Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
- has the charter school governing board done due diligence in selecting a management company based on their merits;
- does the charter school board have their own legal counsel, separate from the management company's legal counsel;
- are there any "poisonous pills" in the management agreement, for example a provision that the board is left with a "charter in name only" if the two parties separated; and
- does the charter board have say in the selection, evaluation or termination of the principal.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
- Attracting substantial philanthropic support, CMO schools have grown rapidly from encompassing about 6 percent of all charter schools in 2000 to about 17 percent of a much larger number of charter schools by 2009 (Miron 2010).
- CMOs represent approximately 20 percent of the approximately 5,000 charter schools operating nationally, up from 12 percent in 1999.
- About 80 percent of all CMO-run schools operate in Texas, California, Arizona, and Ohio.
- About 74 percent of all CMO schools eligible for our study are located in cities.
- Compared to their host districts, the middle school student population served by the average CMO in our study includes a greater percentage of minority and low-income students.
- CMO charter school principals report that their teachers receive more coaching and are more likely to be paid based on performance.
- Like public charter schools as a whole, the report finds that student achievement results are mixed with findings going both positive and negative. Keep in mind that the types of schools and educational programs also vary significantly.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Friday, November 25, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Last Thursday I visited Glade Park Charter School for the first time. The school opened just two years ago, as a district-operated school, but then faced closure due to budget cuts. Community members and parents quickly wrote a charter school application and received approval from the Mesa County 51 Board of Education to operate as a charter school beginning this school year.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
The meeting is audio streamed and available here.
In October the board will consider the first draft of rules and HB 1412 mandates they must be adopted by January 15, 2012.
There will be a meeting at the Department of Education on Monday, Sept. 26th, 9:00 a.m. for anyone with comments or questions about the proposed rules.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Pat Gilliam is a founder of Union Colony, which began when several teachers formed and asked the district to form a charter school. The school operated very closely with the district for quite some time and only gained more autonomy in the last few years. Previously the district referred to them as an "internal" charter school, but that changed during the school's last renewal.
Now a developer has committee five acres to a new school in the Loveland area (within the Thompson School District boundaries). The proposed school is for K-12 grades. This second campus would operate with a cooperative agreement with the first Union Colony school so that the two schools can share business services and other functions.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
First, my response has nothing to do with the school's mission to implement the district's choice scholarship program. I believe the real issues are related to "what is a charter school"?
The federal Elementary and Secondary Act defines what a charter school is.
(a) in accordance with a specific state statute authorizing the granting of charters to schools, is exempt from significant state or local rules that inhibit the flexible operation and management of public schools, but not from any rules relating to the other requirements of this paragraph;
(b) is created by a developer as a public school, or is adapted by a developer from an existing public school, and is operated under public supervision and control;
(c) operates in pursuit of a specific set of educational objectives determined by the school's developer and agreed to by the authorized public chartering agency;
(d) provides a program of elementary or secondary education, or both;
(e) is nonsectarian in its programs, admissions policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and is not affiliated with a sectarian school or religious institution;
(f) does not charge tuition;
(g) complies with the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
(h) is a school to which parents choose to send their children, and that admits students on the basis of a lottery, if more students apply for admission than can be accommodated;
(i) agrees to comply with the same federal and state audit requirements as do other elementary and secondary schools in the state, unless such requirements are specifically waived for the purpose of this program;
(j) meets all applicable federal, state, and local health and safety requirements;
(k) operates in accordance with state law; and
(l) has a written performance contract with the authorized public chartering agency in the state that includes a description of how student performance will be measured pursuant to state assessments that are required of other schools and pursuant to any other assessments agreeable to the authorizing agency.
In addition, the Colorado Charter Schools Act explains what a charter school is. A charter school operates with financial autonomy, via a charter/contract, and with waivers from certain laws, rules or district policies. There's a line between the charter school and its authorizer, most often the local school district. This line is determined by the charter school contract.
An authorizer may have say over governance issues by reviewing bylaws in the charter application and then either approving or not approving the charter school. However, an authorizer doesn't have the authority to appoint governing board members or say that certain individuals cannot be on a charter school governing board.
Historically in the state, a handful of districts have created "charter schools" with ulterior motives to get the federal startup grant or seek some other type of incentive. Eventually these charter schools close when they don't get the grant or the incentive otherwise goes away. These could be called "ChINO's" or Charters in Name Only.
What constitutes a public charter school is defined in both federal and state law. In Colorado, because we're a "local control" state, that's left to the individual school district to determine. In other words, it's the local school board that decides IF they grant a charter to an applicant and what that school looks like. There isn't a group of individuals authorized to "police" if it's really a charter school. That determination is often played out over time or litigated based on specific characteristics.
There are numerous shades of gray between clear autonomy in charter schools and those that are more closely aligned with their school district. For example, a district requires all their charter schools to run their financials through the district whereas other charter schools get a check every month that they put into their own bank account. There are different philosophies for charter school authorizers and different perceptions of what is an acceptable relationship. Regardless of its nature, the charter contract describes if it's a ChINO or a real charter school.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Today the CDE Schools of Choice Unit held a grant writers' training for all new charter schools that want to apply for funds during this fiscal year. Applicants can submit their grant application in either October or February in a two-tier process. Many of today's training haven't even gotten their charter approved yet.
School founders that demonstrate eligibility to apply for this grant get assigned a consultant who will review their application and provide comment on it before it's actually submitted. The grant program is competitive and the highest scoring application gets additional funding for each of the three years.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Glade Park joins small charter schools Paradox Valley Charter School, North Routt Community Charter School, Guffey Community School, Battle Rock Charter School and Crestone Charter School in providing a hub for the community and educating their young children in a charter school.
Glade Park Community School will provide Kindergarten through fifth grade classes to about 30 students. The school has a Principal and two teachers.
The school is now led by Ms. Jere Pearcy, a former teacher and administrator, with a very strong background in Core Knowledge. NACS uses Core Knowledge, Singapore Math and Spalding. The staff had three and a half weeks of training before students arrived last week. Almost half of the staff at NACS is new this year.
It's quite common for Turnaround schools to need a year of transition that's very difficult. Some call it "implementation dip" while others consider drastic change impossible all at once. Either way, this proves to be a much better year for NACS.
Two years ago, before Turnaround, the former Principal and his Asst. Principal couldn't even name the math program used at the school. Several classroom teachers didn't even bother trying to act like they were teaching when visitors toured the school; they just sat in the back of the room.
All NACS students went through Reading level assessment before the first day of school. About 90% of last year's students were below grade level. Many of the older students are 2-3 years behind grade level when they come in to NACS. The 2011 CSAP results showed drops in many content areas, except for Science. Several of the drops were linked to classrooms where there was teacher turnover during the school year.
The NACS community has struggled many times during this Turnaround process. It's nice to see their efforts pay off with a great start to a new school year!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
This evening the families of Prospect Ridge Academy broke ground on their new facility just south of Highway 7 near Sheridan Blvd in Broomfield. Founders of PRA fought for almost three years to get their school. They battled both the school district, Adams 12 School District, and the City Council of Broomfield.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The 13 member committee worked for for ten months and held public hearings on online education, Education Service Providers and non-discrimination issues. The final report was completed with consensus from the committee.
The State Board of Education will adopt rules for charter school authorizer and charter school standards by January 15, 2012. The State Board will also determine the direction for the other recommendations in the report.
At the Sept. 14th regular State Board meeting, members of the HB 1412 committee will present the report to the board. The board received a copy of the report this week and Commissioner Hammond gave a brief update to the board at today's meeting.
Monday, July 25, 2011
It's not too late for parents who want their child/ren to attend a charter school to contact the school to see if there are any openings. All the charter schools in Colorado are online here. Because charter schools use a variety of enrollment methods, it's best to contact the school directly.
There are several school supply drives at this time of year. Everyone who doesn't have to pay for their own child/ren's school supplies, should consider donating to one of these community drives. It's also a good time for caring adults to consider tutoring a child throughout the school year.
Personally, I like donating in a more personal way. Consider asking a school principal what he/she would really like to do for his/her students, but doesn't have the resources for. Or consider adopting a classroom of students by sponsoring their classroom parties, donating reading books or any number of other personalized ideas.
During the frenzy of back-to-school shopping and activities, remember the real reason to invest in our schools: the students! Get to know some of these students and it'll not only change your own life--it justmay change theirs, as well!
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Charter schools use a variety of structures to meet the school's administrative needs. Some charter school governing boards have one person report to the board (considered a best practice) and some have two or more. This means that unless there are clear job descriptions, it's difficult, and sometimes impossible, for administrators to know what is their responsibility.
This is also true when the charter school governing board has a very involved President. Having a board member do some of the functions commonly delegated to the Principal presents problems. Once the Principal's job description is established, and a Principal is hired, there shouldn't be any deviation from that outline of responsibilities. If a board member temporarily assists the Principal with a responsibility, it should be clear to all involved that the board member is doing it as a "volunteer" without board authority to lead or make decisions.
Many administrators are wary of charter school governing boards, especially when they don't have processes and policies established such as the job description, Principal evaluation form, and Principal evaluation policy. Not having these things appropriately documented shows potential Principal candidates that the board hasn't reached a level of capacity to successfully lead a charter school. Since it's hard to find a really good Principal, boards that fail to develop processes and policies are often left with less-than-ideal Principal candidates.
It's common for there to be confusion about what is the Principal's role versus the governing board's role. Here is a worksheet to discuss the various responsibilities and note who is responsible. Having roles clearly defined, and documented, is a way to mitigate potential conflicts or miscommunication.
Because charter schools are so unique and utilize a variety of organizational structures, school leaders need to take the precaution of documenting as much as possible before the first Principal is hired.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Oftentimes a governing board will be focused on the immediate needs of a charter school such as calming parent concerns or addressing facility limitations. But the most important reason to have a charter school is to make sure students are learning and able to move to the next grade level or graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary for a successful future.
Almost all of Colorado's charter schools have student academic achievement in their vision and mission statements. However, the amount of time boards spend on discussing or implementing this aspect of the school's purpose can vary significantly.
At each year's strategic planning session, the entire board should discuss the vision and mission statements. Each board member could talk about what word or phrase stands out to them the most and why. Each board member should explain what their personal vision is for the school and how it does or doesn't match with the school's vision statement. Another useful approach is to have the board distill the vision statement down to a slogan or phrase that best describes their school. For example, some schools use the slogan, "First Comes Learning" to communicate the school's primary purpose and to use as a filter for all decision-making.
It's wise for charter school board members to periodically reflect on what unspoken messages they're sending to school staff and stakeholders. If verbally board members say they prioritize academics as number one, but then don't reflect that in their work, it means little.
Monday, June 13, 2011
In the several times I've been at the school I've observed Gary taking students to court appointments, Jimmy getting students back into class and both of them going the extra mile with their students. Both men talk about their students in a way that shows they have the belief that these students can make it to be successful--if they will just try.
Denver Justice recently graduated a class of 12, many of whom had difficulties in reaching graduation day. The school is small, which allows for all students to be known as individuals.
Denver Justice is at I-70 and Shoshone St. in Denver and just completed its second year of operation. Denver Justice is modeled after Boulder Justice, which has been open since 2006. Both schools focus on serving adjudicated and high-risk students.
Friday, June 10, 2011
The topics covered at Boot Camp are broad: vision/mission, curriculum, assessment, governance, employee relations, finance and budgeting, literacy, accountability, and lots of resources that are available for brand new charter applicants.
The website, startacoloradocharter.org, is the place to start. There are numerous links, via a flow chart, of all the different steps to starting a charter school. In addition, there are a number of best practice resources on the CDE website.
The purpose of the Boot Camp is also to give applicants an idea of who to contact with different questions. Presenters include staff from CDE, the League and the Charter School Institute (CSI). Additionally, leaders in the charter school community donate their time to help train these new charter applicants.
Boot Camp is designed to be overwhelming. But then starting a new charter school is also very overwhelming and it's only meant for the best prepared applicant. Not everyone who attends Boot Camp actually submits a charter school application. Boot Camp is designed to weed out the faint-hearted charter applicant.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
PRA will use a retail space formerly used by The Pinnacle Charter School in Thornton while their new facility is prepared. PRA plans to relocate their school over winter break.
April Wilkins, the former Asst. Principal at Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette will be PRA's new principal. Student demand for the new charter school in the Erie area has been very heavy.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
In about 1997 the U.S. Department of Education, which administers the federal Charter School Grant Program, began requiring the use of a lottery in order to get the startup and implementation grant most of the charter schools are dependent upon. The charter schools in Colorado that used a waiting list met with a representative of the U.S. department and explained why it didn't want to switch and couldn't be required to by state law. The feds were undaunted by their arguments and began requiring a lottery for all public charter schools receiving the grant. At first it was just a requirement and monitoring for enforcement was not required. It's now required for state's who provide subgrants to ensure that an equitable lottery process is in place for enrollment.
Not long ago the charter school governing board, at the school where the founders fought for the right to do a waiting list, decided to have the district do their enrollment. Parents selecting a school in the district list their options, ranked by priority. The district tells the charter schools which students they will be able to enroll the following year.
How does creep happen? By others becoming involved who don't understand the history or the philosophy of charter schools. They don't know what battles are worth fighting. And quite simply, they may have a different viewpoint. Many new charter school governing board members don't even know what the essential charter school philosophies are. Although many can identify choice or parental involvement, rarely do charter school board members understand the critical need for autonomy or complete control over finances and employees.
Creep doesn't happen by leaps and bounds. Instead it happens gradually--over time.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The charter school movement was started by people who believed in at-will employment, the polar opposite of general public education, which is largely influenced by the teacher's union and their interests. In fact, many district administrators don't know a world that's any different. Everything they do is influenced by the collective bargaining agreement. They can't change the school calendar without getting approval from the teacher's union. They can't ask a teacher to do detention after school without it being a teacher's union issue.
But the exact opposite is true in charter schools where all employees are at-will in nature. Principals serve "at the pleasure" of the Board and can be terminated with a simple, "your skills are no longer needed at our charter school." There are no guaranteed terms, such as a year-long contract that would require a "buy-out" if the employee is terminated early.
So why were some of these business managers reacting to the attorney's statement that the needs of the charter school should take precedence over the needs of teachers? Because 18 years after the first charter school in Colorado, a vast majority of people who now work in charter schools COME from traditional public education. The union philosophy is embedded in their thought processes. And they can't see life being any different.
To be clear, the discussion was not about the value of classroom teachers, the appropriateness of their salaries nor the attribution of salary to the number of days worked.
The questions posed by the attorney were:
1. should the charter school knowingly generously, possibly over-compensate, an employee upon departure (voluntary or forced); does this meet the fiduciary responsibility required of charter school leaders?
2. have charter schools stayed true to the original charter school philosophy based on at-will employment?
For years I've talked about bureaucratic or regulation creep, meaning top-down requirements to in some ways have charter schools conform to traditional public schools. This is probably most evident in the vastly-more-sophisticated charter school application process that has developed over the years. The difference between what is required of a charter school applicant today is night and day different from 1993 when the Charter Schools Act passed.
One can wonder if this "creep" is improving the process or simply hindering it. Are charter schools going to gradually become the same as any district-operated public school system? Using the metaphor of the frog placed in a pot of water that gradually gets hotter until the frog is boiled, will charter school leaders even notice when they no longer operate with autonomy?
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The far northeast area of Denver, which includes the city of Montbello, has historically had the lowest performing schools. But with the new reform effort in DPS and the district's commitment that ALL students should have access to high quality educational options, a few--mostly from the teacher's union--are complaining.
Many of the schools in the far northeast region are Title I, serving students of poverty, and the ethnic minority rate is very high in that region. We won't even mention the drop-out rate.
So the district's plan includes changing things up to make sure student's needs are being met. This may include change in administrative leadership and/or a change in the teaching staff. The focus of all change is on whether or not the change will result in increased student academic achievement. There will be greater accountability to ensure student success.
Still not getting why some people would disagree with this focus on student achievement? It's because the teacher's union doesn't want to give up any territory it's earned through the collective bargaining agreement with DPS. Henry Roman, the union's president, says they'll be suing the district over these three Innovation School plans.
The Innovation Schools Act was adopted in 2008 as a way for district's to operate unique schools by obtaining waiver from district policies, the collective bargaining agreement and state law. Innovation Schools are still under the auspices of the district. DPS already operates several Innovation Schools.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
"We're excited to add Kaplan's K-12 education programs to K12 Inc.'s portfolio of high quality products, innovative online learning offerings, and successful school partnerships," said Ron Packard, founder and CEO of K12 Inc. "This is another step in our mission to provide high quality online education to as many students as possible. We are very pleased to be able to serve the students, parents, and teachers associated with the Kaplan and Insight schools."
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Georgia's Courts Shoot Down State Charter School Authorizer While Indiana Starts a New State Authorizer
While Georgia is shutting down its state authorizer, Indiana is starting a new one. The Indiana State Superintendent just named an Executive Director for the new charter school board. This is after the Indiana General Assembly passed a law creating a statewide charter school authorizer.
State with multiple charter school authorizers are viewed as being more choice-friendly by allowing multiple options for charter school applicants to get new schools approved. In addition to local districts and state authorizers, some states permit nonprofit organizations, municipalities and institutions of higher education to charter.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
To give a feel for the students that this Colorado public high school serves, of the 176 students graduating, 12 were over 21 years in age, 33 were parents, and a few were serving in the military. Ninety-five of the graduates said they planned to attend a 2-year or 4-year college, and 23 had earned college credit while at the GOAL Academy.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Friday, May 6, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Charter school students participated in a mock trial and a debate at the Charter School Day at the Capitol activities on Thursday.
These pictures are from the rally on the west steps of the Capitol. The rally was hosted by the Colorado League of Charter Schools. Numerous legislators spoke to the crowd of students, parents, teachers, administrators and guests.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The 7th and 8th grade students at Northeast Academy Charter School (NACS) in Denver had a challenging day. It was Challenge Day. Challenge Day is a program designed to break down cliques, prevent bullying and build positive relationships between students. Today's event was held at the Boys and Girls Club of Denver in Montbello.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
1. Win: HB 1089: Collaboratives. Allows charter schools to seek competitive grants within ESEA.
2. SB 188: Moral obligation program. Charter schools go through the State Treasurer’s office to get better bond financing ratings. The bill would have increased the $400 million cap, but that was removed. The bill removes application fees to enter the program. The manager will be the Treasurer’s office. In case of a default, the Treasurer will consult with a team of impacted entities to determine how to handle the potential default.
3. Loss: HB 1055: Improve charter school access to facilities. Passed the House, assigned to Senate State Affairs where it died. Will be reconsidered for next year.
4. HB 1277: Massey’s omnibus bill. Removes unnecessary reporting requirements including
a. Access to data. Designed to eliminate district’s not providing data to their charter schools in a timely manner.
b. Additional criteria for high risk student definition. Adds “over age and under credit” to the definition. This definition is used to define Alternative Education Campuses (AECs)
c. Grant collaborative. The State Board would be able to promulgate rules to allow collaboratives to be designated as the LEA.
d. School Food Authority. Adds charter schools to the entities permitted to be School Food Authorities. Currently charter schools must access the program through one lead school and that school carries all the liability. There are 18 charter schools under one SFA this year.
e. Online reporting requirements. Eliminates annual report to CDE, which has been replaced by requirements in the Financial Transparency Act and the Education Accountability Act.
5. Budget cuts. Cut proposed now is $22.5 million less. Plus a planned mid-year distribution if the June forecast is better. There will definitely be a cut in K-12 funding again next year.
6. New bill by Senator Keith King to be introduced next week. Proposes mill levy matching funds at a quarter of a percent (CVote). Requires districts to include charter schools if they run a mill levy ballot question.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
- Offering Innovation schools that operate with waivers from things such as the district's collective bargaining agreement and offer a mission-focused, unique type of school.
- Marketing to inform parents about quality choice options available to them.
- Conducting parent and community meetings designed to explain the school district's vision for reform and better equip parents to make decisions for their child's education.
- Closing schools that are not performing academically.
- Signing the "Denver Compact," an agreement between the charter schools and the district designed to improve communications and reinforce commitments to each other.
- Ensuring each of the zones in the district (geographical regions) have a complete array of choice offerings and that certain zones don't have the vast majority of choice options.
- Opening an Office of School Reform and Innovation (OSRI) with a mission to increase choice options and ensure these options are all top-quality.
- Commiting to offer all DPS students a quality education.