds promise for 21st century learning, researchers know relatively little about the performance of virtual schools, and the studies that have been done are troubling.

“Virtual learning is the future. It’s increasing,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “But we don’t have a lot of information about its effect right now, so I would caution people to start slow and monitor it very closely.”

“Online learning” can refer to anything from a single class, such as an Advanced Placement class that is not available at a school or a credit recovery class, to full-time K-12 virtual schools, to a combination online and face-to-face instruction. Programs can be created and operated by school districts, states, non-profit or for-profit entities, as well as a host of other sources, which can blur the lines of accountability. 

While the information on online learning is incomplete, several studies on the practice are not encouraging. For example, a Stanford University study covering the period 2007-2010 found that 100 percent of virtual charters schools in Pennsylvania performed significantly worse in math and reading than traditional schools in terms of student gains.

The research also shows that full-time K-12 virtual schools tend to show the least effective results in graduation rates, course completion, and test scores.  While full-time virtual schools enroll less than two percent of the nation’s public school population, that number is rapidly increasing, and much of the growth is with for-profit providers.

“A full-time experience is much different than one class, and the overall data for full-time virtual schools tends to be where the wheels fall off,” Barth said. “Most of the research we found raises serious questions about the accountability and monitoring of some of these schools.”

The report also examines the funding streams of four states: Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and the researchers found that in most cases funding is not based on the actual cost to educate a child through virtual schools. Determining budgets—and sometimes, enrollments—of virtual schools is often difficult.

The report gives school board members and the public a list of questions to ask to ensure their taxpayer’s funds are being used by programs that produce better results for students.

The report was written by Barth, the Center’s Managing Editor Rebecca St. Andrie, and the Center’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull.


Lawrence Hardy|May 14th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Curriculum, Educational Technology, High Schools, Online learning, Privatization, School Board News, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

Arizona school board leader advocates for quality education for all students

BoardBuzz recommends you check out this insightful op-ed in The Arizona Republic by Tim Ogle, Executive Director of the Arizona School Boards Association, on our need to support our local public schools.

Ogle notes:

Work-arounds and alternatives aren’t the answer to ensuring a strong and secure future for our nation and its citizens; they leave too many children behind. So our imperative must be to not allow underperforming neighborhood schools to languish, because there will be children in them.

“Choice” is a policy strategy that fails an unacceptable number of students. Some parents — those charged with making “the choice” — are simply unable to transport their child to a school outside their neighborhood or community. Other parents, tragically, are indifferent and unengaged in their child’s education.

These are factors education policy can’t change, and they provide powerful reasons why the conversation must be shifted away from choice to expecting a quality school in every neighborhood for every student. That is unity of purpose.

Ogle concludes:

We need quality education for all students and that means a renewed commitment to neighborhood public schools — the schools that the vast majority of American children, including 90 percent of Arizona’s school-age children attend.

Our neighborhood public schools must be the most powerful and essential training ground for our nation’s future scientists, linguists, inventors and business leaders.

To read the full commentary, go to The Arizona Republic‘s website.

There has been lots of  web comments posted on The Arizona Republic‘s website on this. Share your thoughts by going to “Post a comment” following  Ogle’s posting.

Alexis Rice|April 5th, 2012|Categories: Charter Schools, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , , , , |

The week in blogs: Obama’s education budget (abridged)

Want to get the high points of President Obama’s K12 budget — that is, without sifting through all the numbers and the fine print? Read the Quick and the Ed post by Rikesh Nana on the “three key takeaways” from the Administration’s proposal. It’s an excellent synopsis of what the president is proposing and what it all means.

So what are those takeaways? In order: consolidation of Department of Education programs (something that’s been tried in past budgets but never adopted): continued funding of Race to the Top and other competitive grant programs; and — in the absence of congressional action — an administration-sponsored overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

OK, sports fans, this next column is not about Jeremy Lin. (But if we find one on the New York Knicks sensation that has to do with K12 education, we promise to include it next week.) Instead, Eduwonk’s Andrew Rotherham looks at the firing — and quick rehiring by another team — of NHL hockey coach Bruce Boudreau and what that says about the importance of professional “fit.” Hint: It applies to teaching as well as big-time sports.

Been to Cleveland recently? Even if you haven’t, or have no plans to do so, you’ll want to check out another interesting Quick and the Ed blog on the city’s “portfolio” system of managing schools. Schools would operate with greater or lesser autonomy depending on their performance. “Charter schools as well as district-operated ones would participate,” says the blog by Richard Lee Colvin, “with the goal of giving families a real choice among several good options in every neighborhood.”

Lastly, check out Mark Bauerlein of the Chronicle of Higher Education on the attitudes and academic habits of college freshman. Here’s an interesting paradox (actually a bunch of paradoxes): more than 70 percent of students placed their academic ability in the “highest 10 percent” or “above average,” but only 45 percent felt that confident about their math ability, and just 46 percent believed they were that stellar in writing.

Lawrence Hardy|February 17th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Budgeting, Charter Schools, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Avoiding bad charter school policies

Charter school laws vary from state to state—with some more flawed than others—but NSBA can help school boards by asking Congress to avoid legislation that encourages states to adopt more bad policies.

So NSBA is arguing against legislation that might encourage states to lift their caps on charter schools or expand the entities that can authorize new charter schools, said NSBA legislative analyst Katherine Shek, who spoke Monday on a panel about charter schools at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference.

That doesn’t mean that NSBA opposes charter schools as a matter of policy, she added. Instead, NSBA’s message to Congress is that the school board should be the sole authorizing body for charter schools, charter funding should not be at the expense of the traditional community schools, and charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as other schools.

This message is important to present because some members of Congress don’t fully understand the influence of bad policy—or how they can inadvertently encourage such policy at the state level, Shek said.

In its Race to the Top grant program, for example, a number of states lifted their caps on charters to improve their chances of winning grant money—“basically encouraging states to have a more charter-friendly policy without considering other factors,” she said.

What’s more, as it works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the House’s latest legislative proposal would give federal grant priority to states that supported multiple charter authorizers.

“So we’re having a conversation with members of Congress … there has been some evidence that multiple authorizers [in states] were associated with weaker student performance.”

Local school boards can help their advocacy efforts regarding charter schools by pointing out the fallacy of many myths that are circulated during legislative deliberations, said fellow panelist Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

There is a misperception that school boards oppose charter schools and are quick to deny charter applications, he said. That’s not true. In fact, he added, the data reveals that school boards are not adverse to approving new charters—and they take their duties very seriously.

“They spend a lot of time and energy being authorizers,” Hull said.

Nor are all school boards guilty of claims that they impede charter school organizers in acquiring adequate facilities for their schools, he said. Many state laws require school district assistance, and data indicates that it’s very common for school boards to provide charter schools with district facilities or financial support for acquiring facilities.

“There is no evidence that districts are an impediment to the expansion of charter schools.”

Finally, panelist David Stone, a board member in Baltimore, Md., shared his school district’s experience with charters.

His school board has embraced charters as one of many strategies for providing improved services to students—and many district-run schools now mirror some of the independent traits of charters.

“We strongly believe resources should be in the schools, with schools having autonomy and decision-making over its resources … and our central office is there to provide guidance and support and oversight,” he said. “In fact, we try to make every school [like] a charter school.”

But, to the clear envy of the audience, he acknowledged his school system has a distinct advantage over many school boards: Under Maryland law, the school board is the sole authorizing body of charters.

Del Stover|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Charter Schools, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , |
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