There are several good points in the post, which was also in the Washington Post's education blog, The Answer Sheet. It will be well worth your time to read the entire blog.
Monday, March 26, 2012
While reading a very interesting blog post by Robert Pondisco at the Core Knowledge site, a portion of the text struck me as being all too true! He writes that the greatest casualty of the education reform era has been patience. In the race to raise test scores and demonstrate growth, some educators have pushed students too hard or skipped some of the essential skills that are necessary for future reading potential. It's like the metaphor of building the foundation correctly in order to create a stable house.
Friday, March 23, 2012
I've been going through the list of charter school appeals to the State Board of Education and came across some interesting findings.
First, Denver Public Schools (DPS) has the most appeal cases with 19. To put that into context, Jeffco has 17, Aurora seven, and Adams 12 five. This is out of 132 appeal cases.
Second, there were two years, 1994 and 2006, when there were the highest number of appeals: 14. The high number of appeal hearings in 1994 makes sense because that's the first year the Charter Schools Act was in effect and there were numerous charter school applications that year. The high number in 2006 is harder to explain. It was the year after the Legislature adopted the Charter School Institute Act, which created the state's alternative authorizer. However, probably the most noteworthy piece in the data is that the number of appeal hearings dropped precipitously after that so that in 2008 there were only three hearings and in 2009 only one. This can easily be explained by the state's development of the standard application and model contract language. Both of these documents, for the first time, explained what was acceptable practice for charter school applications and charter contracts.
Another interesting point is the number of charter schools that never open even after a successful appeal to the State Board. The vast majority of appeal hearings are from brand new charter applicants; however, the law also allows an existing charter school to appeal "gross imposition of conditions" or issues with which the two parties disagree. Further, the vast majority of appeals are only heard once by the State Board. Even if the charter school wins a remand, most of the time the parties settle their differences and it doesn't go to the State Board for a second appeal. But when there is a second appeal and the State Board orders a local district to open a charter school, only a small number of those schools actually open.
It's also interesting to note that in 1994 there were more appeal hearings than charter schools that were approved to open. There were 14 appeals, but only 11 charter schools opened. Again in 1995, when there were 10 appeals, only 10 charter schools opened. In the early years of the Charter Schools Act, there was a high number of appeals and not many schools opening. But the law was also under pilot status until 1998 when the sunset provision was lifted.
This year there have been four charter school appeal hearings and none others scheduled for hearing at this time. Of the four, three of the cases are from Denver. The State Board ruled in favor of Northeast Academy and Monarch Montessori in February. However, the March hearing of Life Skills High School went in favor of the district on a 4-3 vote.
The appeal provision of the Charter Schools Act is one of the tenets that makes Colorado's law rank strong on national studies of charter school laws. It allows any applicant that has been denied, to bring their case to the State Board of Education for a quasi-judicial proceeding. In Colorado, the State Board has historically ruled with the district about half of the time and with the charter school half the time.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education voted 4-3 to let Monarch Montessori open this fall after every board member expressed their distaste for the State Board of Education ruling against them at the February charter school appeal hearings. The board met in Executive Session for almost an hour before coming out and receiving public comment on the appeal remands and then voting.
Monarch Montessori plans to open K-2 in the old Samsonite building along I-70 in northeast Denver. The school is already open as a preschool and will add a grade level until they serve grades K-5.
The DPS board also approved Northeast Academy to operate as a K-5 next year, this after an appeal to the State Board when the DPS board voted to take away K and 6th grade for the 2012-2013 school year. The Superintendent said earlier in the day that his board would be voting to close Northeast Academy entirely and the charter school responded with a counter proposal.
Northeast Academy was deemed a Turnaround school in 2009 after several years of poor test scores. They operated under a management company for the 2010-2011 school year and test scores fell even further. In May 2011 the governing board hired Jere Pearcy, with a strong Core Knowledge background to lead the school. While significant changes have been made at the school this year, the DPS board continued to express doubt that the school could improve. Northeast Academy faces renewal in the fall.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Peak to Peak Charter School held its annual Charter School Job Fair on Saturday with over 800 participants and 37 charter schools. As usual, the job fair ran very smoothly with a host of volunteers from Peak to Peak taking care of everything from meals to water bottle distribution.
The job fair, the only one of its kind in Colorado, is THE place to learn about openings in the state's charter schools. One teacher candidate even flew in from England to attend. In addition to numerous new, or soon-to-be, graduates there were also many experienced candidates looking for a different position.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Yesterday the State Board of Education on a split vote, 4-3, decided to affirm the Denver Public Schools' refusal to renew the contract for Life Skills of Denver. Life Skills serves 100% at-risk students qualifying for an Alternative Education Campus (AEC) designation. There are 160 students in Life Skills at present and the average student has attended 5 other schools before choosing Life Skills.
Life Skills also appealed a DPS decision to close them back in 2007. At that time, the State Board voted to remand the decision and DPS allowed the charter school to remain open. Numerous changes were made at the school, including a wide array of wrap-around services for students, many of whom were over age and under credit.
At yesterday's hearing the primary point of disagreement was whether or not Life Skills' contract required them to make "reasonable progress" or, as Supt. Tom Boasgberg asserted the contract stated if they committed a material breach of ANY provision the contract could be terminated. The Life Skills contract had 12 provisions in the contract and the school contended they made 9 of those provisions. Legal counsel for the State Board, Nick Stancil, responded to a question from Board member Paul Lundeen by pointing out that "makes reasonable progress" is language in the Charter Schools Act, and in the Life Skills contract. He disagreed with the claim that any breech of contract provisions was enough reason to revoke a charter school, however.
Students, teachers and family members attending the hearing were visibly upset with the Board's decision. The school, operated by White Hat Management out of Ohio, has not decided their initial next steps.