A recent blog post by Joe Siedlecki, Program & Policy Officer, at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, highlights the current DC Public Charter School Board model of using a portfolio strategy to increase quality seats.
“The charter board’s basic strategy is simple: Use data to 1) identify schools that work and 2) grow those schools. Using this strategy, the Public Charter School Board (PCSB) last week voted to increase enrollment at nine schools. The two key measurements the school board looked at were school performance and school demand.”
Thanks in part to the strategy, more than 1,300 additional students in DC will have access to Tier 1 public schools next year.
Learn more about the portfolio strategy here.Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment March 28, 2013
There is big news coming out of Annapolis, where the General Assembly is poised to pass legislation to give City Schools the means to launch a major 10-year facilities improvement plan. Congratulations to Baltimore City Schools CEO Andres Alonso, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the army of advocates led by the ACLU-Maryland and the Baltimore Education Coalition, which together achieved a groundbreaking (pun intended!) milestone that has the chance to profoundly change education in Baltimore.
Many schools will be rebuilt, others will be replaced with new facilities, and some buildings will close to bring the system more in line with student enrollments.
There has been much in the news lately about the painful downsizing decisions being made in Philadelphia, Chicago and other cities. Baltimore, too, has a public school infrastructure built for many thousands more students than the number currently served. But City Schools’ recent work sets it apart from other cities in key ways. Substantial research documented the condition of our schools and the need for consolidation and renovation. Community support was cultivated through hundreds of meetings. Most important, City Schools and its partners have ensured that they will deliver on the promise of improvements in the entire system.
Charter School Facilities
It is a good moment to highlight how Baltimore’s public charter schools wrestle with facilities issues.
A little background: Public charter schools are funded under a formula devised by the Maryland State Board of Education, but by law, there is no funding provided directly for facilities. Some charters are in buildings owned by City Schools; others are in a range of other types of facilities.
Charter schools located in buildings owned by City Schools pay rent to the district, which they budget out of their per-pupil allocations. City Schools have included these schools in their plans, an indication of how charters are an integral part of the school system. Charter schools have done amazing work to raise millions of dollars in private investment to make significant improvements to facilities owned by City Schools, creating vibrant, welcoming learning environments in previously vacant buildings.
City Neighbors High School, for example, raised private funds to renovate the former Hamilton Middle School building. The schools created a great space for their students and ensured that the residential neighborhood is not dealing with the potential nuisance of a large vacant building in its midst.
Facilities for Baltimore’s Public Charter Schools
33 charter schools in Baltimore City
16 charter schools are housed in City Schools buildings.
–Six were converted from traditional public schools
17 charter schools in buildings not owned by City Schools
–Mix of rented and owned spaces
–Some hosted by larger institutions – e.g., Coppin University (Coppin Academy) or Living Classrooms Foundation (Crossroads School).
Seventeen charters are in non-city-owned facilities. The Jacobs study of City Schools’ facilities estimated that it would cost more than $122 million to replace them. Again, some charters have done great work to improve facilities. In perhaps the most creative example, the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women has renovated the former Y building on Franklin Street and will transfer ownership of that facility to City Schools.
City Schools and local foundations have facilitated some of this work through arrangements that recognize capital improvements in its rent arrangements and by providing loan guarantees.
As the General Assembly finishes work on the financing plan, we look forward to seeing dozens of new and improved public school buildings across the city. We also look forward to a day when all of our public schools – including our charters – have the modern, inviting spaces all of our students, teachers, families and staff need and deserve.
Director, Supporting Public Schools of ChoicePosted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment March 14, 2013
Last week most of Baltimore’s public charter schools held admissions lotteries, and interest was once again high, with many schools receiving far more applications than they could accommodate.
At Midtown Academy, 20 students were selected from 275 interested families. At Patterson Park Public Charter School, 526 vied for 100 seats. At Creative City Public Charter School, which will enroll its first students this fall, 140 students applied for 88 seats. And Baltimore Montessori Public Charter received 925 applications for 35 seats.
The lottery process is required by law to ensure that all students have access to public charter schools. And it’s important to note that for these lotteries, public charter schools are allowed to ask students only for their name, address and age.
While it is likely some families put applications in at more than one school, the numbers nonetheless make clear that there is high demand for these school options in Baltimore.
Of course, having lotteries means there will be many disappointments. Some families will be shut out entirely from charters. Others may have to choose between a traditionally managed neighborhood school and a public charter school far from home. A family can also be disappointed by both a lottery and/or by seeking to attend a school inside a zone that does not include them.
The lottery numbers underscore the vital need to continually improve traditional schools and replicate successful charter models, which will result in more good options for our children and less disappointment. By creating more quality options, we improve the odds for Baltimore City students.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment March 14, 2013
The Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners recently made decisions on renewing contracts for 25 “schools of choice” – 18 public charters and seven others with operating contracts.
For the most part the board affirmed the recommendations of the New and Charter School Advisory Board. In one case, the board was unable to reach a decision about whether Johns Hopkins University should continue its operation of Baltimore Talent Development High School. The School Board is also gathering more information before making a final determination on closure dates for some schools that did not have their contracts renewed.
The City Schools have adopted a “portfolio” approach in which a range of different kinds of schools are supported – traditional schools operated by the system along with public charters, transformation and other contract schools, which are operated by outside entities. As it works to make this approach ever more successful, the recently completed renewal process highlights some important challenges.
Timing of the renewal decisions
Despite the best efforts of many, final decisions on renewals and non-renewals were not made until early February. This has led to the unfortunate circumstance of having what one teacher calls “lame duck schools” operating for the final months of the current school year and next year (read an essay about that here). Most importantly, the renewal decisions came well after the conclusion of the school choice process in which students apply to schools for the coming year. The renewal process should be scheduled so that all aspects of the review are completed and a recommendation sent to the Board of School Commissioners by October of a renewal year. Renewed schools would have the good news early and families would know which schools will be closing the following year. Of course, a decision to close a school will lead to difficult final months, but making those decisions early will provide more options for families and teachers who must relocate to a new school.
Gathering data on a timely basis
This year, for three schools with high-school grades, City Schools CEO Dr. Andres Alonso recommended a delay of one year in making a determination on contract renewal. This was due in part to delays in receiving needed graduation rate data from the Maryland State Department of Education (data availability also contributed to the timing issue noted above). We need to determine how to adjust the timeline for review and making contract decisions so that adequate graduation data is available.
A fair renewal process
The review process was thorough, and decisions were based on a range of indicators, both qualitative and quantitative in three key areas, academic achievement, climate and management. City Schools should convene school teams who have completed the process and seek ways to make the review tools more sensitive to the individual approaches of our diverse and growing portfolio of schools. In particular, some transformation schools are serving overage and under-credited students; assessing their progress fairly may require a different metric. Finding the right metrics to judge progress will be crucial to recognizing the successes and challenges of these specialized schools.
Build on strength and grow
The renewal process provides ample evidence of the strengths of the 16 schools recommended for 3- and 5-year renewal terms. The district and the Charter and New School Advisory Board should identify ways that these schools can contribute to increasing the number of high-quality classroom seats in Baltimore — through partnership, growth or replication. We should identify key areas of improvement that will ensure that the schools renewed for three years are renewed for five years when next evaluated.
For example, The Baltimore International Academy received a five-year renewal. Its unique language immersion program is in high demand. Leaders at the school and the district should plan for additional seats at this school or for a second site.
Improve the autonomy/accountability balance
The leaders of the Coalition of Baltimore Public Charter Schools recently pointed out to the Board of School Commissioners that the schools being renewed for five years have shown that they have an effective and sustainable model. These schools have proven themselves and seek less day-to-day direction from the district. To do this, they should be able to create a new charter operating contract that is clear both on expectations for performance and the decision-making authority the schools are intended to have under the law.
Recently, school board Chair Neil Duke reiterated that charter schools are a valuable part of the district as it becomes more of a choice district.
Yes they are. And with the additional information provided by the renewal process we need to make sure we are ensuring the quality of those choices and creating more options for Baltimore families.Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment February 1, 2013
A note from Celeste Perilla who has been helping Baltimore Charter school communities – parents and school leaders – understand the charter environment and to become spokespeople for their schools. Along with other advocates and families from other counties, Baltimore’s charter schools went to Annapolis to share with lawmakers their school pride and to ask that we talk more about what charter schools contribute to public education.
Baltimore public charter advocates gathered in Annapolis on Thursday for Charter School Advocacy Day showcasing the presence and achievements of public charter schools in Maryland. Organized by Maryland CAN, the Maryland Charter School Network and the Coalition of Baltimore Public Charter schools, over 100 Baltimore charter school leaders and students traveled to the state capitol to join education advocates across the state for a rally, meetings with state lawmakers and press conference.
Lawmakers were greeted after their morning session by hundreds of charter advocates who rallied on Lawyer’s Mall. Baltimore’s KIPP step team energized the crowd while charter leaders invited lawmakers to participate in charter advocacy day.
Charter leaders, parents and students also directly lobbied senators and delegates in their offices sharing personal stories about the importance of school choice and the innovative approaches to education that charter schools offer.
During an afternoon press conference, charter leaders shared the stage with state lawmakers. Parents from Patterson Park Public Charter School, Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School, and Baltimore International Academy relayed compelling messages about the importance of school choice for their families and the inclusiveness of the charter school communities in Baltimore. The diverse educational approaches of public charters were highlighted by young students from Baltimore International Academy, a language immersion public charter school, who impressed lawmakers by reciting the pledge of allegiance in fluent Russian, Chinese and French.Charter Schools, General Assembly, Uncategorized | Tagged Baltimore International Academy, Baltimore Montessori, KIPP, Patterson Park Public Charter School | Leave a comment January 11, 2013
After many months of work, the Baltimore City Schools’ Charter and New School Advisory Board forwarded its recommendations to Dr. Alonso about renewing the charters and contracts for 25 schools. Dr. Alonso presented his recommendations to the Board of School Commissioners last evening.
As a member of the Advisory Board, I was part of the group that did a thorough review of the schools’ applications and developed renewal recommendations. As part of the process, City Schools’ teams made site visits and talked to staff, students and families. And we reviewed data on academics, school climate and administration.
The school board will consider our recommendations to make decisions on the future of more than two dozen schools, including 18 public charters, four transformation schools and three other schools operating with agreements with the systems.
In all of our work, we were guided by one critical principle: ensuring that every child in Baltimore attends a great school.
Most of the schools seeking renewal are doing excellent work, as evidenced by consistently strong academic performance, a positive climate for families and strong operations. But we also identified several schools that are failing to provide the high-quality education that Baltimore students need and deserve, and a number of them may not be renewed. Click here for the full list of renewal recommendations.
During the review process, we found some common themes. For example, successful schools were clear on their mission – what they were trying to achieve and how to measure it. Unsuccessful schools typically lacked a clear, strategic vision. Successful schools also tended to have higher parent engagement than unsuccessful schools.
This was the first renewal review process in three years, and it is important to note that this new process was far more rigorous and thoughtful than those used in the past. I am proud that Supporting Public Schools of Choice helped to develop this better renewal process. Because of support from foundations, SPSOC was able to facilitate, with City Schools, the workgroup process which considered local needs, studied practices elsewhere and developed the current rubric.
Some schools and the communities they serve will be disappointed; the decision to sever the relationship between an operator and a school community is extremely difficult. But we must consider the big picture: this renewal process is an important step in ensuring that more and more Baltimore kids get the great education they need and deserve.
The Board of School Commissions will hold a public hearing on the recommendations on January 30, 2013, and is expected to make final decisions on these renewals in February.
Click here to read City School’s report on the renewal recommendations.
Carol Beck, Director
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment November 15, 2012
Thanks to Bell Keller for sending a research update from APPAM conference in Baltimore….
Charter schools have been criticized for pushing out low-performing students in order to improve their academic profiles. But as Ron Zimmer of Vanderbilt University pointed out at the recent meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) here, the claim so far has been a matter of conjecture. (Link to the full research paper here.)
Zimmer decided to test it using data from the schools in a city that is probably Chicago, although he did not name it because of an agreement with district administrators. In 2007 the district in question had more than 60 charter schools.
The researcher used fairly exhaustive statistical procedures to look at the differences in the rates of leaving for students behind the curve in reading and math in charter schools compared with those in traditional public schools.
Zimmer and his co-author found that students who left the district’s charters performed slightly worse on average on standardized tests than their peers. But the same was true for students in traditional schools. And statistically, being low-performing in a charter school did not raise a student’s chances of leaving before completing. Being low-performing in a traditional school did, however, slightly up the likelihood that a student would exit.
Zimmer said the most plausible explanation for his results is that push-out occurs in both types of schools or that in both types of schools low-performing students are more likely to leave of their own accord.
Posted in Choice | Tagged APPAM, Choice, Zimmer | Leave a comment November 12, 2012
Bess Keller sent this research note from the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management meeting held last week in Baltimore. She is a former education journalist and currently a graduate student in public policy at UMBC. Thanks, Bess.
When the talk is about school choice, do you picture parents doing the choosing? If so, you might be jumping to the wrong conclusion, according to researchers who presented their findings Nov. 8 at the fall meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, held this year in Baltimore.
The three researchers, two of them at Johns Hopkins, discovered that almost two-thirds of the 150 Baltimore-area young people they interviewed said that they, not their parents, had decided on the middle or high school they’d attended. All of the families involved moved out of local public housing in the late 1990s, and while the students hadn’t had the choices they’d have today, some new options opened up when the feds helped the families change neighborhoods.
Yet students often didn’t choose a better school, the researchers found. The young people had insular social networks and in part for that reason limited information about school quality. Nor did their friends show interest in good schools. So safety often became the default priority, with kids saying it was important to stay in places where they were already known.
The researchers called, among other remedies, for ways that adults can help kids make school choices that are more likely to benefit them. “Despite policies that assume that parents and are other adults are guiding the process,” said Barbara Condliffe of Johns Hopkins, one of the authors, “youths are making a lot of these decisions.”
Posted in Choice, Uncategorized | Tagged APPAM, Baltimore, Choice, Condliffe, Johns Hopkins | Leave a comment October 22, 2012
There has been lots of coverage and public discussion of audits recently. Here is the most recent reporting in the Baltimore Sun about the state audit of the City Schools system.
It’s worth noting that audits are a regular and important requirement for the city’s public charter schools. For the 12,000 students who attend Baltimore’s public charter schools, families should know that each public charter school is managed by a nonprofit organization or a public institution. Under the charter operating contract signed with the school system, each public charter school operator pays for an independent financial audit – each year. These audits are submitted to the City Schools annually and should be available for public review at each school.
As a parent, I know that the public charter school my daughter attends has an audit each year and that the results show that the school is a good steward of the public and private funds it receives.
As a member of the New and Charter School Advisory Board engaged in the renewal process for several schools (see the recent post on renewal, 27 Baltimore Schools to be evaluated), I and other reviewers will see information about each school’s audits. We will be looking to see if the financial audits were done properly and on time and did they raise management concerns.
Posted in Baltimore City Schools, Charter Schools, News analysis, Uncategorized | Tagged Baltimore City Schools, Baltimore Sun | Leave a comment October 17, 2012
Baltimore City Public Schools is embarking on a crucial process, a high stakes review for 27 of its schools with operating contracts. Using its “portfolio” approach, City Schools must approve contracts with its charter schools and other schools that are overseen by operating partners. The goal is to give such schools increased autonomy in day-to-day operations while setting clear standards for accountability. As part of that accountability, City Schools must evaluate each school’s progress and let the public know how the school is doing.
Why are so many schools under review?
In the last few years, City Schools has lacked a good process for this kind of school review. This spring, SPSOC funded a project to bring in an experienced consultant that facilitated a working group made up of City Schools staff and school leaders. The work group developed a renewal process in which evaluations are based on both quantitative data and qualitative input gleaned from school visits and surveys. Through evaluation of academic programming and management, this new renewal process promises to yield a rigorous and comprehensive review.
Without a suitable review process in recent years, City Schools simply extended some school contracts rather than doing a rigorous analysis of their performance. This led to a backlog of renewals that needed to be done. With the new renewal process in place, City Schools is able to undertake a large number of evaluations this year.
The renewal process will begin with evaluations and recommendations from City Schools’ New and Charter School Advisory Board, which is made up of City Schools staff and representatives from the teachers union, parents, the school board, community groups, and local government. I serve on this group. We will work together to review applications, data, and site visit reports and develop recommendations for City Schools CEO Dr. Andres A. Alonso.
Decisions about renewing a school’s contract fall eventually to the Board of School Commissioners, based on recommendations from Dr. Alonso. The goal is to have all renewals voted on by the school board by next February.
These schools’ contracts are up for renewal:
Charter Schools (18)
Afya Public Charter School
Baltimore Freedom Academy
KIPP Ujima Village Academy
Northwood Appold Community Academy
Patterson Park Public Charter School
ConneXions Leadership Academy
The Crossroads School
Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School
City Neighbors Charter School
Hampstead Hill Academy
Baltimore International Academy
City Springs School
Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences
Collington Square School
Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy
Transformation Schools (5)
Friendship Academy of Science and Technology
Friendship Academy of Engineering and Technology
The REACH Partnership School
Other contract/partner schools (4)
New Song Academy
Baltimore Talent Development High School
Posted in Baltimore City Schools, Charter Schools, Transformation Schools, Uncategorized | 1 Comment ← Older posts