Friday, February 29, 2008
Beyond working with leaders in the 50 states, one of the roles of CER, she asserts, is "discontenting the contented." That often means the National Education Association, perhaps the most powerful force within the education establishment. A spokesman there has complained that Allen "goes for the jugular" and is "mean."
If that means shunning mushy "diplomat-speak," she doubtless would happily plead guilty. Recently a Florida newspaper editorialized against a state policy to expand the power to authorize charter schools. Allen shot back in a letter to the editor: "This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. Having new and additional entities that can foster more and better learning opportunities is a right that no family should be without."
Not eager for compromise, she recently compared the school reform crusade with the civil rights movement of the 1950s. "They didn't stand up and say 'OK, fine, we'll take the bus, but not the water fountain."
Thursday, February 28, 2008
When the John Irwin Schools of Excellence program began in 2000, then-Governor Owens put on a big celebration and schools received a banner and a $5,000 check. A few years later there was only the banner. Around 2005 even the banners stopped. Many schools in Colorado have a series of these banners and are quite proud, and rightly so, for having earned this distinguished award. The Irwin award goes only to the top 8% of public schools in the state. It's very competitive and hard to earn in multiple years.
Platte River Academy parent, and Channel 7 anchor Theresa Marchetta, served as the emcee during the presentation of awards. Dougco Superintendent Jim Christensen and numerous senior staff members were in attendance for the celebration. State Representative Frank McNulty and Superintendent Christensen both addressed participants. Watch Channel 7 news at 4 p.m., 5 p.m. or 10 p.m. for coverage of this event.
Congratulations to American Academy, Platte River Academy and Parker Core Knowledge, the charter schools in Douglas County earning the John Irwin School of Excellence award in both 2006 and 2007! You're awesome!
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The Durango 9-R Board of Education decided not to request ECA because they believe CSI does a better job of vetting charter school applications. This year Durango received a charter application at the same time CSI did. After a rigorous review, Animas Charter HS was approved by CSI.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Since the accountability committee law pre-dates the Charter Schools Act, and even after was amended to eliminate the state accountability committee, how charters comply with the law has been a mystery to many people. CDE recommends charter school governing boards have an accountability committee as a board subcommittee. The statute calls these accountability committees School Advisory Councils. Charters organized before January 1, 2000 may have the governing board serve as the accountability committee. Some charter schools have received a waiver from the State Board of Education to operate their committee differently or have a different membership.
I believe the legislative intent of the accountability law was to give parents meaningful involvement in their child's public school. Having attended numerous neighborhood public school accountability meetings -- elementary, middle and high school, at the school and the district level -- I can honestly say they're a joke. These committees are only to rubber stamp; parental input is listened to and then ignored, which is perfectly permissible the way the statute is written. When parents have tried to bring up issues or ask tough questions, they get shut down. These committees are often "stacked" with people who won't ask the tough questions or are employed by the school, and wouldn't disagree with administration (if they want to continue to work at that school, anyway). Moreover, not all schools even have an accountability committee.
This new advisory council established by CSI schools is the epitome of what legislators intended with the School Advisory Council law. A representative from each CSI school propose to make recommendation to the CSI board on such pressing issues as: charter renewal criteria, potential CSI appointed board members, and the measures by which the schools will be evaluated. The cooperative nature of Council members is commendable and can only have a positive outcome. They simply want to have a part in the discussion and potential decisions that will ultimately significantly impact their schools.
This afternoon the Council of Schools representatives presented their ideas to the CSI board and I haven't heard how that went. But, this is a chance for CSI to exemplify, once again, a best practice model for other public schools and school districts.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I've found that because at-will employment is so foreign to school district personnel or legal counsel, that it's best not to get employment advice from them. However, good legal counsel will ensure charter school documents, such as the employee handbook and board policies, are in good shape should the charter school have to dismiss an employee. The only reason to use employee contracts is to stipulate the expected hours or days the employee should work and the related salary. Contracts should never include language that suggests a term of employment.
Another aspect folks have a hard time breaking out of the public education mold for, are step and level salary schedules. Some charter schools refuse to use a salary schedule and instead employ on an individual, negotiated basis. Many other charter schools effectively use performance pay systems. (Click here to read a Lexington Institute report, which includes the model in use at Liberty Common School.)
Sunday, February 24, 2008
DATA serves a Title I (high poverty) population and two years ago underwent a state School Support Visit, which is highly encouraged for underperforming Title I schools. As a part of the school review, DATA received a grant to implement an improvement plan.
DATA has a new principal this year. One of the unfortunate things about the timing of charter renewals and appeals is that while the school is going through this tumultuous time dealing with an appeal and charter nonrenewal, their students are taking CSAPs. You see, the decision to not renew the charter school's contract was largely based on March 2007 data -- before the new principal had time to implement his new plan with his staff members. Last year Life Skills Center of Denver was in much the same situation. To be sure, good schools would have a variety of academic measures to demonstrate the effectiveness of their work with students, but that doesn't mitigate the fact that these students are taking high-stakes state tests at the same time they're wondering about whether or not their school will be open next year. In situations like this, it's extremely important for all the adults involved to make sure the academic success of students is of prime importance.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
The Denver Arts and Technology Academy (DATA), operated by Mosaica Education in northwest Denver was denied. Board members had strong words for the charter school, which had been on probation for several years.
Life Skills Center of Denver was approved for a two-year probationary contract. Board member Jill Conrad noted the school had shown progress and that for many of these "second-chance" students there were no other educational options. She further acknowledged the Life Skills governing board's leadership in the past year. Conrad stated the CSAP scores cited by her fellow board member were taken in March 2007, before the one-year contract was approved in June.
Skyland Community School was approved for a one-year contract provided it meets certain contingencies such as identifying a suitable location.
Challenges, Choices and Images Charter School brought two charter buses full of parents and students to the hearing. Board members cited the Significantly Declining and Declining ratings on the school's SARs, the school not being in compliance with financial reporting, the financial instability of the school and lower test scores than schools serving comparable Free/Reduced Lunch qualifying student populations. One board member stated that the school had been through an especially tumultuous school year due to a move to a new facility, taking in Hurricane Katrina students and doubling its student enrollment. The school was ultimately approved for a probationary one-year renewal, however the school was also "put on notice" that it needed to improve its academic performance or face revocation in a year. CCI was not previously on probationary status.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Yesterday and today I got to spend quite a bit of time with folks from charter schools who are doing amazing things for kids. It's exciting to hear people talk about what they're doing with individual students who were otherwise falling through the cracks or hear the enthusiasm people have for their work because they know they're making a difference in kids' lives.
I've heard general public ed folks say charter school leaders are invigorating. They are. They're excited about seeing test scores rise because their program is working, or because a family appreciates a quality education after years of languishing in the charter school's lottery pool. Teachers are excited when they get an idea for how to help the student who is struggling in class and hasn't responded to the typical differentiated instruction. Board members are excited when what was once only their "dream" suddenly has 4-5 times more students than what they can enroll, entering into the enrollment lottery.
I'm appreciating charter school leaders even more now that I've just attended my last Parent Teacher conference at my daughter's district-operated high school. The stark contrast between educators who genuinely strive to increase the amount students learn each day and those that simply put in the time (and maybe should have chosen another profession) is amazing. Because my view of education is dominated by excellence, sometimes it's good to be reminded of the reason charter schools were created and continue to have strong demand as evidenced by long waiting lists and consumer need.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Studies of reading comprehension show that knowing something of the topic you're reading about is the most important variable in comprehension. After a child learns to sound out words, comprehension is mostly knowledge. Many technical studies support the assertion that after students can fluently sound out words, relevant knowledge is the crucial difference between students who are good or poor readers. In light of the relevant science, an analysis of the textbooks and methods used to teach reading and language arts -- for three hours a day in many places -- indicates some of the reasons for the disappointing later results. These test-prep materials are constructed on the mistaken view that reading comprehension is a skill that can be perfected by practice, as typing can be. This how-to conception of reading has caused schools to spend a lot of unproductive time on trivial content and on drills such as "finding the main idea" and less time on history, science and the arts.
In his book, The Knowledge Deficit, Don Hirsch contends that good reading programs use resources with quality content instead of "Dick and Jane" type texts. Children learn to comprehend what they're reading material that makes sense and fits together (builds upon prior knowledge) instead of meaningless sentences such as "Dick flies a kite."
Hirsch states, "The sure road to adequate progress in reading is adequate progress in knowledge."
Monday, February 18, 2008
Goff has served as President of the Jefferson County Education Association and Vice President of the Colorado Education Association. She has been in education for 34 years.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Before charter schools I'd never heard of parent surveys. Nobody did them. It just seemed natural when we started Jefferson Academy in 1994 to have a parent survey in the spring of the first year of operation. The opinions of parents on matters such as how much they know about what their child is being taught, if the Principal is approachable and ideas for improvement are very important!
I've also had children in non-charter public schools for more than 14 years. At one accountability committee meeting there was talk about having a parent survey. Knowing this would be discussed, I brought several samples from charter schools. The questions were quickly whittled down to are you interested in joining the PTA and do you know that our school has an accountability committee?
This is indicative of a school system that doesn't understand the importance of parental involvement. Indeed, I know people in public ed who are intimidated by parents and quite honestly, don't even know how to interact with them. Their idea of parent involvement is under very controlled conditions.
Yet many people tout parent involvement in charter schools as being one of the key components for their success. I've likened new charter school parents as a collection of "malcontents" because many of them are leaving their former schools for a reason. In fact, this was a big concern of mine the first few years of Jefferson Academy. But I quickly realized that for many parents, once they're given an environment that respects their role in their child's education and values their input and involvement, they can be productive, positive contributors to the school community!
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
1. Colorado Virtual Academy (Adams 12) 3341 students
2. Hope Online Charter School (Vilas) 3270 students
3. The Classical Academy (Academy 20) 2840 students
4. The Pinnacle (CSI) 1618 students
5. Cesar Chavez/Dolores Huerta (Pueblo 60) 1556 students
6. Peak to Peak (Boulder Valley) 1341 students
7. The Academy (Adams 12) 1157 students
8. Frontier Academy (Greeley 6) 1049 students
9. University Schools (Greeley 6) 1022 students
On the other end of the count are eleven charter schools with less than 50 students:
1. Prairie Creeks (Bennett) 6 students
2. Passage (Montrose) 24 students
3. Marble (Gunnison) 26 students
4. Guffey Community (Fairplay) 27 students
5. Shivers (Harrison 2) 29 students
6. Battle Rock (Montezuma-Cortez) 33 students
7. Paradox Valley (West End) 34 students
8. Indian Peaks (East Grand) 39 students
9. New America-Eagle 39 students
10. Rocky Mountain Deaf School (Jeffco) 39 students
11. Mountain Phoenix (Jeffco) 48 students
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The public school graduation rate in Rapid City, SD is 78%. Last year only 37% of Rapid City's Native American students graduated.
"That's just tragic to give up on another generation of kids who can be rerouted through a charter school curriculum," Katus said. "This legislature has a chance right now to begin salvaging lost educational opportunities for this generation and the next.
South Dakota remains one of the ten states without public charter schools. In Colorado, 7.07% of the public school students attend a charter school. The Colorado law passed in 1993 with bipartisan sponsorship: Sen. Bill Owens (R-Aurora) and Rep. Peggy Kerns (D-Denver).
The dire need for strengthening the charter school is alarmingly evident in this quote from the bill's sponsor:
As the sponsor of HB 881, state Rep. Jan Jones (R-Alpharetta) maintains that the Legislature had to intervene because too many school boards were "indifferent, disinterested and occasionally hostile to charter schools." Of 28 charter school applications last year, she said local school boards approved only two.
Only two of 28 charter school applications were approved last year! With odds like that, why even bother under the current law?
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Of 76 schools reporting:
- 13 provide transportation and 63 do not. Of the 13 that provide transportation, 9 provide transportation on their own, the others use the district's transportation services (typically via a contract).
- 53 provide a lunch program. Only 21 of those use the district's hot lunch program, which means they can be reimbused from federal funds for students who qualify for a Free or Reduced Hot Lunch.
Monday, February 11, 2008
I've had the opportunity to work with the Caprock Academy board a couple of times and have been very impressed with their expertise and dedication. Since before the school opened board members have diligently researched best practices at other operating charter schools and used that platform to apply the best practice in a manner that uniquely matches Caprock.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Carrie Sherrill, a founder and board member of Caprock Academy, studied the classical form of education in creating her vision for Caprock.
“Up until the 1920s, most kids in the United States were learning classically,” Sherrill said. “(The change) has to do with the Industrial Revolution that has much to do with America modeling themselves after Germany. Classical education is a global kind of learning.”
The classical approach in education is based on three components: grammar, logic and rhetoric. The grammar phase is typically during elementary school when students learn rote facts such as multiplication tables and learn to read. During this phase they're adding knowledge to their foundation of learning. The second phase is grammar when the students begin to understand and reason with the knowledge they have previously acquired. The third stage, rhetoric, is the culmination of the previous knowledge. During the rhetoric phase students exhibit how to present cogent arguments, write persuasive essays and reason their own conclusions.
For more information about the education at Ridgeview Classical Schools, go to: http://ridgeviewclassical.com/ Be sure to read "The Conversation," which is primarily written by Ridgeview students!
Friday, February 8, 2008
Next Tuesday the South Dakota legislature will again consider SB 194, the charter school bill voted down by the Senate Education committee last week.
Knowing that Colorado Senator Mike Kopp is a native of South Dakota and a member of the Colorado Senate Education committee, I asked what he thought about this proposed legislation. Here is his response:"Colorado's original charter laws were primarily advanced by Republicans. However, in recent years great reforms in education have begun to be advanced by Democrats serving urban areas with low income minority students. They have learned that students in many of these inner city schools have been short changed by a failing education establishment. I applaud the efforts of education reform-minded legislators in my home state of South Dakota. Keep at it!"
Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, CO
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
South Dakota is one of nine states without a charter school law. Senate Education committees were told that having a law would make the state eligible for new federal grant money through the Charter School Program, Title V of No Child Left Behind.
Being a native of North Dakota, another one of the nine states without charter schools, the final quote in the Rapid City Journal story rings sad, but true:
Sen. Nesselhuf, D-Vermillion, who cast the lone vote supporting the charter-school bill, said, "When I look at Robert Cook's testimony and I see the statistics he shows, I find it very difficult to believe that if this were a group of Norwegians we wouldn't have declared an emergency."
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
I could agree with about half of the people cited on the list. But I would also add: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Witherspoon, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy come to mind right away. There are probably dozens of people who should have been on the list before Marilyn Monroe and Oprah Winfrey!
Monday, February 4, 2008
Districts will be submitting these consolidated applications by June 30th. Within the next few months, charter school administrators will be contacted to determine their needs in relation to the parameters of each of the funding streams. Generally, if the district's plan doesn't match the charter school's needs, the charter school can instead use the funds for their own plan. Be sure to check the guidance for each program because conditions may vary.
These federal funds include: Title I, II, IV and V. Go to http://www.cde.state.co.us/FedPrograms/NCLB/index.asp for more information.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Charter schools have the freedom to hire teachers on an at-will basis and don't negotiate with the teacher's union. This means they can hire the very best teachers, which is ultimately a key factor.
There are a few really top-notch charter schools that require candidates for teaching positions to teach a mock lesson in front of students. This feature of the hiring process shows if the teacher has rapport with students and what type of classroom management skills the teacher has. This hiring practice has enabled some charter schools to make excellent hiring decisions, which result in fewer dismissals or lack of academic performance during the school year.
Friday, February 1, 2008
COVA has more than 4,000 students in the state. Bill Bennett's K12 company operates the school, which has students across the state. Students get a computer in order to access their online curriculum. Students in primary grades have a great deal of parent/mentor interaction, whereas high school students interact more online with each other and their teachers. For many COVA students education is similar to home school or independent study. High school students have synchronous classrooms where students and the teacher interact with webcams and audio links and a screen that permits students to ask questions, make comments or answer questions.
There are about 20 online education programs in the state. Most of these are credit recovery or supplemental programs operated by local school districts.
Last year an online education bill passed that created a new Online Division within CDE. This division is led by Pam Ice. An advisory panel has proposed rules for online education that were adopted on an emergency basis by the State Board of Education on January 10th. The advisory panel also developed Quality Standards that are included in the rules.