A review of the Benjamin Franklin Charter Schools by its executive director.
A review of the Benjamin Franklin Charter Schools by its executive director.
When it comes to performance and accountability, charter schools in NYC follow the standards set by the Department of Education. This began a few years ago, in 2007 when charter school principals signed a contract with NYC that established additional autonomy for them to operate their schools. In response, they would need to take on added responsibility for how their students fared. So for example, while the principals and administrators in schools may have been able to decide which classroom furniture to purchase with their given budget, at the same time, they would have to account for performance of students in their schools.
What this entailed was that the educators were able to put their strengths into teaching and administrators could put their efforts into school organization and development. But at the same time, they were really focused on getting results as that was their part of the bargain. They agreed to be judged on their achievements – that being, the academic advancement of their students as well as the smooth running of the school.
All schools need serious funding. Charter schools are no different in this regard. Every school requires a budget for things like school desks, chairs, computer equipment, gym equipment, music equipment and more. Today, public charter schools receive their funding from the public dollar. This makes them accountable (by law) for how the taxpayer dollars are spent. Thus charter schools undergo regular audits and ongoing reviews from their authorizing entities.
In addition, if a student was first being educated at a regular public school and then moves over to a public charter school, the funding used for that student has to likewise be transferred.
It should be noted that public charter schools do not cause any additional new costs to the state’s public educational system. Rather they move funding that is linked to one student at a public school to another, based on the decisions of the families involved.
In Michigan, charter schools have the following mission which is: “to provide leadership to advance quality and promote choice in education through a strong community of chartered public schools and their supporters, offering every Michigan child an opportunity to learn.”
It is with this mission that the administration believes will help shape the state’s future for the positive. Its chartered public schools seeks to provide leadership to advance quality and promote educational choice. This will result in providing the choice – for each child in Michigan – of where to learn.
Irrespective of the child/parent’s priorities – whether they are interested in the furniture used or what school chairs their children are sitting on, or the quality of expertise of the computer teacher, they deserve a choice. Money should not be the sole determining factor vis-à-vis educational rights.
Through this mission it is hoped that there will be a continuing upscale climb of charter school enrollment; legislation to lift the cap limiting the university authorizers and push for laws to advance support for quality charter schools. It is through these goals – amongst many others – that the Michigan charter schools hope to thrive.
Unfortunately, even though school charters were created in part to try to avoid the issues of finances, today it seems that’s exactly what is happening in Red Hook, NY. When a charter school was opened in 2008 by Spencer Robertson, it seemed like there was Vitamin P (Protexia) in the workings. The fact that his father happened to play golf with the city’s mayor might have led to the space the school suddenly acquired. The building was later funded with everything from school furniture to books, equipment and more.
Today things are different though. The political climate is quite different from what it was in 2008 and that impacts charter school advocates. Mayor de Blasio is hardly a proponent of charter schools. So that’s why he recently promised to charge rent for schools that have the resources to pay for space. As Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education, Zakiya Ansari said, “the Mayor made it very clear. It’s about equity; it’s about fairness.”
In the book, "The Charter School Experiment: Expectations, Evidence and Implications," edited by Christopher A. Lubienski and Peter C. Weitzel, foreword by Jeffrey R. Henig, writers discuss the original expectations of the system. Since they became very popular, what developed was a "unique and chronic desire for substantive change in American education."
The original intention of charter schools as set out in the 1996 rule was that these educational institutions should “increase learning opportunities for all students"; "encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods"; and "provide parents and students with expanded choices" in schools. This means that at a charter school, one might not necessarily find all the children sitting at classroom desks all the time.
So basically, according to Pressley Baird, they are “public schools with fewer regulations.” Tuition fees are not required, and one does not even have to live in the county of the charter school (although transportation might be an issue). They are run by private boards. While initially the law stated that there could be no more than 100 such schools, in 2011 a bill changed that to make the number unlimited. Since then, 155 groups have filed applications.
In the 2011-12 school year, 2 percent of New Hanover County's public school population attended a charter school. In Brunswick County, 5 percent of the public school population attended a charter school. Less than 1 percent of Pender County's public school population attended a charter school.
University of Auckland Assoc. Professor Peter O'Connor analyzes why Charter schools are being introduced into New Zealand. Who will win and who will be the losers?
The public education system in Pennsylvania often contends with the issue of charter schools. The charter school movement has developed significantly since the state first authorized it in a 1997 law. But along with this have developed concerns from the public school establishment regarding the costs and performance of the charter school system.
Currently, there are 175 charter schools with over 120,000 students in Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, across the state over half of charter students are African-American or Latino. Now, it seems like the legislature might actually be ready to amend the charter law.
One of the principal issues is money. Since charter schools are actually public schools they receive their funding from tuition assessed to school districts for each students. Unfortunately there are many inconsistencies in the system. In addition, since university school is a feature of charter school law in other states, the same should be the case for Pennsylvania.
The Charter School Commission in Washington has received 22 proposals. Three examples are: military school for at-risk youth, high school that teaches through sports, and a school focused on special education. There were proposals from schools from the Tacoma, Spokane and Yakima regions. Ten applications were from charter schools already in existence from other states. Many of the schools asking for charter status would focus on college pre and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects. Some applicants have proposed a “blended learning” model whereby students learn from their teachers for part of the day, and the rest of the day sit at computer tables the rest of the day to get their education.
According to Chairman Steve Sundquist, once the commission receives all proposals, they need education experts to vet them. “The applicants will then be interviewed by those teams to make sure that all of their questions have been properly answered and that we, as a commission, essentially understand the application. And those teams will then make recommendations as to whether to approve the application or not to the commission.”
Which are better: Charter schools or public schools? With Ted Williams as host, the panel of professors in this 28 minute video discusses the pros and cons of each.
Local school officials in Florida recently report concerns of a new law. If enacted, charter school regulation could undergo changes in the state. One worry is that the Department of Education will forced all schools to work with a standard charter school contract which could severely reduce the capacity of the individual counties to be in charge of their own regulation. As Joe Joyner, School Superintendent at St. Johns County said, “It takes away all local control from our school board … The citizens of St. Johns County voted for our local school board and that’s who needs to make those decisions.”
The problem is that once schools lose the control, it could be a slippery slope. It may start with a contract but who knows, in time it could be that the Department of Education is making decisions on what school lockers are used. When power starts being removed, then even small issues become big ones. That is the fear in this case.
An application by the Learning Lodge Academy has been made for a new charter school to be set up for the 2014-15 academic year to target low-income students. It comes with a recommendation from staff that it be approved. Should it be accepted, the program will educate at-risk Title I students from kindergarten to third grade. These students are on a federal program which gives extra funding to schools that teaches a substantial amount of students from economically-struggling families.
What this would mean in practice would be that the first year enrollment would expand to take on 252 students. A fourth grade would be added in the second year and a fifth grade in the third year. Thus by the fourth year it is estimated that the amount of students would expand to 464 students.
Obviously such expansion would have an impact on resources needed. Substantial amounts of furniture will be needed, including classroom chairs, classroom tables, cafeteria chairs, cafeteria tables, computer equipment and more.
Still, even with the additional financial support, should this happen, exciting times are ahead for the school. Founder and math coach at Hudson Elementary School, Kerrie Cuffe said she was “excited” and is “ready to move forward.” The school will be using the Kagan Cooperative Learning model as a way of encouraging collaboration among students. As well, Stephen Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ will become a part of the educational program.
Charter schools in general have more freedom to innovate in ways they see fit that can enhance
student achievement. For example, they are able to create a unique school culture (which gives them more room for promoting the environment, discussing religion, focusing on special needs students and more.) Charter schools can adjust the curriculum to meet student needs. This includes taking students out of the classroom on field trips to learn more directly about their subjects. For example, Christian schools can take the children to church to help them become more directly aware of what a house of worship looks like. They can check out the church furniture, meet the minister, and get a general feel for how churches work.
Charter schools are also able to offer students (and parents!) longer school days. They are set up in a way that they have the freedom to set their own working hours. If they feel students will thrive more by staying in the classroom longer, that is what they will do. Some schools even offer weekend seminars and summer study times.
Charter schools are often ahead of the curve vis-à-vis learning models. They bring a new meaning to the word “classroom.” A school in Hawaii for example taught biology in a room using the sky for the ceiling and the ocean for the classroom.
In other words, these days, charter schools bring a totally new way of thinking to the school system.
Charter schools have a lot of advantages in the sense that they provide a way to reform public schools by offering increased choices and incentives, easing innovation while still being under public control. Thus charter schools are often of a much higher quality than regular schools. Giving the parents more choice on how they want their children educated is also most welcome.
In Maryland for example, there has been a notable expansion per year in the number of charter schools around the state. According to one report they have
“brought many opportunities for innovation, school reform and, most importantly, have provided more educational choices for Maryland families.”
Parents look for the best quality education for their children. An institution’s resources – such as the school furniture, quality of computer equipment, newness of the gymnasium – all play a part in this.
There is a misconception that charter schools are private schools, but this is incorrect. One way
to describe charter schools is as independent public schools which are freer than regular public schools to use innovative educational methods and are also subjected to a higher standard of achievement for their students.
Although the classroom furniture may be the same, the relationship between parents, teachers and students is more intense and involved. All three components of the charter school system are held accountable for their contribution to students’ success.
Charter schools were created to improve the quality of education in the country’s school system. Although they are definitely independent of the local school district they still meet the following criteria of public schools:
• No tuition is charged and the school is open to all who wish to attend
• There is no discrimination on any basis; charter schools are entirely non-sectarian
• Funds to run charter schools are derived from tax money based on enrollment, just like all other public schools
• The must meet the state and federal standards for academic standards
What are some of the ways charter schools are actually different than ordinary public schools?
• Charter schools often have a longer school day. It is up to each charter school to decide if, in order to boost student performance, they want to have evening hours, school on weekends, or extra classroom time during the summer months.
• A charter is free to, and usually does, often adjust their curriculum to meet the needs of their students.
• Charter schools are freer to choose a theme for their school, emphasizing certain educational goals. Some charters focus on performing arts, or science, college prep, or global awareness.
Charter schools can also better meet the needs of children with autism.
• The sky is the limit as far as educational classroom tools go. It is not unusual for a charter school to throw away the usual classroom chairs and classroom tables and instead take the students into the open air to learn about the stars, or forests, or the ocean. Some charter schools exist entirely on-line, and students open up their computers to attend school. In these virtual schools the students are able to learn from top teachers or experts in their field no matter where they are on earth.
Charter schools seem to be a great idea and the way the future of education in the United States is going.
Charter schools in Minnesota were first started mostly to improve student outcomes in disadvantaged locations across the state. Therefore it developed that they enroll a majority of low-income children of color.
In the Twin Cities of Minneapolis–Saint Paul a different trend has been observed. Many white children, whose parents are fleeing urban blight, are starting charters in the suburbs. These schools therefore are predominantly white. According to a report based on a survey taken by the Institute of Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School, these charters grew by 40 percent over the past five years. The report states that the schools are feeding “white flight” from diverse, traditional suburban public schools in such cities as Bloomington and Eden Prairie.
At issue here is whether there should be the goal of getting a diverse student body sitting at their classroom tables together, or if this new segregation is a positive, or neutral, turn of events. The choice seems to be, “Is it better to have segregated schools if student academic performance is improved overall, or is it better to make diversity a positive goal to achieve in itself?” Can, and should, charter schools be forced to maintain a certain level of racial mix within their walls and sitting at their classroom desks?
Many people believe that classroom diversity is a value worth pursuing. Since the world we live in is one of diversity, our children should be exposed to this from an early age. If possible it would certainly be preferable for all students to attend schools that are racially and socioeconomically mixed.
Many people find confusion around the issue of charter schools. They know that there is controversy that surrounds them, but they may not understand what they do, why they were developed and more. New York City is one of the main locations of charter schools in the country.
Charter schools have proven their worth in the last decade or more, with students consistently scoring higher than their regular school district counterparts. The demand for the charter school market continues to grow. Recently, over 67,000 students applied to the charter schools where there were only 14,600 available seats in the 2012-2013 school year.
There isn’t a centralized way to apply to all of the NYC charter schools. Each of the schools has its own enrollment process and its own application. In order to learn more about the options you might have in NYC, it’s important to do your research. Look into the various schools in NY and see what they offer. Most of the charter schools have a specific emphasis and specific goals they are looking to achieve. Narrow your search down to a few schools and then focus your attention on applying to just these few schools. Visit the schools as well to see if students are learning using folding chairs or in environments that are more conducive to learning. Are classroom sizes manageable? Do the children seem happy?
It is important to know that NY charter’s law requires the charter schools to give preference to both returning students and to siblings of students who are already part of the school. They also give preference to students who live inside the boundaries of the school district where the charter school is located.
You’ve heard a lot of buzz about charter schools in your area, but you really don’t know that much about them. Friends of yours might stand on their soap boxes and preach from their podiums about the pros and cons of their charter school. But how do you select the right charter school for your child and your needs? Here are some guidelines to get you started.
1. Word of mouth: Certainly listening to the opinions of friends who are already at charter schools can be a great way to make a decision. Do they like the charter school where they send their child? Why or why not?
2. Visits: Narrow down your choices to three or four schools and then go and visit them. Look at the decorations in the school, ask the principal to sit with you, sit in on a few classes and get a feel for the school environment. Is there a computer table for each child? Are the desks set up for collaborative learning or for passive learning?
3. Think of your goals: Each of the charter schools has its own mission and its own goals. Some of the schools emphasize math and science, for instance, while another might emphasize reading and writing skills. Some are more focused on minority children and some make it their mission to be multi-cultural.
With these ideas in mind, you should be able to set out on the road towards finding the right charter school for your child. Keep in mind that some of these schools are so competitive that you may not get in even if you want your child to go there; but it’s worth a try.
New York first passed the Charter Schools Act in December of 1998. This allowed 100 charter schools to be authorized to begin across the state. The first charter school opened its doors in the fall of 1999, and was the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, complete witth folding chairs and computer tables.
Since that time, there is an average of 11 charter schools opening each year in New York City. The initial limit that had been set for charter school enrollment was reached in the fall of 2006 and was then raised in March of 2007 to allow more kids. With this change, another 100 charter schools were authorized across the state to reach 200 total charter schools. Then, in the summer of 2010, New York State again raised the cap and they are now allowed to have 460 charters.
At the moment, there are 280 charters that operate in NY State, with 159 of them in New York City. While there is certainly controversy around the charter school movement, the numbers do speak for themselves. People who sent their children to charter schools are thrilled with the differences that they see, overall. And the test results show that the students at the charter schools are excelling.
Learn about the affect the charter school movement has had on the city of Chicago.
Numerous studies have shown that all school furniture including desks, chairs and school lockers, have a significant impact on a child’s learning potential, creativity, and peace of mind.
See how Pan American Academy Charter School brought about a change for its staff and students with several new educational furniture solutions:
Furniture plays a significant role in our lives. It dictates an atmosphere, sets a mood, and also determines our comfort level. In schools, furniture is especially important. The quality of a school desk can ensure that a student stays focused and relaxed, while uncomfortable chairs can distract a child all throughout the school day.
AECS, a new Ashland charter school, has taken this knowledge and created their own furniture plan, complete with bean bag and bungee chairs, kitchenettes and private reading nooks. The school believes that this unique environment will encourage students to discover their own potentials. The new project is supported by a $200,000 Planning Grant from the Department of Public Instruction.
AECS instructor Mary Zoesch explained: “We want all the students to know that each and every one of us is a unique individual with lots of really special things to share with others. One of our projects in the beginning of the year is going to be on what makes us special and what makes our classmates special.”