Education Policy & Practice

Archive for the ‘Charters’ Category

Dear EducationCEO,

Like you, I am up at 2 in the morning!  I checked my phone and saw that I had an e-mail notification alerting me to a new post on your blog.  The title intrigued me, “Let me set the record straight …”  I couldn’t resisit!  However, please forgive my middle-of-the-night, my laptop-battery-is-low-and-I-don’t-feel-like-fetching-my-powercord-in-the-next-room brief response to one thing in particular that you wrote:   

Perhaps they could ‘color’ their respective boards to reflect the communities in which they serve, and simultaneously make millions each year, per school?

If I read correctly (and please correct me if I am wrong), I understood this comment in context to mean that the boards of KIPP and TFA (among others), are not reflective of the communities they serve.  And though not explicitly stated, I understood you to be talking about the organizations’ national boards.  You’re right, names do pop up in more than one place on the national scene.  But at the local, I feel I can speak to this issue of representation from personal experience, having served a 3-year term on the KIPP Baltimore board of directors.  I believe there is real value in pursuing racial and ethnic diversity at the local level.  What does it really matter if the national board is lily white and estrogen deficient?  At the local level is where I believe board members are going to be most impactful – mobilizing local resources, involving the local community and businesses, and really being champions for our kids.     

So, I’d love to chat with you about this!  Thanks for posting your thoughts – these conversations are necessary. 

– Samantha

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On the day of the first snowfall of the season, KIPP Ujima Village Academy was victorious in its 19 to 14 win over Calverton in the flag football championship on the St. Paul’s school campus.

The mission of KIPP Baltimore is to create and operate public schools in Baltimore City that lead students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and a diversity of skill levels to attend and succeed in four-year colleges. KIPP Baltimore currently operates two schools in the Park Heights community of Baltimore.

KIPP Ujima Village Academy was founded in 2002 by KIPP Baltimore Executive Director, Jason Botel and where Shawn Toler is the Principal.   KUVA is a public charter school in Baltimore City.  During its seven years in operation, KUVA has been ranked as the highest performing public middle school in Baltimore City.

KIPP Harmony Academy, starting in August 2009 by Principal Natalia Walter, is a public charter elementary school that holds high expectations for student achievement that will put children on the path to college beginning in Kindergarten.

Stay up to date and follow KIPP Baltimore on Twitter and Facebook.

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John Sabat, center, and Doug Snyder, right, at a Success Charter Network event.

Tucked away in the “Fashion & Style” section of the New York Times is an article titled, “Scholarly Investments.” Author Nancy Hass writes about the commitment and zeal of young 30-something hedge fund managers and analysts (with deep pockets) to education, specifically charter schools.

“I think it’s all good and well that these people are finally stepping up to support education,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, referring to wealthy hedge funders. “But I would wish they would do it in a more foundational way, a way that would help all the children instead of just a small group.”

The problem is, the current structure of our educational system severely limits the kinds of bold and targeted innovations and plain old common sense policies and procedures.  Let’s take teacher policy, for example.  A HORRIBLE teacher could remain in his/her position in a traditional public education setting for years and years and years.  A teacher can go UNEVALUATED  for nearly a decade in a traditional public education setting.   Please don’t be surprised if you’re reading this and think that this is overexaggeration on my part or that these are atypical examples.

One of the biggest departures from the traditional, policy-hamstrung public school model is the freedom … ability to control (not complete autonomy as we saw with KIPP Baltimore’s outrageous fight against the union) over teacher hiring policy, calendar, and program, to name a few.

So I ask Mr. Mulgrew (or anyone else who would like to comment), “HOW would you suggest ‘these people’ step up to support education in a more ‘foundational way, a way that would help all the children instead of just a small group?'”

I am not suggesting that all charters are blazingly successful.  If that’s what folks are looking for, perfection or a silver bullet, then you’ll be sadly disappointed.  However, when folks attack success, that’s when I wonder about what’s going on in the cranium.

Whether charters do a better job of educating children, even with the extra help from private donors, is much debated. A study released in September by researchers headed by Caroline M. Hoxby, an economist at Stanford who is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, concluded that on average New York City charters outperform local schools. But another study by a different group of Stanford researchers last summer suggested that nationally the numbers are muddier.

Mr. Reffkin, who was raised poor by a single mother in Oakland, Calif., and says he aspires to run for city office one day, considers charter schools “the civil rights struggle of my generation.”

“In the past, we’ve had one or two big hedge fund guys footing most of the bill for each school,” Mr. Reffkin said. “But now enough of my peers in this industry who may not have the money to carry the whole thing understand what’s at stake and what the return can be.”

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Read the entire article here

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A Brooklyn charter school is about to become the first in the city to open in a public housing development.

Avoiding a fight with local public schools over space, Coney Island Prep will throw open its doors at a City Housing Authority community center.

“I have tried really hard not to step on anyone’s toes,” said founder Jacob Mnookin.

More than two-thirds of the city’s 78 charter schools are in shared space in public schools, paying $1 a year.

Coney Island Preparatory Charter School will pay the Housing Authority roughly $68,000 for the first year.

“It’s a creative solution,” said city Department of Education spokeswoman Melody Meyer.

“We are always looking for creative ways to help charter schools find a facility space. This is a standout example.”

Read the rest of this entry »

St. Louis Public Schools has faced a steady downward spiral in student enrollment over the past 40 years, and that trend is expected to continue over the next ten years (Bassett, 2009). At its peak enrollment in 1967, the district served 115,543 students. Today, however, enrollment has been whittled down to approximately 28,000 students (MGT of America, Inc., 2009). As a result, the district has been forced to close down a number of its school buildings to avoid wasteful spending (Hinman, 2009).

In October 2008, the SAB entered into a contract with MGT of America, Inc. to conduct a Comprehensive Facilities Review. MGT of America, Inc. released its final report on January 29, 2009 and recommended that the district close an additional 29 school buildings over the next several years. Should the district close those 29 schools, the district would be downsized to 58 buildings, which would also help to reduce an estimated $36 million deficit it currently faces (Bassett, 2009).

On February 23, 2009, Missouri Senator Jim Lembke (R-St. Louis) introduced Senate Bill 439, which would permit charter schools to buy St. Louis Public School buildings for sale. The key policy alternative contained in Senate Bill 439 offers an effective strategy to alleviate the problem that St. Louis Public Schools faces by allowing charter schools to purchase buildings that are currently for sale or that will be put up for sale, instead of allowing those buildings to remain vacant. There is an overwhelming demand among charter school operators in St. Louis to find suitable and affordable facilities for their schools. Currently 12 out of 15 charter schools slated to open by 2011 need a school site (Hinman, 2009). Charter schools often are priced out of renovating a facility that was not constructed for educational purposes, or charter schools have to make due with warehouses, office buildings and other less than desirable facilities. Unless Senate Bill 439 becomes law, those schools will not be able to purchase available buildings that the St. Louis Public Schools needs to sell.

The problem that the St. Louis Public Schools faces—too many abandoned school buildings—is a clear public policy problem, and government intervention is justified. Currently, seven buildings are for sale and 22 are empty, according to the Missouri Senate. The district has not been able to sell all of the buildings that have already closed, and with 29 additional buildings recommended for closure over the next few years, the district will have too many empty school buildings. St. Louis residents are fearful that too many abandoned buildings will destabilize their communities and rot their neighborhoods by attracting vandalism, drug activity, and other criminal behavior. They are already concerned about the current situation; the pending closures only heighten their anxieties (Hunn, 2009).

The district faces a significant problem. The growing number of abandoned school buildings has created negative externalities for St. Louis residents. Some lawmakers have toured neighborhoods with abandoned schools in their midst and have described the tangible consequences of vacant school buildings—empty playgrounds, broken windows, vandalism—that concerned residents fear will destroy their neighborhoods and communities (Hunn, 2009). The school board’s refusal to sell buildings to charter schools only intensifies those externalities given the strong likelihood that most, if not all, of the charter schools looking for buildings would purchase or lease facilities from the district.

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Education Policy & Practice

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