CSP Leadership Grantee Offers the Tools to Build a Stronger Charter Sector

In November 2012, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) launched the One Million Lives Campaign with the goal of creating better school options for at least a million children in the nation’s charter schools. The campaign focuses on closing the poorest-performing schools, those charters that are failing our children, while opening even more great schools — schools that will succeed in living up to the promise of the charter school sector.

One_Million_Lives_Logo_WebAt the heart of this campaign is a set of activities funded by an OII Charter Schools Program (CSP) National Leadership Activities grant to NACSA. In the fall of 2010, NACSA initiated the Creating Quality Charter Schools through Performance Management, Replication, and Closure (PMRC) project to better address the unacceptable number of poor-performing schools that are charter schools. While the charter school sector has often led the way on accountability for performance, the systems for defining, measuring, and acting upon school quality, as well as for replicating good schools and for closing failing schools, are often lacking. The PMRC project was designed to leverage the current effective practices of authorizers successful in these areas and develop core policies and practices that can be disseminated and implemented across the nation.

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Slammin’ on Education

Slammin' on Education cross-post

(Left to right) Malachi Byrd, Devyn Jefferson, Juwan Middleton, and Cynthia Johnson performed original spoken-word pieces as part of the School Leadership Program conference. These students represent CONTRA VERSE, a spoken-word team from Cesar Chavez School for Public Policy, which is led by their teacher and coach, Michael Bolds. Throughout the two-day convening, these students and others shared insightful perspectives on education and the impact of current reforms on educators and students.

What happens when you invite students to a project directors’ conference on school leadership? They infuse the atmosphere with energy and enthusiasm, push the envelope in thoughtful ways, inspire with their creativity, and remind the adults why our work is critical.

OII’s School Leadership Program office recently hosted a convening for 45 of its grantees currently implementing projects that prepare and develop principals to serve in high-need schools and districts. The conference provided an opportunity for districts, universities, partner organizations, Principal Ambassador Fellows, and federal policymakers to learn from each other and other experts in the field about how to improve and promote school leadership. Throughout the two-day conference, student performers graced the stage to intermittently bring our work back in focus while also challenging us all with provocative questions, such as “At what point does patience give way to urgency in our reforms?”

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Art and Robots: Both Evidence the Creativity of Concept Students

Concept Schools student artists, teachers, and administrators join OII Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby (third from left) for a “photo-op” just before the official ribbon-cutting.

Concept Schools student artists, teachers, and administrators join OII Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby (third from left) for a “photo-op” just before the official ribbon-cutting.

From the Great Lakes to the nation’s capital, Department staff and guests were proud to welcome the talented student artists, their fellow students, and their teachers and parents to the Concept Schools Student Art Exhibit opening in Barnard auditorium on March 31. Some 130 charter school students, representing 18 Concept Schools from six states (Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin), were in attendance to both celebrate their own artwork on display at the Department and support their fellow students’ work.

Nadya Chinoy Dabby, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary, welcomes the students, teachers, and parents who came from six states for the exhibit opening.

Nadya Chinoy Dabby, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary, welcomes the students, teachers, and parents who came from six states for the exhibit opening.

To kick off the program, Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Nadya Chinoy Dabby welcomed guests to the Department and thanked Concept Schools’ families for making the long journey to share their children’s work.  According to Dabby, “Arts education … at Concept Schools … is an essential part of a well-rounded educational experience.” She said that her high school education at an arts magnet school “helped nurture a lifelong appreciation for the arts.” Speaking on behalf of the Department, Dabby said, “We believe … that all children should have access to great arts instruction … no matter where you grow up or what school you go to.”

Next, Concept Schools President Sedat Duman expressed his appreciation for the Department, students, staff, teachers, and parents for making the exhibit and opening a success. He introduced a video describing the nationally recognized work that Concept Schools does to prepare students for higher education. According to the video, about 90 percent of Concept students go on to college.

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Update on OII’s 2014 Grant Competitions

For the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2014, the Office of Innovation and Improvement is conducting 13 grant competitions in five program areas: Arts in Education, Charter Schools, Investing in Innovation, Full-Service Community Schools, and Teacher Quality Partnerships. Four of the competitions are underway, with announcements of the other nine slated for later this spring.

Arts in Education grants are available in two categories: Arts in Education Development and Dissemination and Professional Development for Arts Educators, both of which help schools and districts to partner with community-based organizations to increase the quality and effectiveness of arts teaching and learning, including integration of the arts with other core academic subjects.

The three Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competitions — Development, Validation, and Scale-up — support school districts and nonprofits to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices. Development grants are for new and promising practices that should be studied further; Validation grants verify the effectiveness of programs with moderate levels of evidence; and Scale-up grants support applicants with the strongest evidence and track records of success. (Note: While the rest of OII’s 2014 grant competitions will make grant awards by September 30, 2014, the i3 grant awards will be made by December 31, 2014.)

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Thinking and Acting Outside the Box in the Big Easy

Want to contribute to the exciting education innovations happening in New Orleans? Believe in schools that center every decision around the needs of students? Ready to challenge outdated assumptions about school and launch a bold, new school model in a city on the cutting edge of education innovation and school transformation? Then consider the NOLA Future of School Challenge from New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) and 4.0 Schools (4.0), with the support of Khan Academy.

The NOLA Future of School Challenge is looking for bold, out-of-the-box individuals who can bring to life a new generation of responsive, student-centered schools, and will provide them with an opportunity to test their ideas, prototype their designs, and vie for funding and support to become a charter school that opens its doors in fall 2016.

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KIPP Study Results Show Achievement Advantages for Middle School Students

Last March, the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released its review of the portion of a Mathematica study showing that students attending KIPP middle schools scored higher than matched non-KIPP students. The study involved use of a quasi-experimental, matched-student research design, and WWC found that it meets WWC evidence standards with reservations (see definitions below)

ies wwcIn its recently released final report on the KIPP study, the WWC determined that the research described in the lottery-based, randomized-control trial (RCT) portion of the same study meets WWC evidence standards without reservations for the one-year follow-up and meets standards with reservations for the later-year follow-ups because of high sample attrition in those years. In the RCT portion of the study, students who entered the lottery and won were compared with those students who entered the lottery but did not win. While the WWC has conducted reviews of other studies focused on the charter sector, the only charter model that the WWC has reviewed, both in this review and in previous reviews, is the KIPP model.

Specifically, the experimental portion of the study found that students who were offered admission to 13 KIPP middle schools scored significantly higher on mathematics assessments in the first and second years after the lottery as well as in the fall of the third year after the lottery than students who entered the lottery but did not win admission to KIPP charters. For the comparisons of reading assessments between the KIPP and non-KIPP students, however, there were not statistically significant differences in any of the years.

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Comments Invited on Charter School Program’s National Leadership Activities Grants

The U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) invites public comment on the notice of proposed priorities, requirements, and definitions for CSP grants for National Leadership Activities, published in the December 3rd Federal Register. The Department may use these proposed priorities, requirements, and definitions for a National Leadership Activities competition in FY 2014 and beyond.

Proposed priorities included in this notice will be used to ensure that grant projects funded under future National Leadership Activities competitions address key policy issues currently facing charter schools and impact stakeholders on a national scale. The proposed priorities will also create incentives for organizations to improve the quality of charter schools by providing technical assistance and other types of support on issues of national significance and scope and by disseminating information to stakeholder

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National Conference Highlights Federal Grants to Charter Schools

When charter schools and their supporters are looking for federal funds, most head straight for the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s (OII’s) Charter Schools Program (CSP). With a FY 2013 budget of about $242 million, the CSP administers eight grant programs, which have contributed to what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently described as the “extraordinary accomplishments” of charter schools in the past two decades.

Topping the list of accomplishments, Secretary Duncan indicated in his recent keynote address at the National Charter Schools Conference, “is that high-performing charters have irrefutably demonstrated that low-income children can and do achieve at high levels.”

CSP’s grant programs aim squarely at helping disadvantaged children to achieve academically through the creation of more high-quality educational options. These include the Replication and Expansion for High Performing Charter Schools program, which provides funds for nonprofits, including charter management organizations, to grow existing charter schools or open new ones based on models that have demonstrated success.

But two other highly competitive and high-profile Department of Education grants outside of CSP have similarly supported at-risk children attending charter schools — the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund and the Race to the Top‑District (RTT-D) programs. One session at the national conference focused on these programs, which have allowed charter schools and charter management organizations to grow in number, in impact, and in quality.

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Special Education Strides Highlighted at National Charter Schools Conference

In his recent keynote address at the National Charter Schools Conference, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan challenged charter schools to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. “I want to see charters pioneering solutions that do a better job of educating students with disabilities,” he told the gathering last month of more than 4,000 charter school leaders in Washington, D.C.

The conference, organized annually by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, provided a variety of sessions with a special education focus. Was there a common thread? Yes, strong partnerships make for better services for students with disabilities.

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U.S. Department of Education Awards $12 Million in Grants to Support Charter School Facilities

(July 18, 2013) The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that it awarded three grants totaling $12 million to three different organizations that are working across the country to help charter schools obtain facilities through the purchase, lease, or donation of real property, the construction of a new facility, or the renovation, repair or alteration of existing facilities under the Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program (Credit Enhancement). The recipients include a non-profit organization called The Reinvestment Fund, a consortium of non-profits called Build with Purpose, and the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency.

One of several grants under the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program, the Credit Enhancement program helps to improve educational options for students and parents by targeting funds to areas with the greatest need for public school choice.

“Every child deserves a high-quality education in a safe learning environment,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These grants help ensure that children learn in adequate facilities. The Credit Enhancement program supports charter schools, helps put the schools on stable financial footing and allows us all to continue working towards President Obama’s goal of leading the world in college graduates by the year 2020.”

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