Monday, June 30, 2008
When the Cheyenne Mountain School District initially approved the high school portion of Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy, they said the words "Cheyenne Mountain" could not be used in the high school's name. Consequently the high school has a unique name, although both the elementary and the middle school use Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy. Until this move to CSI, the entire K-12 system was under one charter.
Friday, June 27, 2008
West Denver Prep found almost immediate success in educating mostly Latino students in southwest Denver. The school focuses on rigorous academics and every student attending college.
Envisions Academies, developed by the Piton Foundation and the Donnell-Kay Foundation, will target students who would be the first in their families to attend college. The schools will serve students 6-12 grade.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
- Increases the cap by 67%
- Increases flexibility for the state board of education to charter
- Allows for-profits to operate charter schools
- Limits authorizer administrative fees
- Institutes greater controls before charter schools are returned to their local school district
Gov. Jindal closed with the comment, "Politics should stop at the classroom door."
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Yesterday, I sat in a workshop by Marci Cornell-Feist, from Meetinghouse Solutions, Inc. Here are a few bullets from what I learned:
- Each individual board member should evaluate him/herself and then have a one-on-one discussion with the board chair regarding their performance.
- Strong boards hire strong leaders.
- If the school leader brings small items to the board, they're inviting micromanagement.
- How much are we focused on the strategic instead of what's already happened?
- Every governing board should have a board agreement in place.
This morning at "The Fate of NCLB, " David DeShryver filled in for Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Foundation; some of his points were:
- Proficiency levels were previously too loose; the focus was more on equity rather than excellence.
- The Fordham Foundation has recently released a report on high-achieving students.
- Congress is considering allowing extra flexibility in accountability for states with standards benchmarked to international standards.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
The 38-page report makes seven recommendations, including not to "attack
charters directly," make funding the main reason for restricting the number of
charters and "use teachers to carry the message."
Don't expect the teacher's union to make a frontal assault on charter schools -- not when they're so popular with parents and teachers. Speaking negatively about charter schools would never work.
Instead, "limit the number of charters," which in Delaware means putting a moratorium on the number of approved charter applications and keeping the focus on districts' losing money. Other strategies could include:
- Limiting the number of authorizers, or eviscerating alternative authorizers;
- Raising the application approval bar so high that almost no one can meet the requirements (all in the name of holding high standards, of course); and
- Ensuring that heavy-handed authorizers retain total control in both the big things and little things.
Oh, but that might sound like Colorado and not Delaware...
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Now Carnegie Mellon University researchers have released a report on 25 fifth-graders who have been in a study for three years. Students were provided 100 hours of reading instruction with brain scans done before and after the 100 hours and then again a year later. The scans of student's brains revealed function similar to students without reading problems--even one year later.
Patricia Hardman, Director of the Dyslexia Research Institute of Tallahassee, said:
"One of the key issues is if we can know initially, at the 4- or 5-year-old level, that a child is not learning and that the reason they're not learning has nothing to do with culture or IQ, but a difference in how their brain works," she said. "Then we could immediately give them the type of instruction that they need to overcome that."
Monday, June 16, 2008
Even with these restrictions, three charter schools have opened in Nashville: LEAD Academy, Smithson-Craighead, and KIPP Academy. Previous statutory limitations prevented these charter schools from serving the number of students who actually wanted to attend, however. Talk about giving meaning to the saying that "students should haven't to win a lottery in order to attend the school of their choice." Imagine the hundreds of students in Nashville who have been stuck in underperforming schools simply because they didn't win the lottery or didn't meet the state policymaker's restrictive criteria.
Sounds like it's time for the state Legislature to start focusing on the academic needs of their students! When reform such as this provides evidence that it's working--it should be replicated as soon as possible.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune has a good roundtable discussion among charter school leaders representing different faiths/cultures, a state department official and a charter school activist. One key point is the school may teach about religion, but not proselytize--or "accommodate" not "promote."
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Further, it is wise for a designated member of the charter school governing board to keep up to date on charter school legislation for the rest of the board. In addition to receiving information from an advocacy group, such as the League, the board member should be in regular contact with the elected officials representing the area in which the schools sits, or many of the school's families live. The board member should periodically invite elected officials to visit the school or attend school events. Providing specific examples to elected officials gives them facts with which to make decisions and people to contact for additional information when it pertains to potential legislative changes.
Charter school PTOs can host candidate forums during election season. Engage a community member or "neutral" party to moderate the candidate forum. Have questions previously prepared or submitted by audience members. Be sure to include questions relevant to charter school families, such as, "Do you or do you not support the charter school philosophy and what is the reason for your position?"
The charter school board and the PTO should both have policy for how and when they will involve the school or its families in political activities. For example, the policy should stipulate that all candidates will be invited and not just one. Charter school leaders can invite candidates to attend Back to School Night or other school events. Candidates can, and should, be introduced to the parents.
It's inevitable that charter schools are political by nature. Every year the legislature determines the funding level for charter schools and amends charter school legislation. It's good for charter school families to get involved. The League of Charter Schools has a guide for policy that every charter school governing board member and administrator should review.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
For those unfamiliar with the term "Response to Intervention," it is the attempt to reduce the number of students who are misidentified as needing Special Education services for reasons such as the student simply didn't receive reading instruction that allowed the student to actually learn to read. Not all children learn to read the same; add in the myriad of potential problems (i.e. visual tracking, auditory discrepancies) and often, the blanket approach just doesn't work. Instead, various tactics should be used before attaching the Special Education label.
However, Dr. Lyon addresses how complex and layered RtI is. It's hard to inculcate the philosophy into a school faculty, much less make sure the plan for assessment and intervention is broad enough to be effective for every student.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Most everyone would agree that the New Orleans public education system needed reform before the hurricane damaged the city. It's too early to know, for sure, if achievement data will show the charter schools have conclusively improved the education system. It'd be an interesting research project to study which charter schools demonstrated commendable achievement gains over time and which key factors were attributed to their success.
In just a couple of weeks the National Charter Schools Conference will be in New Orleans. Stay tuned for more information on how the "charter school experiment" in New Orleans has impacted the city!
Monday, June 9, 2008
Every authorizer should have a non-compliance plan and a very clear charter contract (a.k.a. performance agreement) that very specifically details what happens if the charter schools fails academically and then fails to rectify the situation.
I've written about this before. Board of Education members see it differently and with board turnover, districts have a hard time consistently enforcing an acceptable standard. Bring a busload of kids to the board meeting and the chances of keeping your charter increase dramatically.
The other day I heard a charter liaison for an authorizing school district say a charter school should be able to try to operate a charter school if there's a reasonable chance they're going to do better than the district in serving an under-served population. In the Washington Post article one of the commonalities of the charter schools performing worse than the charter school that was closing, was that they served special needs populations. Certainly data should be examined to see if the charter school is at least doing better for the students than the school district would be doing.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Anyone interested in starting a new charter school should read the Charter School Handbook first. It explains what should be included in each component of the charter school application. Last week we had a two-day training on how to write a charter school application that was well attended. Much of the content we covered in the training is in this handbook.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The media source quotes Margaret Spellings as saying:
"In a modern, mall-going society, these important life skills should be second nature to citizens of all ages," Spellings said. "No schoolchild should be allowed to grow up ignorant of the varied chain stores around him."
* For anyone not familiar with The Onion, it's a humorous satirical representation of current events and issues.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
* Start a staff meeting by having each staff member write three notes to students.
* Log these notes to students through the school office to make sure every student is recognized throughout the school year.
* Administrators can block out a half hour every week just to write personal thank you notes to staff members.
* Give an unexpected bonus.
* These notes should be specific and be sure to include the person's name.
* One school has a special place designated on the hallway wall where there are blank little shaped notes, making it easy to write a quick word of appreciation or thanks and post it on the wall for everyone to see.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Our society tends to give kids whatever they want and parents don't understand the value of having their children do chores or exercise self-discipline. It's very difficult for teachers to hold high expectations for students when other students, the student's parents or even other teachers may encourage a lesser standard. To be sure, there are hundreds of small decisions made every day in schools across America where a teacher is making a judgment call about what standard to hold for students. It can't be easy when the teacher is pressured by parents to let something slide. Or even worse, when administration doesn't back up the teacher.
We wrestled with how to hold a high standard for a wide variety of student abilities when we opened the high school at Jefferson Academy. It was about the time I first read "Greater Expectations" and I realized that the teachers with high personal expectations were the ones who could more strongly hold high standards for their students. They inherently knew what their students were capable of accomplishing because they, themselves, had overcome obstacles and demonstrated personal fortitude.
Something as simple as parents requiring an elementary school student to complete homework before going out to play becomes finishing a high-quality term paper by its due date in junior high and then the capability to take Advanced Placement courses in high school. Students who enter high school without the self-discipline to study for a test or complete assignments struggle to earn the grades to graduate and have less of a chance to attend college.
So why are so many high expectations/rigorous college-prep charter schools in demand? Some parents actually want their children in a school that holds a high standard for behavior and academic achievement! But from conversations I've had with some of these charter school principals, parents tend to say they want high expectations, but then when it comes to a situation with their child, they frequently ask the school to bend the rules. Administrators not only need to reinforce high expectations being modeled by their teachers, they have to reinforce the standard with families on a regular basis. Oftentimes, these administrators are criticized for "holding too high a standard" for their students, which is exactly why Chris Gibbons, principal at West Denver Prep, was visiting the homes of incoming sixth graders and getting them to sign student and parent contracts. At least then neither the parent nor the student could say they didn't know what they agreed to.
What's the bottom line? Begin to hold high expectations at home, early in life, and it's much easier in school and adulthood to meet high expectations. And if you're in a school situation and have the opportunity to influence today's young people, be fair and firm in your commitment to uphold high expectations.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Previously every charter school that was funded had to have a separate charter. Several schools in the state adhered to this criteria by having multiple charters under one governing board. Now the feds are saying a K-12 system, even if there are two or three separate charters, cannot be funded. However, "separate and distinct" charter schools, on multiple campuses but under one charter, can be funded.
In order for a state to be able to fund multiple campuses the state must file an amendment to the approved grant application and have it approved by the feds. There is interest in Colorado to have the ability to fund multiple campuses.