Saturday, September 29, 2012

Four Charter Applicants Seek Same Vacant School Building

The Colorado Springs 11 School District has four charter school applications and all want to use the vacant Jefferson Elementary building for their new charter school. The four applications are in the review stage. Colorado Springs 11 is using the new CHART system to review the applications online using a standardized format in the Standard Application and Review Rubric. Charter School Solutions recently developed this online application review system for the districts it works with in Colorado.

The district Board of Education is expected to rule on the applications by mid-November.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mike Petrelli on the Chicago Teacher's Strike

I'm reposting this in its entirety because it is a good explanation of what's happening in Chicago.
Posted: 14 Sep 2012 04:38 AM PDT

I had a reporter ask me this week if I could remember a teachers’ strike as “confusing” as the one in Chicago; it was so hard, she explained, even to know over which issues the teachers were striking.

That’s not an accident. The local and national unions surely realized, after an onslaught of negative coverage, that complaining about 16 percent raises on top of $75,000 average salaries was not a winning argument during a period of 8 percent unemployment. So they changed their talking points: Now the teachers were upset about evaluations that would link their performance reviews with students’ test scores. But that position is unpopular, too—and puts the union at odds with President Obama—so now they are striking over…class sizes and air conditioning?

Right.

This is akin to the Republican defense of the dubious “Voter ID” laws: That they are necessary to protect against voter fraud. Everyone knows they are a cynical ploy to suppress the participation of poor and minority citizens—likely Democratic voters. But GOP officials can’t admit that. So they obfuscate.

So it is with the Chicago Teachers Union. It’s the meat-and-potatoes issue of pay and benefits that has been front and center during the months-long negotiations; to argue otherwise is simply dishonest.

And what about the issue of “respect”? The idea that Rahmbo is trying to steamroll the unions on his way to becoming an “imperial” mayor?

This is getting closer to the truth. The unions—in Chicago and other big cities—grew accustomed over the past four decades to holding veto power over all key education decisions. When leaders wanted reform, they needed to accept union-approved, watered-down versions—or pay up. As Rick Hess has argued, the more-money-for-more-reform bargain greased the wheels of compromise during flush times—but is unsustainable during today’s New Normal of flat-lined revenues and gaping deficits.

To be sure, many teachers (in Chicago and nationwide) feel blamed, discouraged, demoralized, and afraid; those sentiments were on display in the latest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. The brash rhetoric and take-no-prisoners tactics of reformers—elected and otherwise—surely contribute to this dynamic (along with watching many colleagues get pink slips as districts try to close budget holes).

But such frustrations aren’t why the teachers of the Windy City took to the streets and sent the lives of hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans into disarray. Workers in all sectors of the economy experience stress and slights; it’s part of life. But most don’t walk off the job.

No, this is ultimately about power. The unions are feeling whipsawed by tectonic shifts that have occurred within the Democratic Party in recent years, with Democrats for Education Reform creating space for political leaders—from the mayor’s office to the Oval Office—to challenge them on fundamental issues. (And of course there are the charter schools, still open for business, which challenge the union’s monopoly to boot.) As a Chicago teacher told the local news before the strike, “We didn’t start this fight. We’re only defending ourselves.”

She’s right, in a way: For decades there was no fighting, just abdicating, as Democratic city officials gave the unions pretty much everything they wanted. (That’s why there have been so few teacher strikes in the past couple of decades.) Those days are over; the unions aren’t happy about it. Yet even as this week’s organized-labor tantrum winds down, it already feels more like a reminder of a past era or a last gasp than a sign of things to come.

-Mike Petrilli

Why Parents Shouldn't Back Down

By now you've probably seen movie trailers for the soon-to-be-released movie, Don't Back Down. The movie is about two mothers who decide to start a charter school when the system isn't working for their kids and many other children in their neighborhood.

This is EXACTLY how hundreds of charter schools across the nation have begun: with an upset mother. I was one of those parents back in 1993 when I helped start Jefferson Academy. 

What tools do parents have when parents want to start a charter school? It's a very daunting challenge and not for the faint-hearted! 

First, visit startacoloradocharter.org to find out the resources available to founders and review the flow chart for the steps to starting a new charter school. The website explains when and where charter school applications are submitted to a potential authorizer. In Colorado, not all school districts have exclusive chartering authority, which means an applicant can also submit an application to the Colorado Charter School Institute.

Parents outside of Colorado can check out the Center for Education Reform's Parent Power Index. This website will explain how "charter friendly" states are. If a state isn't charter friendly, that means it's ripe for parents to get involved in the legislative process to make sure things change!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Difference Between Charter Schools and Union-Operated Schools?

What's the difference between public charter schools and district-operated neighborhood schools? One really big difference is at-will employment in charter schools.

There is a strike going on in Chicago where the teacher's union is leaving more than 400,000 students with no place to go. But the charter schools are open and educating students. Or in other words: putting students first.

At-will employment means that either the employer or the employee can walk away from the commitment with notice. However, most teacher's union collective bargaining agreements require tenure after as little as one year of employment, step and level increases in the salary scale regardless of the state of the economy and "the dance of the lemon" or moving bad teachers to different schools when they fail to perform their job and the Principal manages to at least move the bad teacher.

At-will employment in charter schools means the teacher must do his/her job well in order to continue working. Currently the job market favors charter schools, many of which report being able to be highly selective in who they choose to hire. Charter schools often invest heavily in professional development for their staff members as a part of their model to provide a high quality education.

Charter school teachers are the heart of a good charter school. Kudos to the teachers in Chicago Public Schools who remain on the job!

Update: Think disruption by the teacher's union couldn't happen here in Colorado? Read Ben DeGrow's post on watchdog.org.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Four Charter School Applications Submitted to Colorado Springs 11

The Colorado Springs 11 School District received a record number of new charter school applications this year. Four applicants have asked to open a charter school in the district's Thomas Jefferson Elementary building: Mountain Song, Adventures in Learning, James Irwin Charter Academy and Global Village Academy.

Both James Irwin and Global Village operate charter schools elsewhere in the state. James Irwin has three charters with the Harrison 2 School District offering a Core Knowledge/Direct Instruction model. Global Village has charters in Thornton and Aurora. Global Villages delivers a dual language model.

Colorado Springs 11 is using CSS's new CHART (CHarter school Application Review Tool), an online evaluation system utilizing the Standard Application and Review Rubric. The district has four individuals reviewing the entire application and another 7-14 individuals reviewing components of the application. CHART quantifies scores selected by evaluators and compiles a summary report for groups of evaluators.

According to state law, the district has 75 days to review the application and for the Board of Education to hold two public hearings and then rule by resolution.