Smoky Mountains Sunrise
Showing posts with label Charter Schools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charter Schools. Show all posts

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

South Carolina Expands Charter School Options, Allows Single-Sex Charter Schools

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law Monday a bill expanding charter schools, calling it a big first step in improving education by expanding options for parents who don't want to send their children to traditional public schools.

The new law allows boys-only and girls-only charter schools and requires traditional schools to open their doors for students who want to do extracurricular activities not offered by their charter school. It also allows universities to sponsor their own schools.

State Education Superintendent Mick Zais called it his chief legislative priority.

"Charter schools are not a magic bullet, but they are a tremendous step in the way to providing a personalized and customized education for every student — not a standardized and uniform education for every student," Zais said at the ceremony at Greenville Technical Charter High School.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

South Carolina’s K-12 Online Programs Provide Viable Education Alternatives for the Future

By Estelle Shumann

For parents looking for alternatives to America’s public schooling system, the future has finally arrived in the form of public magnet and charter schools as well as innovations in online education. Online schooling, K-12 education in particular, holds out real possibilities for educational choices that are responsive to individual needs and schedules, can offer high quality education, flexible study plans, and student success. South Carolina students and parents have numerous programs to choose from, all of which are tuition free to residents through the State’s Charter School Program.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Furor in N.J. Over Charter School Space

The idea proffered by teacher union bosses that charter schools, sharing space with conventional public schools, would "set up the opportunity for "the haves and the have-nots" because some charter schools raise money from private donors" is outrageous and dishonest.

In New Jersey, public charter schools receive 90% of the per-student funding received by the conventional, district-run public schools.  The school districts also have established foundations and raise enormous amounts of money from corporate donors, private foundations and individuals, and unlike the public charter schools, their facilities are funded by state taxpayers.

The union bosses do, indeed, fear a contrast between "the haves and have-nots," but it is not the contrast they suggest.  It is instead the contrast between dedicated teachers who have made a sacrifice to work as professionals teaching in charter schools, and those teachers who work to the letter of the contract as a union member.  The labor union mentality is at the heart of public school failure.  It strips teachers of professionalism and turns them into laborers, and it punishes those who go the extra mile and show initiative and dedication.

There are public school teachers in New Jersey who secretly offer their students extra-help off-site; because were they to stay after school and work hours not specified in the contract, they would become the subject of union harassment.

The students of New Jersey should be thankful they finally have a governor who is standing up for them and against the self-serving union mob.

By Barbara Martinez

The union representing Newark's teachers is rallying its members to what is expected to be a raucous meeting Tuesday night over whether charter schools should share space with traditional public schools.

"Say No to peaceful co-existence in the same school building!" said an e-mail that went out to all 4,800 teachers of the Newark Teachers Union asking them to appear at the regular meeting of the Advisory School Board.

The space battle is the first frontier of a system-wide restructuring effort spurred by a $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Over the past month, the school system, which is under the control of the Christie administration, began raising the possibility that charter schools could take over space in under-used public school buildings. Almost immediately, the teachers' union and others objected.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

School Reforms on the Brink

The empire strikes back in Milwaukee and NYC.

From The Wall Street Journal

The education establishment and its political allies employ multiple methods to keep kids trapped in rotten schools. One tactic is to use control of school boards to prevent or limit the creation of charter schools. Another is to smother existing voucher programs with rules and red tape. Real world examples are currently playing out in Milwaukee and New York City.

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program provides vouchers for some 20,000 low-income, mostly minority children to attend private schools. Because the 20-year-old program polls above 60% with voters, and even higher among minorities, killing it outright would be unpopular. Instead, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle wants to reduce funding and pass "reforms" designed to regulate the program to death. The goal is to discourage private schools from enrolling voucher students and thus force kids to return to unionized public schools.

To that end, Democrats in the state legislature voted last week to cut per-pupil payments to private schools by $165 while increasing public school spending by $400 per student. Taxpayer support for students in the program is only $6,607 per student to begin with, which is less that half of the $13,468 for students in Milwaukee public schools.

Those funding cuts would be accompanied by mandates of dubious academic benefit. One regulation would require schools that have already been accredited to meet additional accreditation requirements. Another would force schools to offer expensive bilingual programs that suck up scarce resources and are spurned by most immigrant parents who want their children taught in English.

The irony is that satisfaction and enrollment at Milwaukee public schools has steadily declined despite these very policies that choice opponents want to impose on successful private schools. A recent evaluation of the Milwaukee choice program found that its high school graduation rate was 85%, compared to 58% for students in the city's public schools. Between 1994 and 2008, the voucher program saved taxpayers more than $180 million. Yet opponents insist these schools need additional regulations to make them more like the public schools that cost more and produce inferior results.

Meanwhile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in a battle royal with the teachers union and state politicians who want to strip him of mayoral control of the schools. Since 2002, the Mayor has been able to hire and fire the schools chancellor and appoint a majority on the city's Board of Education.

Academic results argue strongly for continuing the policy, which expires June 30 unless state lawmakers renew it. According to the latest test scores, 82% of children in grades three through eight scored at or above grade level on this year's standardized tests, up from 74% last year and 57% three years ago. Mayoral control has also eased the expansion of charter schools, many of which are performing better than the district schools. In Harlem, where 19 of the 23 elementary and intermediate public schools are failing, all of the third graders at the Harlem Success Academy passed the most recent state math exam and 95% passed the English exam.

Before 2002 New York had fewer than 20 charter schools because the United Federation of Teachers, the dominant local union, blocked their growth. Thanks to mayoral control, there will be more than 100 charter schools in New York next year, which is one reason that the teachers union doesn't want the policy to continue. The great moral outrage of our time is the way the public schools establishment puts its interests ahead of children, trying to kill every school choice program whatever its success. Genuine reformers should be shouting from the rooftops.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Democrats and Poor Kids

From Review and Outlook
The Wall Street Journal

Sitting on evidence of voucher success, and the battle of New York.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan did a public service last week when he visited New York City and spoke up for charter schools and mayoral control of education. That was the reformer talking. The status quo Mr. Duncan was on display last month when he let Congress kill a District of Columbia voucher program even as he was sitting on evidence of its success.

In New York City with its 1.1 million students, mayoral control has resulted in better test scores and graduation rates, while expanding charter schools, which means more and better education choices for low-income families. But mayoral control expires in June unless state lawmakers renew it, and the United Federation of Teachers is working with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to weaken or kill it.

President Obama's stimulus is sending some $100 billion to the nation's school districts. What will he demand in return? The state budget passed by the New York legislature last week freezes funding for charters but increases it by more that $400 million for other public schools. Perhaps a visit to a charter school in Harlem would help Mr. Obama honor his reform pledge. "I'm looking at the data here in front of me," Mr. Duncan told the New York Post. "Graduation rates are up. Test scores are up. Teacher salaries are up. Social promotion was eliminated. Dramatically increasing parental choice. That's real progress."

Mr. Duncan's help in New York is in stark contrast to his department's decision to sit on a performance review of the D.C. voucher program while Congress debated its future in March. The latest annual evaluation was finally released Friday, and it shows measurable academic gains. The Opportunity Scholarship Program provides $7,500 vouchers to 1,700 low-income families in D.C. to send their children to private schools. Ninety-nine percent of the children are black or Hispanic, and there are more than four applicants for each scholarship.

The 2008 report demonstrated progress among certain subgroups of children but not everyone. This year's report shows statistically significant academic gains for the entire voucher-receiving population. Children attending private schools with the aid of the scholarships are reading nearly a half-grade ahead of their peers who did not receive vouchers. Voucher recipients are doing no better in math but they're doing no worse. Which means that no voucher participant is in worse academic shape than before, and many students are much better off.

"There are transition difficulties, a culture shock upon entering a school where you're expected to pay attention, learn, do homework," says Jay Greene, an education scholar at the Manhattan Institute. "But these results fit a pattern that we've seen in other evaluations of vouchers. Benefits compound over time."

It's bad enough that Democrats are killing a program that parents love and is closing the achievement gap between poor minorities and whites. But as scandalous is that the Education Department almost certainly knew the results of this evaluation for months.

Voucher recipients were tested last spring. The scores were analyzed in the late summer and early fall, and in November preliminary results were presented to a team of advisers who work with the Education Department to produce the annual evaluation. Since Education officials are intimately involved in this process, they had to know what was in this evaluation even as Democrats passed (and Mr. Obama signed) language that ends the program after next year.

Opponents of school choice for poor children have long claimed they'd support vouchers if there was evidence that they work. While running for President last year, Mr. Obama told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that if he saw more proof that they were successful, he would "not allow my predisposition to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn . . . You do what works for the kids." Except, apparently, when what works is opposed by unions.

Mr. Duncan's office spurned our repeated calls and emails asking what and when he and his aides knew about these results. We do know the Administration prohibited anyone involved with the evaluation from discussing it publicly. You'd think we were talking about nuclear secrets, not about a taxpayer-funded pilot program. A reasonable conclusion is that Mr. Duncan's department didn't want proof of voucher success to interfere with Senator Dick Durbin's campaign to kill vouchers at the behest of the teachers unions.

The decision to let 1,700 poor kids get tossed from private schools is a moral disgrace. It also exposes the ugly politics that lies beneath union and liberal efforts across the country to undermine mayoral control, charter schools, vouchers or any reform that threatens their monopoly over public education dollars and jobs. The Sheldon Silver-Dick Durbin Democrats aren't worried that school choice doesn't work. They're worried that it does, and if Messrs. Obama and Duncan want to succeed as reformers they need to say so consistently.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Charter Schools Can Close the Education Gap

From The Wall Street Journal
By Joel I. Klein and Al Sharpton

It is not acceptable for minority students to be four grade levels behind.

Dear President-elect Barack Obama,

In the afterglow of your election, Americans today run the risk of forgetting that the nation still faces one last great civil-rights battle: closing the insidious achievement gap between minority and white students. Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer in America. Yet today the average 12th-grade black or Hispanic student has the reading, writing and math skills of an eighth-grade white student.

That appalling four-year gap is even worse in high-poverty high schools, which often are dropout factories. In Detroit, just 34% of black males manage to graduate. In the nation's capital -- home to one of the worst public-school systems in America -- only 9% of ninth-grade students go on to graduate and finish college within five years. Can this really be the shameful civil-rights legacy that we bequeath to poor black and Hispanic children in today's global economy?

This achievement gap cannot be narrowed by a series of half-steps from the usual suspects. As you observed when naming Chicago superintendent Arne Duncan to be the next secretary of education, "We have talked our education problems to death in Washington." Genuine school reform, you stated during the campaign, "will require leaders in Washington who are willing to learn from students and teachers...about what actually works."

We, too, believe that true education reform can only be brought about by a bipartisan coalition that challenges the entrenched education establishment. And we second your belief that school reformers must demonstrate an unflagging commitment to "what works" to dramatically boost academic achievement -- rather than clinging to reforms that we "wish would work."

Those beliefs led us to form a nonpartisan coalition last year, the Education Equality Project (EEP), which seeks to greatly narrow, if not eliminate, the achievement gap. Mr. Duncan has signed on to the EEP, as have most of the nation's leading big-city school superintendents, such as Paul Vallas in New Orleans, Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C., and Colorado's new U.S. senator, former Denver superintendent Michael Bennet. Mayors Richard M. Daley in Chicago, Michael Bloomberg in New York City, Adrian Fenty in Washington, D.C., and Cory Booker in Newark, N.J., are on board, too. Several prominent Republicans, including John McCain and Newt Gingrich, have joined our coalition as well.

EEP seeks to ensure that America's schools provide equal educational opportunity, judged by one measuring stick: Does a policy advance student learning? It's an obvious litmus test. Yet the current K-12 school system is designed to serve the interests of adults, not children.

EEP's mission thus turns out to be unexpectedly radical -- and we have run afoul at times of longtime Democratic allies. While we recognize that the No Child Left Behind law has numerous flaws that need correcting, we staunchly support NCLB's core concept that schools should be held accountable for boosting student performance. Dismissing the potential of schools to substantially boost minority achievement, as is now fashionable in some Democratic circles, is ultimately little more than a recipe for defeatism. Like you, we also support expanding parental choice. High-performing urban charter schools such as the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools are showing that minority students can close the achievement gap if given access to high-quality instruction.

Finally, our coalition also promotes the development and placement of effective teachers in underserved schools and supports paying them higher salaries. By contrast, we oppose rigid union-tenure protections, burdensome work rules, and antiquated pay structures that shield a small minority of incompetent teachers from scrutiny yet stop good teachers from earning substantial, performance-based pay raises.

What can you and your administration do to close the achievement gap? Although the funding and oversight of public schools is chiefly a state and local responsibility, you still retain the power of the bully pulpit. Beyond expanding federal support for charter schools, as you have proposed, we would urge you to press forward with two other, far-reaching policy reforms.

First, the federal government, working with the governors, should develop national standards and assessments for student achievement. Our current state-by-state approach has spawned a race to the bottom, with many states dumbing down standards to make it easier for students to pass achievement tests. Even when students manage to graduate from today's inner-city high schools, they all too frequently are still wholly unprepared for college or gainful employment.

Second, the federal government should take most of the more than $30 billion it now spends on K-12 education and reposition the funding to support the recruitment and retention of the best teachers in underserved urban schools. High-poverty urban schools have many teachers who make heroic efforts to educate their students. But there is no reward for excellence in inner-city schools when an outstanding science teacher earns the same salary as a mediocre phys-ed instructor.

Study after study shows that good teachers have, by far, the highest impact on student learning. "The single most important factor in determining [student] achievement is not the color of [a student's] skin or where they come from," you stated on the campaign trail. "It's not who their parents are or how much money they have -- it's who their teacher is." We couldn't agree more. To close the achievement gap, start with a three-word solution: Teachers, teachers, teachers. The fierce urgency of now cannot be allowed to dissipate into the sleepy status quo of tomorrow.

Mr. Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, and Rev. Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, are co-chairmen of the Education Equality Project.