Two new charter schools will open up this fall in Chicago, but neither will have a formal connection to CPS.
After CPS rejected Concept Charter School’s proposal to open two schools, the operator turned to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which was created two years ago to handle appeals when proposals are turned down. The commission last month approved Concept’s plan to open two kindergarten-through-12th grade schools.
District officials considered a legal challenge to the approval, but eventually decided against it, says CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. Still, it is not clear that the district will just accept the decision. The district "is engaged in ongoing discussions to determine next steps in response to their actions," she says. The deadline to file a challenge was last Friday.
Concept Schools already operates the Chicago Math and Science Academy, a Level 2 school in Rogers Park that opened in 2004.
The approval of the Concept proposal means a new reality is taking hold in CPS, one in which the district does not have total control over charter school decisions. Because the operator was approved through the state commission, the charters will receive their funding through the state. The state, in turn, will deduct the money from the district’s funding.
Concept Charter is seeking to get a building in the North Side neighborhood of Bowmanville--typically called Lincoln Square--rezoned to allow the school to locate there. A slew of residents showed up at a community meeting to speak against the zoning change.
The other Concept school is planned for McKinley Park, and has the support of the alderman.
At full capacity, the new Concept Schools will only enroll 1,450 students, a small number. But eventually, a number of Chicago students could end up attending charter schools that have no connection to CPS.
Charters approved through the commission receive a tuition rate of $9,120 per student, about $1,600 more than the per-pupil funding that CPS gives charters. Commission-approved charters also get state and federal funding for special education and low-income students directly, rather than through CPS.
Greg Richmond, executive director of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and a member of the commission, says charter operators think they will fare better financially by getting the funds directly, but it is unclear whether this is true. CPS subsidizes special education services at charter schools, making up the difference in what the services cost and what the state provides. CPS-approved charters also get stipends to help pay for facilities.
But Salim Ucan, executive director of Concept Schools, says that the additional per pupil funding given by the state end up significantly higher, especially when multiplied by more than 1,000 students. He says thinks it is more than enough to run the schools.
Yet he emphasizes that his charter school management company has a good relationship with CPS and that he considers the district as a partner.
Charter operators in Illinois have always had the power to appeal to the Illinois State Board of Education if a proposal is denied, says Richmond. Over the past decade, about a dozen made such appeals, but in only three cases—none of which were in Chicago—did the state board override a district.
In 2011, when lawmakers first considered the bill creating the commission, “the discussion was about how to reduce the politics involved in the process,” Richmond says. Because charter schools are a hot-button issue in education, politics and ideology often come into play whether it is a school district or the state board of education approving a charter.
All but five states that have charter schools have a non-district authorizer, Richmond says.
The commissioners include an Evanston science teacher; a retired Joliet superintendent; the founder of Target Area Development Corporation, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins; and Angela Rudolph, policy director of Democrats For Education Reform.
Richmond says the commissioners look mainly at the merits of a proposal and try not to get mired in other details. Members also look at the need in the community. Richmond says he and others were convinced the Concept Charter Schools are needed because of the low graduation rates of nearby high schools.
Questions of performance
Exactly why CPS denied the Concept Charter proposal is unclear. The charter school mistakenly uploaded an incomplete narrative with its application, and because the deadline had passed, CPS officials would not allow them to resubmit. Evaluators subtracted points based on the incomplete proposal.
Evaluators also said that Concept’s current campus, Chicago Math and Science Academy, is not among the highest-achieving schools in the district and is not out-performing other schools in its area network—two of the criteria for replicating a charter, according to the district’s Request For Quality Schools proposal form.
CPS officials also questioned whether the charter management company had enough money in its budget for teacher salaries. According to hearing documents, CPS officials were worried that the schools would not be able to compete for good teachers.
The average teacher salary in the district is $74,839, according to data on the CPS website. But at Concept, the most a teacher can earn is $50,000, Ucan says. However, he says the starting salary in Concept schools is not all that much different than in CPS.
Ucan says Concept Schools does not have problems finding quality teachers. The charter management company runs 27 schools for 10,500 students across the Midwest.
He also says conflict with the Bowmanville community stems from delays caused by CPS. Originally, the second Concept campus was to be located in Belmont-Cragin. Ucan says his staff reached out to the community and had strong support.
But CPS board members did not vote on proposals until February. By then, the lease on the original building in Belmont-Cragin had expired.
Recently, they were able to find a new location in Bowmanville.
Ucan is confident that once Concept Schools is able to do more community outreach, people will like what they hear. Concept Schools are focused on providing a strong math, science and engineering base. Students also do more project based learning than at traditional schools.
“All the design elements prepare students for college,” Ucan says.
By: Sarah Karp
Source: CatalystChicago, April 22, 2013
It’s hard to blame them. Per pupil spending on education has tripled since the 1960s and increased 138 percent since 1985, but test scores and academic achievements remain stagnant and unchanged.
Noticing this trend, taxpayers and parents have found other options—an alternative to the status quo. Americans are used to variety and choice and thought the education system should offer nothing less.
“In our society choice is something we’ve all been used to,” says Jeff Sands, senior manager of school development for Northeastern and Central California for the California Charter Schools Association. “Now you can find schools that fit your needs and styles.”
The charter school movement has grown to 4,600 schools serving more than 1.4 million students nationally.
Charter schools have been a welcomed change for taxpayers, parents, students and those states and local governments who have adopted them.
What makes charter school different than public schools?
For one, it gives parents more options of where to send their child. Also, charter schools have more freedom from the many regulations of public schools. Charter schools allow students and teachers more authority to make decisions. Instead of being accountable to rules and regulations like public schools are, charter schools are focused on the students and academic achievement and upholding their charter.
“Charter schools are much more flexible in their spending and methods,” Sands says. “They can go with longer days and weekends. You could have a school with a strong focus on languages or arts or agriculture. You can use methods and interactions where the main focus is not on the results, but the results happen anyways.”
If charter schools are such a welcomed change, then why are 10 states still opposed and fight against letting them in?
When parents do not have a choice of where to send their child to school, they can become stuck in a union-run, public school monopoly that has no incentive to better itself. The only group that benefits from this design is the teachers unions.
“About 95 percent of charter schools are non-union,” says Mike Antonucci, director of the Education Intelligence Agency (EIA). This causes a lot of opposition from teachers unions.
“Unions lose members,” says Antonucci, whenever a new charter schools opens. “Every teacher in a charter school means one less union member and unions want more money. This can put a dent in union’s bottom line.”
Sands agrees and adds, “Charter schools have lots of resistance from unions and school boards.
Despite the strong opposition from unions and school boards, many charters are doing very well and opening new schools each year.
Since California approved a charter school law in 1992, it has seen a steady increase of new charters opening. Sands says last year more than 100 new charter schools opened their doors to new students and teachers.
As new charter schools open around the country providing new opportunities for students and parents, teachers also benefit from school choice.
“As testing becomes so core to school districts, teachers end up having to all teach the same thing at the same time—the whole objective is good scores,” states Sands. “This puts undue pressure on educators and removes them from the decision-making, professionalism of teaching. It is becoming very scripted.”
Charter schools give teachers opportunities to think outside the box, try new learning techniques and cater to children’s individual needs and wants. It would seem that this kind of freedom would be a welcome change for an educator—especially at a time when states are forced to trim their budgets often cutting programs and pulling funds from school districts.
If a charter does not live up to expectation or meet its requirements, then like all businesses, the charter would cease to exist. “Offering the best products and customer interaction is at the core of any charter school,” Sands comments. “Many of them understand that they are a nonprofit and have to do smart business.”
Charter schools face more responsibility and accountability than the public counterparts, but they also offer much greater opportunity.
In a free-market, choice fuels competition and produces quality and distinctive products. A growing dissatisfaction with public schools does not mean all public schools are bad and that all parents and students are ready to up and leave for a charter school. It means there is a need for choice and competition.
“Charters are not intended to replace public schools, they apply pressure and competition,” Sands concludes. “The objective is not to privatize education but to compete to make all schools better.”
Arteicle from biggovernment.com
by Rebekah Rast
Many American families are fortunate to live in places where public schools provide engaging and effective instruction, and a culture of achievement that inspires students to aim high and thrive. Other families have the financial means to provide their children with a top-notch private school education. Unfortunately, too many Americans are left without either option, and their children are falling through the cracks. This cannot continue if America is going to maintain a leadership role and produce young adults who have the knowledge and skills to compete and win in the worldwide marketplace. Fortunately, in a growing number of communities, there is another option for parents and students: public charter schools.
Earlier this month, we celebrated the 12th Annual National Charter Schools Week, which provided an opportunity to take stock of how successful many charter schools have been and what we can do to replicate them across the country. Charter schools are public schools that receive public funding and serve the same neighborhood students as traditional public schools. Currently, close to 5,000 charter schools are serving more than 1.6 million children in our country. These schools are required to meet the student achievement accountability requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 in the same manner as traditional public schools. However, they differ from traditional public schools in several important ways.
Charter schools operate free from many district rules and regulations, so they have more freedom to innovate. Charter schools have autonomy in areas such as the length of the school day and year, as well as principal and teacher recruitment, selection and development. With this freedom comes greater accountability for improved student achievement. Unlike public schools, charter schools that aren’t successful can lose their charter and be forced to close.
There are countless examples of high-performing charter schools that are producing impressive results and they continue to show that our students, including our low-income and minority students, can and are rising to great academic heights. In my home state of Louisiana, there are 90 public charter schools, including 61 in the city of New Orleans, representing 70 percent of the city’s 40,000 students — a higher proportion than in any other school system in the United States.
The city’s Sci Academy is one remarkable example of a successful charter school. Sci Academy opened in 2008 with 90 ninth-graders entering a rigorous and inspiring environment. More than half of the ninth-graders who entered Sci Academy’s inaugural class had failed state promotional tests, and more than 70 percent read well below the ninth-grade level. Many of these students had missed a full year of school because of Hurricane Katrina and were significantly behind other students their age. Incredibly, that same freshman class later scored a 76 percent on our state test, making it the third most successful high school in New Orleans.
Here in the District of Columbia, charter schools are an integral part of improving education outcomes in the city. Starting with two small campuses in 1996, D.C. public charter schools now educate nearly 40 percent of school-age children in the District, and serve the highest percentage of low-income and minority students in the city’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. D.C.’s public charter schools outperform the city’s traditional public schools from the 5th grade up and graduate 84 percent of their students — higher than both the city and national average.
Where quality charter schools exist, parents have choices and they are overwhelmingly choosing public charter schools. At many of these schools, waiting lists are long. In fact, more than 50 percent of charter schools report having a waiting list, and the total number of students on all such lists is enough to fill more than 1,100 average-sized charter schools.
Over the past 17 years, Congress has provided $1.6 billion in funding to the promising charter-school movement through grants for planning, program design, initial implementation, replication, expansion, dissemination, evaluation and facilities. Our efforts at the national level are beginning to show real results. Maintaining — and increasing, where possible —funding for charter schools is a winning proposition for parents for students and for organizations.
Make no mistake, America will only go as far as our collective talent and ability take her. And our future will continue to be shaped by how well we prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges. Parents who are doing everything they can to give their children every opportunity for success deserve not only a quality choice but a solution to educating them. Successful charter schools provide that choice and that solution, and the time is now to make them a central component of our education strategy all across the country.
By Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) - 05/17/11
article from thehill.com
Since 2002, Our World Neighborhood Charter School (OWNCS) has been helping children grow, not only in the areas of education, but also in life as a whole.
“This charter school is one of the most diverse in all of New York City,” said director of development Mark Crusante. “Students get everything integrated with education.”
Located at 36-12 35th Avenue in Astoria, OWNCS was founded by a group of parents in Astoria who wanted a better school choice for their children. The kindergarten through eighth grade school currently serves about 700 students from four out of the five boroughs – most of whom Crusante said come from very diverse backgrounds.
“One of the arguments with charter schools is that they serve only the black and Latino population,” he said. “But when you come to Our World, there’s so much diversity; not everyone is the same color and that’s what makes this great.”
When asked what makes OWNCS different from other charter schools, Crusante said the school offers its students so much more than the average school.
“It’s still a priority to give students the best and have them learn the holistic approach – science, social studies, math, English, and other basics – but also art, Spanish, and physical education,” he said. “A lot of people forget those types of things when people are talking about education.” Crusante added that, in addition to the academics, the administration also has a great deal to do with the school’s success, saying that “parents all know we deeply care about the children here and everyone is committed to making sure children get a quality education.”
Under the direction of principal and executive director Brian Ferguson, OWNCS receives nearly 400 applications every year but only offers 75 seats, which are selected by a blind lottery. Applications are due April 1 and the blind lottery will take place April 7. Those whose applications are not chosen are placed on a waiting list.
For more information, visit owncs.org or contact Crusante at 718-392-3405, Ext. 206. –Alexa Mae Asperin
article from queenscourier.com
Parents in Cy-Fair and Katy have more options than ever when it comes to educating their children.
Something they seem to be considering is charter schools.
Harmony School of Excellence, 7340 Gessner, has a waiting list of 1,400 for kindergarten through eighth grade.
"Parents are looking for the best educational environment for their child," Principal Gurol Duman said. "They want their children to be challenged. Children are coming here to learn, not be baby-sat."
Harmony Schools, operated by the Houston-based nonprofit organization Cosmos Foundation, are college preparatory schools for kindergarten through 12th-graders. There are 33 campuses across the state serving more than 16,000 students.
Houston is home to 11 campuses, four of which opened last year, including the Harmony School of Advancement, 3171 N. Sam Houston Parkway West, located within the Cy-Fair Independent School District.
Harmony School of Excellence opened in 2006 with 300 students, and now it has 760.
A charter school has no attendance zoning. It's open enrollment and anyone can apply.
The school does not provide transportation; parents are responsible for student drop off and pick up.
Elizabeth Russell drives her three children to Harmony from their home in Memorial. It's a 20-mile trip one way, and her husband, James, is thankful she does it.
"I don't want my kids to become a statistic," James said. "I want them to create a statistic."
James Russell said he became concerned with the public school Elizabeth's son, Christopher Head, was zoned to attend after teachers questioned Christopher's reading material.
"They called us in for a conference to tell us they didn't approve of what he was reading," Russell said. "He was in sixth grade. I had him reading Stephen King. His books are great for expansive vocabulary and complicated plots. They had a problem with that; I felt they were holding him back."
James and Elizabeth have one daughter together, and the thought of their youngest child not being challenged in school drove them crazy.
They did their research, and now all three kids are happily ensconced at Harmony School of Excellence.
Kaylah Russell is in kindergarten, Kiani Head is in sixth grade and Christopher Head is in eighth grade.
That means Christopher will graduate to the next level this fall — high school.
Harmony School of Excellence has a feeding system for students to automatically move on to the Harmony School of Advancement, which serves students from ninth through 12th grade.
In order to graduate from high school, Harmony School of Advancement students must be accepted into a four-year university, have completed at least 100 hours of community service and accumulate the 26 credits that all high school students must.
"Our goal, ultimately, is a strong high school program," Duman said. "That's something that's a challenge for all states including Texas. Students don't want to come to school for several reasons, but our dropout rate is zero, and we want to keep this up."
Duman said Harmony seniors apply and have been accepted on scholarship to colleges and universities such as Columbia, Stanford, Rice, Duke and Texas A&M.
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