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Articles: Charter Schools

Students in the Samuel J. Green Charter School listen to a math lesson. As part of the “portfolio” strategy, dozens of independent local and national organizations operate charter schools in the district.

It’s been a decade since Louisiana established the Recovery School District to take over the lowest-performing schools in the state. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the RSD took over almost all the schools in New Orleans, and in the process restructured the city’s school system on an unprecedented level.

Over the past 10 years, New Orleans schools have gone from being some of the lowest performing in the country to becoming a working laboratory for a bold experiment in restructuring an urban public school system.

Forty-two states and the District of Columbia allow charter schools to operate, but most of these states need to overhaul their laws governing these schools, according to a report from the Center for Education Reform (CER). In October, CER released “The Essential Guide to Charter School Lawmaking: Model Legislation for States” to provide a format for creating strong charter laws that can withstand political changes with regard to funding, operations, and accountability.

When Joseph Andreasen joined the rural Oro Grande School District in 2006 as assistant superintendent, he was one of seven employees. The one-elementary-school district was short on students and therefore on cash, because state funding is based largely on enrollment.

Since then, however, the southern California school system, located about 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, has exploded. The staff numbers more than 250, enrollment has skyrocketed from roughly 110 students to more than 3,700, and the budget has stabilized, with $12 million in savings and reserves to pay off debt.

What is at stake for K12 education in next month’s presidential election? Both President Obama and Gov. Romney say improving education will be a top priority in their administrations, but their policies and initiatives would likely be quite different.

New Hope Students Having Fun in GymWhen New Hope Academy Charter School in the School District of the City of York (Pa.) welcomed 800 fifth through 10th graders for the 2012-2013 year, it celebrated an 11 percent enrollment spike and a 95 percent retention rate.

Portfolio Strategy

When Andres Alonso joined Baltimore City (Md.) Public Schools in 2007, he wasted no time in implementing the Portfolio Strategy. The district had over 80,000 students, 91 percent of which were minority and 82 percent were low-income. Baltimore City had been plagued by low test scores and a widening achievement gap for years, and Alonso sought out this multi-tiered approach as a resolution.

There was a time when it seemed a day didn’t go by without reading about Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Rhee, known for her passion for raising student achievement—and for her aggressive style—became a symbol for the new school reform movement.

Superintendent Myrrha Satow, center, meets with EdVantages management staff in Columbus, Ohio, in their weekly team meeting to discuss academic progress of special ed students. From left to right: Wendy Samir, special ed director, Satow, Amber Cummings, school psychologist.

For an hour and 15 minutes every day, 2,000 students at EdVantages charter schools in Ohio and 1.000 students in Performance Academies charter schools in Ohio and Florida expend physical energy. More specifically, they rotate playing tennis, playing soccer and practicing martial arts a week at a time. For the rest of the six hours and 45 minutes in their school day, they study math, reading, social studies and science.

If we want children to memorize the capital of each state or the presidents of the United States, then 3x5 flashcards, at $0.99 for 25, is a time-tested technology.

For the last decade, in districts big and small, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has emerged as the largest private funder of educational efforts. This began with an initiative around small schools in the early to mid-2000s, mostly abandoned now, and has gained traction in the past few years in areas such as teacher evaluation, the Common Core State Standards and district-charter collaboration.

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan before the president delivers his back-to-school speech in Washington, D.C.

The start of a new year is A time of resolutions and renewal, but for many of us here in Washington, it seems we can’t get rid of old baggage.

After defaulting on its monthly payments 10 consecutive times through December 2011, the Chester Community (Penn.) Charter School announced on Dec. 29 that it had filed suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the state’s Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis, the Chester-Upland School District (CUSD) and its board of directors seeking $3.8 million in overdue funding. The charter school is owed an additional $18 million through the end of the 2011-2012 school year.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten

About 12 percent of charter schools in the United States have collective bargaining agreements with their unions, either by a state mandate or as part of an individual school’s mission. These union contracts—the first generation of such agreements—generally include unique innovations and are more streamlined, according to a new study by the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). Released on Dec.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho

As legislators in Florida gather this month in Tallahassee, they have a unique opportunity to empower our students with technology that will enhance their education. Our legislators have the capacity to provide students with digital content at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks.

Before and during the tenure of Florida's former education commissioner, Eric J. Smith, the state made bold moves toward incorporating charter schools, began corporate "scholarship" programs that provide funding for students to attend private schools, implemented class-size caps that voters approved via referendum, and earned $700 million in federal money through round two of Race to the Top.

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