Sunday, June 28, 2009
The first is about the new timelines and standards that new applicants must meet. Parts of this are worrisome if Amy Stewart, the author, is correct about the legislature's intent. She makes it sound as if the legislature is bound to limit or cap charter growth. I know there are some lawmakers who feel that way, but I still believe the majority are on the sdie of increasing choice for parents and innovation in schools. (That's borne out by the way the bill was amended.) I particularly like the notes in the latter half of the article about the necessity of fixing the funding forumula so that all public school students are funded equally and fairly. Way to go UAPCS Director Steve Winitzki.
The second and related article is about the seven applicants vying for approval to open in 2011. (Full disclosure--I am a principal author of one of the applicant's charter, Aspire Online Charter School.) It's a diverse group of schools, including one that is "affiliated with" a Christian church in Davis County.
The final article today is about Ogden Preparatory Academy's recognition as Charter School of the Year. I've written about that previously.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Nebo is asking residents to approve a $160 million bond to build and maintain schools. The Nebo district has one of the highest percentages in the state of district students who attend charter schools. The state's largest charter, American Leadership Academy, alone removes about 1500 students from Nebo schools. C.S. Lewis, Reagan, and other charters remove thousands more. What if those schools didn't exist, and those students were attending district schools? How much bigger would that new bond request be? How big would class sizes be?
In the new and smaller Jordan district, thousands of kids attend charters. Two new charters, Hawthorne and Early Light, will begin operating this fall as the new district opens its doors. New Jordan has lower tax revenues than old Jordan. The new and existing charter schools ease the burden on an already financially strapped district.
For as much as districts complain about the idea of revenue sharing with charters, everyone needs to understand who benefits when a new charter school opens. Obviously, the charter students do as they attend a school of their choice that meets their educational needs and their families preferences. But students in the local district benefit also. Class sizes are reduced. Taxpayers benefit as districts hold fewer or smaller elections for bond reqeests.
The move to limit charters because they are more expensive is totally misguided--or would be misguided if it weren't so dishonest. Charters benefit the entire educational landscape, and do so at a lower overall cost than district schools.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Unfortunately, this article from the Associated Press (thanks for picking it up!) incorrectly omits UCAS as an award winner and mistakenly states that the award is given by the State Office of Education. (Unless USOE gives its own award that I'm not aware of. If so, please comment below and let me know!)
Other awards are below:
2009 Innovation Excellence: Guadalupe Schools
Friday, June 19, 2009
Charters educate only about five percent of Utah's public education population, but we make up 20 percent of the top performing high schools, and several other schools that excel in improving student performance:
- AMES, as the top performing charter and number four high school in the state
- Success Academy, the top performing school for language
- East Hollywood got top marks for student improvement
I have limited direct experience with Menlove. His reputation among charter folks is as a strong supporter of district schools (that is, not friendly to charters) but we'll see how that manifests itself when he no longer works for a district. As the state's number two educator, he'll have to support and strengthen all public schools, including charters.
Today as I have a chance to reflect, it was easily the best conference we've had in Utah. This year the keynote speaker was relevant and wonderful, the attendance was up, the energy was high, and the quality of sessions also great. Everyone who attended learned a lot.
Thanks to the staff and volunteers who made it happen.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I have no insight about Rockwell's specific example, which is detailed in the DNews today. BUt having had and seen similar experiences at several schools, I take media reports with grains of salt.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Kristin Stewart writes in the Tribune today what has been reported in other states: caps or arbitrary restrictions on charter schools will hurt state's chances to receive additional federal funding to encourage innovation. This has been reported many times in Tennessee, which has a severe cap on charter schools.
In Utah, charters don't face a cap on enrollment, but rather a cap on the rate of growth. The Trib article incorrectly states (at least it did this morning--it has been pretty good at correcting errors when pointed out) that “only 1.4 percent of the total student population can attend public charter schools.” Actually, charter school population is about 6 percent of total public school enrollment. The 1.4 percent is the allowable growth rate of charters. That means that the charter school population (currently about 30,000) can grow by 1.4 percent of the total public education population (currently about 550,000) each year. 1.4 percent of 550k is about 7500 students.
In that way, Utah doesn’t have a “cap” on charters, but rather a restriction on growth. However, the charter movement (if I can speak for it) largely believes that the growth rate is reasonable and allows for the continued expansion of charter school options at a manageable rate that keeps up with demand. In fact, demand for charters is so high that of the 13,000 new students in Utah public schools this fall, about 7,000 will be in charters.
One way that charters are strengthening the public school system is by absorbing so much growth. Currently between 50 and 60 percent of the growth in public schools is in charters. Can you imagine the problems districts would face if their growth rate doubled for next year?
Hopefully, this reasonable and manageable growth rate for charters won't keep Utah from receiving innovation funding that could provide new opportunities for all public schools to develop innovative programs and improve academic performance.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
"The board's budget vote Tuesday eliminated educator salary increases for "steps" and "lanes" to save up to $6 million."
The district also reduced professional development days from ten to three. Ouch.
Well, so am I. I'm also worried that some in the legislature will target charter schools because of that, even though charters get fewer tax dollars per student than district schools. Charters make a convenient target for some because charters are relatively small--about six percent of the overall public school population.
That's a bit like Proposition 8 opponents unleashing their fire on the LDS church for support of Prop 8. Not because Mormons were more effective or turned out in greater numbers, but just because in California, Mormons are small, misunderstood, and in the right circles politically unpopular.
Just like charter schools are in Utah.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The best quote: "Public charter schools are leading the charge to save public education and delivering results."
Second best: "When Democrats, who have historically been proud supporters of public education, are the ones standing between the families we claim to represent and the public school options for which they clamor, we have to re-examine our priorities when it comes to schools."
In Utah, Democrats are much less likely to support charter expansion and freedom, but that doesn't absolve Republicans. In fact, the greater threat to charter schools may be Republicans like Mel Brown and Sheryl Allen, who have pushed for a moratorium on charter growth and restrictions on their operation.
With this push by the current administration (and the funding tied to their support of charters) Democrats could turn out to be better allies for charters than some in the GOP.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
- "Utah should seize on this opportunity but alter its policies with eyes wide open."
- "While the Obama administration may champion charter schools, these schools remain unpopular with teachers unions because they often operate outside collective-bargaining agreements."
- "But the states, and charter-school supporters themselves, would be wise to take a long view of this short-term incentive."
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I'm not surprised that charters are over represented. Charters have used performance pay already, and are the home of innovative practices that demonstrate the capacity to see a pilot program like this through.