Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
The first charter school legislation was passed in Minnesota in 1991. Colorado's law passed in 1993. Many of Shanker's original ideas, such as allowing teachers to vote on whether their school converted to charter status, didn't materialize in the laws adopted in many states. Colorado's charter school movement is known for its grassroots creation of schools--many parents got involved in opening the first charter schools.
In Colorado the charter school legislation was originally bipartisan; now the strongest supporters are Republicans and a handful of Denver Democrats. But the people who started the state's charter schools are both Republican and Democrat. Charter schools are very diverse politically, uniting under the common theme of being able to operate a school of choice.
A group of teachers started the CIVA Charter School in Colorado Springs. Waivers sought, and granted, include the statutes for teacher licensure and negotiating with the teacher's union. No charter schools in the state have a collective bargaining agreement.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Several of the successful Denver charter schools have people who take fliers door-to-door prior to their initial year of operation. After that first year, the lottery pool is typically much larger than the number of available openings and so this type of marketing is no longer necessary as "word of mouth" creates demand. But these schools continue to make home visits and have parents sign contracts to be sure they understand their role in their child's education.
Charter schools are "niche" schools that have to understand what they do well and market their school accordingly. The people in many communities throughout Colorado believe all charter schools are like the one they know in their own community, which is far from the truth. Many charter schools, even if their educational program is largely similar, are very different. For example, for years Grand Junction has had an alternative high school charter that has struggled with academic performance and staff turnover. Now this year, Caprock Academy is operating a K-8 Core Knowledge charter school in Grand Junction that is completely different. Parents are becoming more educated about charter schools as they hear about a different kind of charter school operating in their own community.
The philosophy that schools actually want to compete for a child's education is an outgrowth of the charter school movement. Rather than schools sending the message that parents have no role in their child's education, charter schools are recruiting and welcoming parental involvement--and not just to do bake sales and sell candy bars! In charter schools, parents make arrangements to finance facility costs, govern the school and work alongside a teacher in the classroom.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I've been a part of a K-8 charter school board when we wrestled with whether or not to open a high school. I tell folks starting a high school is about 20 times harder than a K-8 school. There's so many additional things to think about such as the sports program, how to be competitive with the local "smorgasbord" high school, and it just plain costs more to do a high school. But, it is REALLY worth the extra work! Talk about being able to make a difference in student's lives! Plus, when there's students feeding in from a comparable K-8, it just makes sense to reap the benefit from years of work put into the academic success of those students.
J.C. Huizinga is starting a new company to do high schools. This is another example of J.C. making wise business decisions on behalf of his management company; he's not willing to dilute the focus of the K-8 operation. It'll be interesting to watch the development of this high school--the curriculum that's selected, the extracurriculars the school offers, and how it pans out financially, specifically.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Cheyenne Classical School is based on the successful Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins. Founders of CCS claim the school district's hearing process was flawed because it resembled a debate rather than a hearing.
Over the years in Colorado, the State Board has repeatedly chastised school districts that did not give their charter school applicants a fair hearing. There is a misperception in school districts throughout the state that the State Board "always backs the charter school." This is not true because the hearing data shows a fairly even split on State Board decisions. But most districts have learned to be fair and have solid rationale for their decision-making.
Friday, March 21, 2008
See also my previous post on this subject: http://coloradocharters.blogspot.com/2008/03/whats-enough-when-checking-out.html
Thursday, March 20, 2008
CIVA stands for Character, Integrity, Vision and the Arts. A major component of the school's program is character development. Students from all over Colorado Springs, and neighboring communities, attend CIVA.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
"So my modest proposal is that reading tests should contain passages about specific topics taught not just in literature, but in all other subjects taught in that grade, except for math," writes Hirsch. "For instance, if third-grade language arts standards specify Alice in Wonderland, third-grade science standards call for studying the speed of light, and third-grade social studies standards include the Vikings' explorations of North America, then passages on the third-grade reading test should cover those same topics. We would then have true curriculum-based reading tests instead of the mysterious tests we now have. This cunning device would make tests fairer and pedagogically more useful, and boost our students' abilities."
Source: "Plugging the Hole in State Standards: One Man's Modest Proposal" http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/spring2008/hirsch.pdf
Monday, March 17, 2008
Many have argued there's a link between higher order thinking skills and mathematics. If the foundation isn't built by middle school, it makes math achievement even more difficult in high school. Yet the Math Panel found the need for students to learn fundamental math concepts by middle school was critical if students would be able to master algebra in high school.
Here's an excerpt from the report:
The report respects the role of teachers as those in the best position to determine how to teach a given concept or skill. Instead of defining methods for teaching, the report offers a timeline of when students must master critical topics. The panel determined that students need to develop rapid recall of arithmetic facts in the early grades, going on to master fractions in middle school. Having built this strong foundation, the panel stated students would then be ready for rigorous algebra courses in high school or earlier. Noting changing demographics and rising economic demands, Secretary Spellings stressed the significance of the panel’s findings on algebra.“The panel’s research showed that if students do well in algebra, then they are more likely to succeed in college and be ready for better career opportunities in the global economy of the 21st century,” said Secretary Spellings. “We must increase access to algebra and other rigorous coursework if we hope to close the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their peers.”
The entire report is at: http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/index.html
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Jefferson Academy had only been open a few years when Kindergarten class lists were filling with babies born before the end of February. Parents signed up their newborns, many times this was the fathers coming straight from the delivery room.
Why are parents so desperate and what are their chances of getting their children into a good charter school? It's estimated that over 25,000 students are waiting to get in to Colorado's charter schools. Due to the federal Charter School Grant Program many charter schools now use a lottery to determine enrollment. Every once in awhile we see a media story about families "winning the lottery" when their child is selected to enroll in a popular charter school.
Charter schools thrive in a competitive market. They develop a reputation in the community and parents spred the word amongst themselves. The essence of the charter school philosophy is that the charter school performs, which drives demand.
Several charter schools in our state were created because parents couldn't get their children into a particular charter school. That's why so many charter schools are very similar in educational program and design.
I'm sorry to say there isn't any magical way to "win the lottery" at a charter school. However, I do recommend parents put their children on the list at every charter school they're remotely interested in. That way, they'll at least have options to choose from.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
John Barry retired from the US Air Force as a Two Star Major General. He was the Executive Director of the investigative team for the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster. He spoke about both the physical causes and organizational causes of the shuttle's failure on re-entry. Here are a few of the points John Barry made in relating the findings of the Columbia's investigation to educational leadership lessons:
1. Factors of the disaster were: history, decision-making, organizational culture, and system effects.
2. After the Challenge disaster in 1986 all of the recovered debris was put into an empty silo and capped; after the Columbia disaster all of the debris was laid out and studied and then sent out to others for them to also learn from.
3. Complex organizations fail in complex ways; they need complex, integrated solutions.
4. NASA "normalized deviance"; tiles had previously broken off and hit the shuttle six other times, but because it was a problem that was too difficult to fix, and there hadn't been any severely adverse consequences, the problem was never remedied.
5. NASA's culture viewed the Columbia mission as routine; it was the 113th space mission and Columbia was over 20 years old.
6. Sensors were located throughout the shuttle, but they didn't feed information to the cockpit or ground control due to the shuttle being more than 20 years old and the technology hadn't been updated. Sensors could only report the information after the fact when the "black box" was recovered--in other words, too late to make a difference.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I recently heard that there's a corelation between the education level of parents and how well their children perform in school. Then I read this today: http://d-edreckoning.blogspot.com/2008/03/theory-iv-do-poor-students-perform.html I found the statistical analysis very interesting. Here's part of the conclusion:
The take away is that just because the correlation between parental education and total student performance is midsized, does not mean that the correlation between low-SES student performance and parental education is also midsized. It's much lower than that. And the student achievement gains we should expect to see by placing low-SES students in higher-SES school districts (as a function of parental education) will likely be low to non-existent. In any event, we should not expect those gains to pull low-SES student achievement up to the mean performance of all children based on this data.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Many times over the years charter schools and their authorizers have debated governance issues and where the boundaries are drawn. The Academy of Charter Schools brought suit against their authorizer, Adams 12 Five Star School District, contending that the district didn't fulfill portions of the charter contract. Prior to that law suit there'd never been such a case.
Then Leadership Prep Academy brought suit against the Widefield School District, after losing an appeal bid to the State Board of Education, stating the district went too far in telling the charter school they had to change board members. Just last year the Aurora Public School Board of Education told one of their charter schools a particular individual could not serve on the charter board.
Where is the line drawn? When does a district overstep its bounds in the charter relationship when the charter school is supposed to be able to operate autonomously and self-govern? Does the district have the right to step in and mandate governance specifics if it disagrees with actions taken by the charter board? How can a district resolve issues in the charter school without taking a heavy-handed approach?
The answers to these questions are not black and white and, unfortunately, probably many times the answers come only after the State Board of Education or the courts have been involved.
Proactively, the district should carefully examine charter school applications in regard to governance issues such as bylaws, terms, how directors are elected, conflicts of interest and any other key governance provisions that could impact the success of the charter school. It's easier to have these discussions before problems are present.
Whenever problematic issues need to be addressed, a good philosophy is for the district to specify what the outcome should be and the charter school have the responsibility to fix it. Oftentimes, districts find comfort in what they know best: "expert" committees, policies and procedures, and lots of documentation. While these approaches all have their place, they do little to build the rapport and trust which is often absent in the charter school-school district relationship.
Charter school leaders value their autonomy and contractural right to lead their schools with little outside management. Further, it's the responsibility of the charter school movement, as a whole, to make sure all of its schools are operating properly.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Check out Acronym Finder, LearnNet, Portals to the World, RefDesk.com, or Bartleby.com.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Many charter school teachers are lured by the ability to have an academic focus in their classrooms, which is supported by parents. Further, the students have a love for learning and are excited to learn even more. For many, this is what many young people dreamed about when they chose to become a teacher.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
1. Not all charter schools are the same. In fact, even though at least 40% of charter schools in Colorado use the Core Knowledge curriculum, even these schools are all quite different. Check out each school individually and find out what it's unique characteristics are.
2. Ask what type of professional development is available for teachers. Some schools offer a blanket PD plan while others try to match the individual needs of their teachers. Does PD support include mentoring by an experienced teacher?
3. Is the curriculum and methodology a match with your own educational beliefs? If your philosophy doesn't match the school, it's never going to work so don't even try it.
4. Visit www.teachincolorado.org for job postings. Mail your resume and a cover letter to each of the charter schools you're interested in. They're all listed at: http://www.cde.state.co.us/scripts/chartersearch.asp Attend job fairs, especially the UNC job fair, which is the largest in the state.