Monday, July 30, 2007
It's common for the public to develop a perception about charter schools in general through what they hear about the charter school nearest their home. For example, I live nearby four charter schools that each use the Core Knowledge curriculum and so many of my neighbors believe all charter schools have lots of homework and push the kids to excel. In Grand Junction, there's been a struggling charter school that serves high-risk youth in an alternative setting. This week a new charter school opens in Grand Junction that uses the Core Knowledge curriculum. These two schools, in the same community, will be totally different and so the perceptions of the people from Grand Junction will change.
I've visited numerous charter schools that use the Core Knowledge curriculum and none of them are alike. One school might emphasize science and technology while another focuses on character development. That's what is great about charter schools: they're all unique and serve the needs of their students uniquely.
When parents are shopping for a school they need to spend time in the school and ask lots of questions. Parents know their child the best and can tell if a school will suit their child's needs.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I thought the meeting was interesting because no one ever mentioned the elephant in the room: the fact that $3 million had been cut by the General Assembly this year. Here's the historical funding for charter schools, which was initially funded using Amendment 23 funds.
SY $ per fte Total Allocation
2001-02 322.40 $6,471,051
2002-03 327.38 $7,813,943
2003-04 301.35 $8,200,000
2004-05 171.06 $5,000,000
2005-06 145.09 $5,000,000
2006-07 201.17 $7,800,000
2007-08 110 (projected) $5,000,000
The total allocation is divided by the number of eligible charter school students each year. As the number of charter school students has increased exponentially in recent years, the amount per student has fallen significantly. In this discussion, it's also important to note that charter schools typically spend 15 to 25% of their general operating funds on capital construction needs.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
- They have school from 8 AM to 6 PM four days a week and 8 AM to noon on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
- At seventh grade they enter "tracks" (chemistry, mathematics, etc.) selected by the student and family. A student can change tracks. Each track also contains all the basic courses.
- Most students begin learning English in the primary grades. Students can take both English grammar/mechanics and oral English.
- Students interested in art, music or drama must take those courses outside of the school day, on their own.
By the way, if you'd like a very enriching experience, host a student from another country. Our student was here to attend classes in the area. It's a great opportunity to learn about another culture and teach young people about the ideals of the United States!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
When my kids were growing up I always left them a list of jobs to do while I was away. As an experiment, I tried leaving a list with three different levels. For the minimum level, there was no money, it was a part of their regular repsonsibilities. For the second level, there were additional jobs and additional pay. If they really wanted to earn some money, they could work to the third level of jobs.
In a classroom, rubrics explain the expectation level for students to earn different grades on an assignment. Through a rubric, the teacher describes what needs to be included to get the best grade and how that grade will be evaluated. For example, one bullet in the rubric could be, "a bibliography with at least 5 sources."
The best thing about using rubrics is the additional information and a clear description of what it means to be in level one, two or three. Rubrics are meant to eliminate the guessing.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
The Open Enrollment law works if the school system permits it. Five years ago I was doing some research for some parents and called some area high schools to see if I could get my son into the school. The school secretary asked if he had any behavior or academic issues, including wondering if he was labeled "special education." She said that if he didn't have any pertinent issues the Principal would probably approve his attending that school.
Of course what I was told by the school secretary was wrong. However, many parents don't know what the law says and what their rights are. Plus, quite frankly, many school districts have learned how to play the system to their advantage. My experience in public education has made me realize that some public educators feel threatened by parents. They simply don't know how to involve them in their child's education and they don't want them around. On the other hand, the administrators who have found ways to use parents effectively have created great supporters and advocates!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Since the Charter Schools Act was adopted in 1993 there have been about 12 school closures. Almost all were for financial reasons. Community Involved Charter School in Jeffco closed for academic reasons. Several charter schools got in over their heads financially when they made bond deals to finance their new buildings. Over-projecting the number of students can quickly translate into financial ruin. But the fact that charter schools without student demand and/or financial stability cease to operate is one of the major tenets of the charter school philosophy.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
I think it's similar to parenting. Sometimes teenagers just need to learn from their mistakes. But a wise parent oftentimes lets the teenager figure it out on their own rather than making sure everything always goes right. Many people learn best by their mistakes. Certainly the likelihood of making a second comparable mistake is lessened by the freedom to make a mistake in the first place.
Similarily, a charter school governing board doesn't have to ensure the staff never makes a mistake. The board should focus on the result, rather than how the staff chooses to reach the desired outcome.
Of course a charter school should never be allowed to violate the law or harm a child in any way. But, for the most part, the philosophy of charter schools allows them to do things differently, with the optimism that the student will be better served in the long run. Authorizer, like parents, should exercise restraint in how they monitor their charter school's operations. The Charter School Institute board uses the rationale that they expect their staff to do 20% monitoring and oversight, while allowing the charter school 80% autonomy.
Saturday, July 7, 2007
According to the New York Sun:
The former first lady took a more nuanced position on charter schools. "We've got to experiment. We've got to try different approaches," she said. But she added: "We also have to be sure that charter schools do not drain the financial resources from public schools." Mrs. Clinton's rhetoric matches that of the NEA and many teachers' unions, which have embraced limited numbers of charter schools as long as they are held to the same standards as public schools.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Quoting from the executive summary:
After analyzing trends in public school names in seven states, representing 20 percent of all public school students, we obtained the following statistics:
- Of almost 3,000 public schools in Florida, five honor George Washington, compared with eleven named after manatees.
- In Minnesota, the naming of schools after presidents declined from 14 percent of schools built before 1956 to 3 percent of schools built in the last decade.
- In New Jersey, naming schools after people dropped form 45 percent of schools built before 1948 to 27 percent of schools built since 1988.
- In the last two decades, a public school built in Arizona was almost fifty times more likely to be named after such things as a mesa or a cactus than after a president.
- In Florida, nature names for schools increased from 19 percent of schools built before 1958 to 37 percent of schools built in the last decade.
- Similar patterns were observed in all seven states analyzed.
- Today, a majority of all public school districts nationwide do not have a single school named after a president.
The authors suggest there is a corelation between the decline in naming schools after distinguished citizens and teaching civic responsibilities. "The unwillingness of school boards to take stands when naming schools may indicate a reluctance to take the stands necessary to teach civics effectively."
"To some extend, the change in school names is a reflection of broader cultural changes, including increased skepticism of inherited wisdom, revisionist history, and increased interest in the environment. But attributing the change to culture is an insufficient explanation. Culture partially shapes the decisions of political leaders, but culture can also be a product of the decisions of political leaders. The question is, why are the political leaders who are in control of school names--school board members--increasingly reluctant to fight for names that honor individual people?"
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
According to Dr. Daniel Scoggin, CEO of one of the charter schools, "Our students want to be challenged with greater depth, coverage, and content and to have access to an advanced prep school experience in a public school setting. The increasing pressure from the state to align our curriculum to all other public schools compromises our unique charter and the options offered to Arizona families."
Four of the charter schools involved in the lawsuit rank among the top ten schools in Arizona, based on scores from their state assessment. Additionally, one of the schools (BASIS Tuscon) was ranked in the top ten high schools nationwide according to Newsweek.
The new Goldwater Institute Scarf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation has filed this lawsuit on behalf of the five charter schools. The litigation center's director is Clint Bolick. In 2003, the Arizona Dept. of Education began mandating charter schools align their curriculum to the state prescribed curriculum. Compliance problems developed this year when the state required all schools to teach U.S. History in 7th & 8th grades. At least some of the charter schools in the lawsuit teach ancient history in 7th grade and medieval history in 8th grade as a prerequisite to U.S. History in 9th grade.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Vanguard Classical School (VCS) was started by the Cerebral Palsey Foundation of Colorado and will have a higher-than-average number of students with disabilities. But their educational program is purposefully designed to serve all types of students. The Core Knowledge content will be delivered with the student who needs to move around in mind. It won't look like the traditional Core Knowledge school.
VCS has a brand new building to open in. They share the facility with CP of Colorado and CP's HeadStart preschool program.
Any family in the Lowry area should seriously consider this new charter school because it has all the elements to be a success!