There certainly is much debate about public charter schools today. No, this isn’t anything new….but it is time to address the critiques of many who do not have a solid understanding of exactly what public charter schools are.
Some have claimed that Senator Alberta Darling’s public charter school legislation is a threat to public education. How can this be? Charter schools ARE public schools. In exchange for more freedom to experiment and innovate, public charter schools are held to unprecedented levels of accountability. If they don’t meet the terms outlined in their contract – or charter – they can be closed.
Right now, in all parts of Wisconsin except the Milwaukee area and one independent charter school in Racine, only school districts can give permission for parents, teachers, or non-profits to open a public charter school. Seems reasonable, right? School districts should want to innovate, especially around specific problems they face.
Here’s the problem: school districts have strong incentives to block really good public charter school ideas. Embracing such ideas, especially those that look radically different than the district’s traditional schools, forces the district to admit that their current schools are falling short in some way. Your average Wisconsin school board president or superintendent simply isn’t going to do that. Bureaucracies are created to regulate, not to innovate.
So what becomes of these good ideas? Districts reject them altogether, or water them down to make the public charter schools, mainly Instrumentality Charter Schools, look more like traditional schools. In both cases, the purpose of innovation is lost.
Take the case of the Madison Prep charter school proposal that went before the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education in 2011. The proposal was for an all-boys middle and high school specifically designed to meet the needs of African American and Latino boys, two groups who are failing miserably in Madison’s traditional schools. Madison Prep would look nothing like Madison’s traditional public schools: boys in blazers and ties every day, a rigorous college prep curriculum for all, and an extended school day and year. Despite overwhelming community support for the school, the school board rejected it.
Senator Alberta Darling’s Senate Substitute Amendment to Senate Bill 76 would let UW system schools, technical colleges, and CESAs sanction the creation of new public charter schools, NOT OPERATE THOSE CHARTER SCHOOLS. Unlike districts, these entities have every reason to embrace innovative public charter schools. UWs and technical colleges deal directly with the shortcomings of our K-12 system when students get to their institutions unprepared to write, read, and compute. CESAs, while deeply engrained in Wisconsin’s K-12 system, are removed from the local politics that tie up public charter schools. In this way, they are perhaps the best poised to vet quality public charter school proposals.
Parents need be empowered in the process of choosing the educational option that will best serve their child/ren. Last year across the United States there were close to one million students on a waiting list to attend an independent public charter school. Empowering parents with another quality public school option is an important way of improving the
broader public school system.
And at the risk of sounding a bit repetitive, I’d like to review four key points that cover the importance of public charter schools.
Charter Schools are Public Schools
Charter schools are independent and autonomous public schools that are allowed to be more innovative and are held accountable for improved student achievement. Charter schools are part of a range of solutions that will enable every child in WI to have access to a great education.
Charter schools are public schools and they keep public money within the public school system. If a traditional public school is not working for a child, then parents should be able to choose another public school option, including a public charter school.
All Parents Need to be Empowered
There are close to one million students on waiting lists to attend a public charter school in the United States. Empowering parents with another public school option is an important way of improving the broader public school system.
Charter Schools Stand for Accountability
Public charter schools introduce an unprecedented level of accountability in our system of public education. If a public charter school is not performing as outlined in their performance contract “charter” with their authorizer they can be closed.
Charter Schools Promote Achievement
Studies continue to show public charter school students make greater academic progress than students in traditional public schools.
But the bottom line is this – we must stop quibbling about what kind of public schools we need – traditional or charter. The reality is that to meet the needs of all kids across Wisconsin, we’ll need high quality schools, traditional and charter schools.
WCSA Executive Director Carrie Bonk recently returned from Washington D.C. after attending the 2013 National Charter Schools Conference. Below are her thoughts and take-aways from the event.
DELIVERING ON THE DREAM….was this year's theme of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools National Conference. Wisconsin had great representation of charter school supporters in attendance with over 70 individuals attending from our state! Here are ways we as a chartered school movement are AND need to continue delivering on the dream
as per Nina Rees, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) AND Howard Fuller, Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University, in their State of the Movement
NINA REES STATED:
* Our movement now has roughly 6000 public charter schools nationwide educating over 2 million children
* 42 states and the District of Columbia have charter school laws and as a movement we cannot be satisfied to stop there
* States with weak laws need to strengthen their laws to support the movement and the innovation and autonomy of charter schools
* We just released our annual wait list report which listed that approximately 1,000,000 students were on wait lists for charter schools across the nation for the 2012-13 school
* The NAPCS Advocates on behalf of the chartered school movement in three legislative
priority areas: Quality, Innovation and Equity
**The new CREDO Report 2013, indicates the progress charter schools have made since its last full report in 2009. This new report shows how charter schools are outperforming their traditional school counterparts in their communities and closing the achievement gap.
**Charter High Schools make up 5% of the market of public high schools while they consistently perform and are recognized as being in the top 25% of public high schools in the US.
**We need to self police ourselves in the movement and close bad schools while working closely with other support organizations like the National Association of Charter School
Authorizers and our State Charter Support Organizations.
**Charter schools are to be labs and centers of innovation.
**We need our elected officials to protect our innovation
**We as a movement need to embrace the common core
**We need to work on providing better information for parents to make decisions
**We serve more low income and special education students than our traditional counterparts.
**Equitable funding must follow if we want to scale our high performing and successful public
HOWARD FULLER STATED...
* "WE HAVE SO MUCH MORE WORK TO BE DONE."
* "NO CHANGE TAKES PLACE WITHOUT A STRUGGLE."
* "WE MUST FIGHT."
* "AS A MOVEMENT WE HAVE TO FIGHT OUR OPPONENTS AND BE SELF-CRITICAL."
* "WE NEED TO QUIT HAVING THE CONVERSATION ABOUT DIVERSITY AND DO
* "WE MUST NEVER LOSE THE SOUL OF THIS MOVEMENT!"
Our mission at WCSA is leading the way and completely in sync with where our national movement is headed to DELIVER ON THE DREAM as we work to improve student achievement in Wisconsin by supporting excellence in Public Charter Schools
The creation and ongoing support of autonomous, accountable and innovative public charter
schools, and advocacy on behalf of public charter schools.
Late last week the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released their Annual Report on Charter School Waitlist. The press release is below.
Wisconsin’s waitlist numbers are no different than the national average. So this fall when the Legislature who has promised to move forward with a Bill housing the provisions from the Governor’s Budget Bill (Assembly Bill 40) which were pulled from the Joint Committee on
Finance at the last hour; it is up to ALL OF THE CHARTER SCHOOL STAKEHOLDERS to
come forward in support of this new Bill. As the press release states, parents have the opportunity to vote with their feet by choosing a public school option of a public charter school. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD IF YOU WANT YOUR CHILD TO ATTEND A PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL AND THEY ARE ON A WAITING LIST, OR IF A PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL IS NOT YET AVAILABLE IN YOUR COMMUNITY!!!!
It is up to each and every ONE of the SUPPORTERS of this movement to STEP UP and MAKE YOUR VOICES KNOWN. Do not rely on the few of us who advocate on your behalf,
JOIN US THIS FALL!!
Your partner in advancing a strong public educational system in Wisconsin,
CarrieThursday, June 27, 2013National Charter School Waitlist Numbers Approach One Million Washington, D.C.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) today released the results of a new survey estimating that public charter school waitlists across the nation approached one million names during the 2012-13 school year, up from 610,000 in 2011-12
. The increased demand to attend a charter school now brings the waitlist figures to an estimated 920,007
“With public charter school waitlists approaching one million names, it’s heartbreaking for too many families hoping to send their child to a high-quality public charter school,” said Nina Rees, NAPCS president and CEO. “Although the number of public charter schools is increasing rapidly – this year an additional 275,000 students enrolled in charter schools – this survey demonstrates that parental demand continues to outpace what is an already
The survey also found that more than two-thirds of public charter schools – 67 percent – across the nation reported having children on their waitlist, with an average waiting list of 214 students. And, the survey found that more mature charter schools had longer waiting lists. Schools open for six or more years have an average waiting list of 238 students, while younger charter schools averaged 178 students. A record 29 charter schools reported waitlists of 2,000 students or more for the 2012-13 school year.
Each school year, families who are faced with traditional public schools unable to meet their needs seek better options for their children by applying to public charter schools. Particularly in urban communities that have few, if any, high-quality public school options, the demand for charters can be significantly higher than there are seats available. As a result, families often apply to multiple charter schools hoping to increase their odds.
This year’s survey also includes an estimated calculation of the number of individual students on waitlists. This estimate shows that at a minimum, more than 520,000 total individual students – many of whom are on multiple charter school waitlists in the hopes of increasing the chance of getting into at least one – are on waitlists across the country.
“Even the most conservative estimate shows that parents of more than a half million students are attempting to vote with their feet to choose a public charter school that better meets their child’s needs,” added Rees. “With such demand, it is up to our elected officials to remove the facilities and funding barriers that exist to ensure that every child has the option to attend a high-quality public charter school.”
Conducted since the 2009-10 school year, the NAPCS survey defines a waiting list as the
number of applications minus the number of available seats. This survey is based on charter school waitlist data compiled from multiple data sources, including several state departments of education and state charter schools associations. About the National Alliance
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit our website at www.publiccharters.org
We recently celebrated National Charter Schools Week. Governor Walker proclaimed the week of May 6th as Wisconsin Charter Schools Week so that all who devote themselves to this work could be recognized for their outstanding efforts across our state, be it Charter School principals, teachers, school support staff, charter school parents, governing board members, community supporters, financial supporters and stakeholders.
On Thursday, May 9th 2013, we had the great pleasure of listening to the former State Senator from Minnesota who pioneered the first charter school law in the country speak at our Advocacy Day Event, Ember Reinchott Junge. She shared the story with our attendees of the origin of the charter school movement. Intrigued? Check out the recap on our website
. What an inspiration she was to us all! We are on the brink of making history in Wisconsin for our charter schools. Thank you to all who attended our event. The legislative meetings were critical. Your voices were heard. We have no time to waste, the time is now to overhaul our law!
National Charter Schools Week is a great opportunity for those of us who work with charter schools to reflect upon the previous year, assess the present and plan for the future. It is a time to connect with those in the movement in our state and around the country or make plans to do so like for instance to attend the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools National Conference in early July. Please consider joining me at this conference in
Advocating is about coming together to support your cause or idea. At WCSA, we advocate together as a membership organization for the Charter School Movement in Wisconsin and on behalf of the charter school movement nationally.
In addition, as we advocate for charter schools we also educate about the charter school movement. One question we continue to get asked is how is a Charter School different from a school voucher? There is much discussion and resulting confusion over the difference between public charter schools and school vouchers. These are, in fact, very different from each other. A school voucher gives a student some of the tax money the district would have
spent to educate that student, and allows the student to use the money to pay for tuition at a private or religious school.Charter schools are always public schools
. Always. They never charge tuition, and are NOT private schools. Charter schools bring innovation to Wisconsin public schools and work to revitalize public education in our state. Public charter schools are NOT associated with private schools or school vouchers in any way.
The WCSA focuses its efforts fully on public charter schools, and advocates on behalf of public charter schools.
Thanks again to all who advocated on behalf of the chartered school movement!
Next week is National Charter Schools Week!
Our movement is now 43 states strong. We welcome the states of Washington and Maine this past year to our family. Yes, we are a close community and so we should be as we work to innovate and elevate the quality of the public education system for our children across these United States. This movement should not be about just what is happening within each of our state boundaries but rather the opportunity to share best practices and what is working to increase the quality of the student achievement portfolio nationwide. Charter school quality really encompasses five key pillars: student achievement, governance, leadership, operations and finance. While at the foundation of each of these pillars lies the mission and school culture of that chartered school.
Now, in order for chartered schools to be most successful, we know they need the flexibility to innovate not just with a mission responsive curriculum and pedagogy but with flexibility in structure and operations too, for example, extending the school day. The autonomy and accountability parameters are a delicate balance but critical to the success of that chartered school. Chartered schools are held accountable for their performance via their “charter”, the contract they hold with their authorizer. Please review the National Association of Charter School Authorizers Policy below:
Given the large number and variety of charter school authorizers, industry standards for authorizing can help to steer all authorizers toward stronger practices. There are currently 957 authorizers responsible for monitoring approximately 5,600 charter schools nationwide. Authorizer experience and practice vary widely, yet can significantly impact both the autonomy and accountability of each charter school. It is important that authorizers promote a charter sector that appropriately balances rigor with autonomy, and represent the interests of all parties, in particular, students and tax payers. Rigorous and consistently applied authorizer standards can help ensure that authorizers do their jobs well.
We are proud to partner with NACSA and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools at WCSA as we move forward in our advocacy efforts to overhaul our charter school law and work to promote an environment within our chartered school movement in Wisconsin and ultimately the national chartered school movement that balances the rigor with autonomy, and represents the interests of ALL parties. We fully understand that when authorizers do their jobs well, charter schools succeed and when charter schools succeed, CHILDREN SUCCEED!!
Please join WCSA in Madison next Thursday for our Advocacy Day Event. You will not want to miss former State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge’s Keynote Speech as she shares with us her journey to get the first charter school law passed in the country. Also, Todd Ziebarth from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools will give us an overview of the Model Law and why Wisconsin ranks 37thout of 43 states on its rankings. Don’t miss it!
Your partner in the charter school movement,
It has been nearly two months since the Governor’s Budget Bill 40 proposal was announced. There is ongoing debate about the proposed legislation impacting public charter schools. This is to be expected since most opposition to charter schools stems from a general lack of understanding of what charter schools are and how they should operate. Charter schools also face resistance from parties loyal to the traditional district school establishment. Wisconsin serves as an anomaly with their instrumentality charter contractual opportunity. In most of the 42 other chartering states, charter schools only operate outside of the control of a traditional school district.
Charter schools are mission driven schools that work to create a culture, many of which incorporate a character education component. They need the freedom from bureaucracies and other constraints that might be a barrier to hiring the staff that will be in partnership to drive the decisions to structure the school day and curriculum in innovative ways to enhance student achievement.
Charter schools are supposed to operate independent of school districts. The school district boards are only supposed to serve as the Authorizers. Authorizers are tasked to do the following according to the guiding principles developed by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers:
1. Oversee charter schools that, over time, meet the performance standards and targets on a range of measures and metrics set forth in their charter contracts
2. Honors and preserve core autonomies crucial to school success, including:
- Governing board independence from the Authorizer
- School vision and culture
- Instructional programming, design, and use of time
3. Protect student and public interests
Across the country, charter schools are most likely found in communities underserved by the traditional public schools. They bring to those communities innovative ways of tackling the achievement gaps and challenges. In order for charter schools to be successful it requires a great deal of autonomy. This autonomy includes but is not limited to the flexibility to extend the school day, make staffing decisions, test a new curriculum, increase instructional time for a given discipline or create a mission driven culture in the school. In exchange for this autonomy, charter schools are expected, as outlined in their performance contracts, to produce high academic outcomes.
The Madison School Board’s recent move to finalize revisions to its charter school policy of only allowing Instrumentality Charter School contracts in their district drastically limits the charter school sectors ability to innovate and improve the public education system in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) as the charter school law currently is written. This is at a time when the MMSD should be looking to new and innovative ways to improve the achievement gap and challenges within their district. Also the policy would require the charter school proposals have an “underlying, research-based theory and history of successful practice.”
This policy directive contradicts the charter school model. According to former State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge, who authored Minnesota’s 1991 first-in-nation charter school law, in her book Zero Chance of Passage, wrote, “for me, the breakthrough innovation in chartering was always about the law itself--the restricting of the dynamics of the public education system. It was less about the schools themselves. I expected some chartered schools would do very well while others would not succeed. The purpose of the chartering legislation was to give freedom to parents and teachers to create new schools outside the existing system. These schools would offer new opportunities for students. Chartering would become the “Research and Development” sector of public education. These schools would be held accountable through performance-based outcomes in a contract overseen by a fundamental issue that brought chartering to where it is today-the opportunity for innovation. Chartering Advocates cannot forget why we are here: to improve delivery of public education by allowing “The freedom to be better.”
The charter school legislation proposed in the Governor’s Budget Bill overhauls our 20 year old ineffective charter school law. It will allow for the autonomy necessary for charter school operators to innovate and operate as their counterparts across the country and most importantly, to bring forth new and quality public education options for families in Wisconsin.
Let’s not become protectors of our failing status quo!
WCSA Executive Director
Greetings, Charter School Community!
2013 is off to a quick start already - I've been in my role as Executive Director for the WCSA for just a few months now, and even within a few short weeks of the new year things are getting more and more exciting.
Coming up super soon we have the National School Choice Week Whistlestop event - this will take place January 30th at the Grainery in Milwaukee. A big event that will attract much attention, it will include the Governor, the Mayor of Milwaukee, and many other dignitaries. I am proud to announce that the WCSA is a partner in the event. Go to our homepage to get more of the details.
At the end of 2012, we started mapping out our plan for the coming year. We used input from our survey last fall, which included member input that discussed our accomplishments over the past year as well as identified areas of need, to establish priorities and goals for 2013.
Based on input from our Members and the WCSA Board, we are now working on the following priorities for the next 6 months to 1 year:
1. Member only services - we will look to introduce more services that are available only to members. This will include a password-protected members-only area with resources that area of value to our membership base. More on this in coming months.
2. Increase the number of funders - we are looking to find donors and funders who will contribute to some of the key efforts we have in our plans, like the quality school framework initiative.
3. Increase base of members - we are looking to increase our membership base, and are well on our way to accomplishing this goal.
4. Ensure that the WCSA is differentiated from other groups, and communicates how it works closely with other educational groups around the state - we are in partnership with the DPI and WISN, and together these groups will do more outbound communicaiton explaining how we fill different roles, but are complimentary in nature. Together, the sum is greater than the individual parts.
5. Obtain legislative victories - we all know there are plenty of things we need to support quality education and charter schools in our state. We will be working hard on the advocacy side to gain a victory (or more) for charter schools and those who educate in them.
6. Focus on quality - the only way we can help the children in our state is to offer a quality eduction in all schools. We are looking to launch a quality initiative in coming months, and our priority is to ensure a strong public school education is available to the greatest number of Wisconsin students possible.
7. Events (such as Advocacy Day, Charter Schools Week and the Innovation Conference) - we know that our members want great quality events that accomplish a wide number of purposes. We heard loud and clear that you want opportunities to network and gain professional development so we look forward to bringing you the Leadership Institute Series. We also have Advocacy Day and Charter Schools Week coming up this spring, and the WCSA is proud to be a part of the Innovation Conference in Appleton. We will continue to determine the ways WCSA can offer or be a part of events that are important and valuable for our members.
It’s that time of year again.
It is time to gear up for the 2013-14 enrollment season. The open enrollment time period has been extended this year in Wisconsin - it begins February 4th, and lasts through April 30th. Some clarity around open enrollment: Open enrollment is to a district, not to a specific school. Your Charter Schools enrollment period may be for any length of time, but you are obligated to publicize your charter schools enrollment period for parents and the community.
One of the things I aim to do in 2013 is meet with as many of our member schools and discuss in detail our overall goals and our legislative priorities. Please make a point to meet me at an upcoming event, or drop me an email or give me a call. I truly want to talk to as many of you as possible.
All the best,
This overview was provided by Carla Koepp, Founder and Administrator of Lake Country Academy (a public Charter School in Sheboygan, WI). Celebrating 20 Years: A Short History of the National Charter Schools Conference and Charter Schools
20 years ago in St. Paul, Minnesota, the first charter school was founded. Specially designed for students who were not being served well by their schools in St. Paul, City Academy paved the way for the rest of the public charter school movement.
Now, more than 5,000 schools later, the National Charter Schools Conference returned to the Twin Cities to celebrate the birth of charter schooling. The 2012 theme, “20 Years of Innovation: Proving the Possibilities” encompasses both the creativity and driving forces that have brought us to this moment, but also acknowledges that public charter schools have reached a point where we can imagine 20 years into the future.
As a community, we have proven that a longer school day can increase student performance and we have proven that engaging parents is an important part of a student's success in the classroom. But our work is not done—there are still things that we need to prove: that given freedom, teachers and school leaders can produce high-quality schools with accountability, that we can break down the achievement gap entirely and that charter schools need to remain part of the education solution.
Lake Country Academy joined the celebration June 19-22 in Minneapolis to celebrate the 20th year for Charter Schools. Twelve staff carpooled to the big event. We spent three days sharing our experiences as a charter school leader and learning from those that have accomplished the most. The school and its leadership have graciously agreed to share their learnings in this downloadable link.