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Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 2 p.m. Eastern time
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 Building High-Quality Charter Schools(05/25/2010) 
11:03
EdWeek Producer: Jennifer: 
Today's chat, "Building High-Quality Charter Schools," is open for questions. Please start submitting them now.

The chat itself will begin at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Thanks for joining us.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 11:03 EdWeek Producer: Jennifer
2:00
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Good afternoon and welcome to our chat, "Building HIgh-Quality Charter Schools." I'm Dakarai I. Aarons, a staff writer at Education Week and I will serve as our moderator for today's discussion. We are joined by two experts who will help us navigate how to best create good quality charters and hold them accountable for results. Greg and Paul, why don't you take a moment to introduce yourself to the audience?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:00 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:01
Paul Hill: 
Hello, I am Paul Hill, Director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (crpe.org) at the University of Washington Bothell. I have worked on school reform, including decentralization, charters, and accountability, for 30 years.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:01 Paul Hill
2:01
Greg Richmond: 
I'm Greg Richmond, President and CEO of the National Associaiton of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). NACSA is is a professional membership organization, not of charter schools, but of the agencies that oversee charter schools – “authorizers.”
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:01 Greg Richmond
2:02
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Thanks to both of you for joining us. Greg, we have a question from Peter about how you define quality.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:02 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:02
[Comment From Peter TschaepePeter Tschaepe: ] 
How does NACSA quantify the definition of a High-Quality Charter School, how many are there in the United States, which ones are they, and how was the ranking determined?"
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:02 Peter Tschaepe
2:03
Greg Richmond: 
NACSA urges authorizers to define school quality by looking at multiple indicators, status scores, growth and comparisons to other schools. [more]
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:03 Greg Richmond
2:04
Greg Richmond: 
We don't personally evaluate or rank every charter school in the country.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:04 Greg Richmond
2:05
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Karen has a concern about inadequate funding for education and potential conflicts related to charters. Perhaps both of you can address this.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:05 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:05
[Comment From karenkaren: ] 
I am concerned about the push to expand charters yet the inadequate resources to oversee them, as well as a conflict of interest if charter authorizers' funding, such as in Indiana, is a dis-incentive to non-renew/cancel charters
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:05 karen
2:05
Greg Richmond: 
Karen, we're concerned about that as well. Will and capacity are two key factors that affect authorizer practices and professionalism. Authorizers that want to do a good job and that have the resources to do a good job generally will do a good job. But many authorizers are missing either the will or the capacity or both. In either case, the lack of will and capacity leads to weak authorizing which in turn leads to generally weaker schools.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:05 Greg Richmond
2:07
Paul Hill: 
We are certainly in a finding crisis. Regular district schools and charters are all feeling it. Charters do reduce fundign for districts if students transfer, but of course the responsibility to educate the students transfers also.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:07 Paul Hill
2:08
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Paul, you recently published a new book looking at charter school research. What do we know about their performance so far?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:08 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:09
Paul Hill: 
Re. Karen's comment: Districts and state education agencies had seldom themselves responsible to oversee a set of schools and do something about the least effective. Charterw require them and other authorizers to do something important but unfamiliar. Greg's group is leading a real national learning process about authorizong.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:09 Paul Hill
2:11
Paul Hill: 
Re. Dakari's question: charters are mixed. Some are dramatically more effective than the distirct run schools tneir students would have attended, others about the same and some worse. Some localitiers (e.g. NYC) have disproportionate numbers of hig performing charters. This suggests the importance of authorization -- encouraging the best, pressing the mediocre, and closing the least prociductive schools.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:11 Paul Hill
2:12
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Speaking of the role of authorizers and performance, we have a question from Kacy. Greg, can you shed some light on this?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:12 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:12
[Comment From KacyKacy: ] 
Can you discuss the role of charter school authorizers, and how legislation should address the problem of charter school authorization agencies renewing charters to schools that have a history of poor performance?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:12 Kacy
2:13
Greg Richmond: 
Charter schools that are failing to provide a quality education to their students should be closed. Period. While the charter sector closes far more failing schools than school districts do, I’d like to see more authorizers get tough on accountability. There are some states where it’s been too easy to get approved to open a charter school and too hard to shut failing charters down. Texas, Arizona and Ohio are three of those states. [more]
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:13 Greg Richmond
2:13
Greg Richmond: 
Sometimes this is a problem of weak authorizing practices (e.g. a lack of capacity as mentioned earlier). Sometimes its a problem of weak laws that make it very hard to close a failing school because the statutory critiera are vague.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:13 Greg Richmond
2:15
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Here's a question I received via e-mail: What difference – if any – should there be in accountability practices for charters vs. regular public schools?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:15 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:16
Greg Richmond: 
I'd like there to be little or no difference. All schools should be measured against clearly defined, appropriate student performance outcomes. And those that repeatedly fail to provide a quality education for their students should be replaced by another school/group of educators that can do a better job.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:16 Greg Richmond
2:16
Paul Hill: 
I think there should be no difference. Both charters and district run schools are government funded organizations whose job is to provide a good education for the students attending them. If children are not learning in a school there is no reason to sustain it, whether it is a charter or district run. New York, New Orleans, Hartford, and other cities are trying to use the same performance based accountability for all their schools -- a good idea.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:16 Paul Hill
2:18
Greg Richmond: 
I should point out that this notion of accountability was almost unheard of when charter were first introduced in the 1990s. Now, it has become widely accepted. Thus, this is one of the "innovations" from the charter sector that is informing policy and practices in all of public education.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:18 Greg Richmond
2:18
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Speaking of accountability, here's a question from Mary Ann. Greg and Paul, what do you think?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:18 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:18
[Comment From Mary Ann ZehrMary Ann Zehr: ] 
How many years should a charter school be given by an authorizing organization to show that it can reverse a problem with lackluster academic performance?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:18 Mary Ann Zehr
2:20
Greg Richmond: 
Almost all charter schools initially receive a five-year charter. This is adequate time to demonstrate whether they can succeed. If, in that time, a school has not produced the level of results promised in its charter proposal, it should be closed. It should not stay open based solely on a promise of getting better. That's what it had the first five years for.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:20 Greg Richmond
2:21
Paul Hill: 
I'll defer to Greg on the specifics. On any school, district run or charter, the authorizer has to consider whether it is improving or stuck; whether it has a problem solving culture or a toxic one; and what alternative is avaliable for the children in it. Good authorizers use the numbers but also look beneath them. They also try constantly to fid new school providers and leaders, so they have an option when a school needs to be closed.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:21 Paul Hill
2:22
Greg Richmond: 
Also, we see a disturbing trend to grant longer-term charters (10 or 15 years) in some places. This is a real threat to accountability.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:22 Greg Richmond
2:22
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
As was mentioned earlier, we have not only charter schools that are experiencing trouble, but those that are doing well. Matthew wonders if anyone is turning an eye toward replication. Greg, perhaps you can answer his question.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:22 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:22
[Comment From MatthewMatthew: ] 
Does anyone care about "replicability" when it comes to charter school authorization / evaluation? Sure it's great to have schools like SEED, but what about the kids who don't win the lottery? Couldn't there be four successful schools set up for the money that SEED costs?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:22 Matthew
2:24
Greg Richmond: 
SEED is an extremely unique model. It is a boarding school and, because of that, extremely expense to operate. That's one reason why it hasn't been able to replicate to speak of. [more]
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:24 Greg Richmond
2:24
Greg Richmond: 
Most replicating charter schools, like KIPP, Uncommon Schools, Noble Steet, Aspire, etc., actually cost roughly the same as traditional schools (except for start-up costs).
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:24 Greg Richmond
2:25
Paul Hill: 
See the New Schools Ventures website for information on Charter Management Organizations that are trying to reproduce promising charter school models. There are also local incubators ands reproducers in NY, Chi, NOLA, Denver, LA, and other places.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:25 Paul Hill
2:25
Greg Richmond: 
In fact, most charter schools receive less money per pupil than district schools. Ball State University released a report yesterday that found that receive 19.2% less money per student ($2247) than schools run by school districts. That’s a huge disparity that affects 1.6 million children and it discriminates against the children in those schools, denying them equal access to educational resources.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:25 Greg Richmond
2:26
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
For those interested, you can find the Ball State study here: http://www.bsu.edu/teachers/ocsr/funding/
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:26 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:27
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Tina has a question about the influence of private dollars in funding charter schools.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:27 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:27
[Comment From Tina CollinsTina Collins: ] 
Do the panelists feel that it is appropriate for charter authorizers to receive contributions from industry funders, including foundations such as the Walton, Broad, and Gates Foundations? In particular, do they have any concerns about issues of “regulatory capture” among authorizers who receive significant amounts of money from funders such as the Walton Foundation, who explicitly support political reforms which decrease government oversight of markets (including education “markets”) and oppose unions?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:27 Tina Collins
2:28
Greg Richmond: 
Full disclosure: my organization receives grant funds from Walton and Gates and other foundations. We also receive funds from membership dues, conference registrations and fees for services.

The foundations you mention have been very strong voices for quality within the charter sector. One of them, for example, funded last summer’s CREDO study that was highly critical of charter school results. So it’s entirely appropriate that they would support NACSA’s work to improve authorizing. I must also point out that these foundations support many other types of projects in traditional school systems as well as in other areas (e.g. environmental protection, world health). I applaud them for their generosity.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:28 Greg Richmond
2:30
Paul Hill: 
Foundation funding can be a mixed blessing but it does allow charter heads to develop new methods, and to inform others who might imitate them. The question about capture of the authorizers is sensible but the facts demonstrate the opposite of what Tina fears: authorizers that get foundation money to refine their methods are more likely to be demanding. The big foundations are concerned about quality too.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:30 Paul Hill
2:32
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Both of you have mentioned charter school funding as an issue. With our economy still struggling, is charter school quality being hurt by strained and cut budgets?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:32 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:33
EdWeek Producer: Jennifer: 
For more on the question of funding, watch an Education Week interview with Arne Duncan about the influence on foundations on education policy.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:33 EdWeek Producer: Jennifer
2:34
Greg Richmond: 
Absolutely. Charter schools are experiencing deep revenue losses just like school districts are. They do have have an advantage, though, in the face of those cuts because they have much more autonomy about how to spend their limited resources. They can change staffing and scheduling much more nimbly than a district can. They also tend to have lower central adminstration costs.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:34 Greg Richmond
2:35
Paul Hill: 
Charter school heads are struggling with cuts, just like districts are. It is very rough for everyone. But charters have more flexibility about how they spend their money, and can adjust their staffing and pay structures when needed. I haven't seen a study but I'm willing to bet that charter teachers' pay -- like that of almost everyone else n the economy -- is not rising, while civil service pay for district teachers is rising very fast. That puts the districts in an even worse situation than the charters.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:35 Paul Hill
2:35
Greg Richmond: 
And, if I may continue, those decisions about how to make cuts are made much closer to the school level than in a typical large school district. So, nobody likes cuts, but charter schools have an advantage on how they can manage those cuts.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:35 Greg Richmond
2:36
Greg Richmond: 
Paul raises an interesting, ironic point. Most districts are locked into ever-rising salary increases. Charter school teachers generally aren't. So charter teachers are less likely to get a raise. But district teachers are more likely to see their class sizes go through the roof.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:36 Greg Richmond
2:37
Greg Richmond: 
I've also heard anecdotal evidence that charter schools are generally the only people hiring new teachers these days. Districts are laying people off in mass numbers.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:37 Greg Richmond
2:38
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Clearly , we are seeing some advantages and disadvantages at work for both traditional and charter public schools in dealing with the lagging economy. Speaking of teacher's pay, Amy has a question related to those who have a hand in setting pay: unions
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:38 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:38
[Comment From Amy HightowerAmy Hightower: ] 
Great question from Tina. Let me ask a counter part -- what are your thoughts and experiences with charter schools that are unionized?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:38 Amy Hightower
2:39
Greg Richmond: 
I think all employees should have the right to form a union and collectively bargain. Charter school teachers have this right, but they must choose to pursue unionization rather than have it required. [more]
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:39 Greg Richmond
2:40
Greg Richmond: 
Most, but certainly not all, charter school teachers have not unionized and many of them will say that they don't feel a need to. Again, this touches on the fact that decisions at charter schools are made at the school level, not the central district administration.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:40 Greg Richmond
2:41
Greg Richmond: 
I recently visited a unionized charter school in Queens that was quite happy with its dual union/charter school status. It works for them. It doesn't work for others. As long as the people in the school are the ones voluntarily choosing to unionize or not, I've got no problem.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:41 Greg Richmond
2:42
Paul Hill: 
Mitch Price, a lawyer in my center , is studying this. Some charters have been unionized by their own teachers, meaning that the school is its own bargaining unit. The schools still retain their control of mission and staffing, but heads have to consult with their teachers. This can work out well, since the heads and teachers are all in the same boat -- of the school doesn't work they all lose their jobs.
However, the idea of charters becoming part of a broader bargaining unit -- e.g. the local school district -- could make them susceptible to forced transfers of teachers and other requirements that could make them very hard to manage and eliminate their advantages as independent organizations
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:42 Paul Hill
2:43
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Paul, M.C. has a question about where charters may fit in when it comes to "reinventing" public education.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:43 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:43
[Comment From M.C.M.C.: ] 
Paul, what does "Reinventing Public Education" involve? Are charters that privilege rote and ritualized instruction actually "reinventing" or are they simply "repackaging"? Instead, what about schools like the Big Picture schools, including the Met in Providence? Those are reinvented; is there a push for schools like that, which acknowledge students as humans with interests and differences and actively work to prepare them for a fast-changing future?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:43 M.C.
2:46
Paul Hill: 
re. MC's comment at 2:37: Reinventing is about changing the relationship between the school board and the school -- the school has a lot of freedom but its existence is contingent on performance. This enables instructional innovation but as we have seen it does not guarantee it. Innovation requires incentives and support. Dee the NYC Schools new innovation zone for an example of how innovation can build on school autonomy and performance based accountability.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:46 Paul Hill
2:46
Greg Richmond: 
Reinventing public education must occur at both the school level and the school system level. Big Picture is an example of school-level innovation. At the school system level, the very existence of charter schools - public schools that are not run by a school district - is a reinvention. In both cases, as our world becomes simultaneously more integrated and more customized, we need to actively consider new ways of organizing and delivering public education.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:46 Greg Richmond
2:47
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
Greg, you led Chicago's charter schools office. What type of innovations were you looking for from new schools?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:47 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:48
Paul Hill: 
Further on innovation: Charters have picked the low hanging fruit: more personalization, more hands-on adult contact. They are just starting to ask whether technology in assessment and instruction can help them personalize teaching and learning. Ten years from now the charter sector will be mush more innovative
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:48 Paul Hill
2:48
Greg Richmond: 
First and foremost, we wanted to see educators that would be successful keeping kids in school, graduating them, and sending them to college or employment with the knowledge and skills they needed to succeed. [more]
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:48 Greg Richmond
2:50
Greg Richmond: 
Second, we were also looking for safer schools, particularly in neighborhoods that are consumed by street violence. Interesting fact: every traditional public high school in Chicago has metal detectors at the front door while not a single charter school does. They rely on personal touch and values instead.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:50 Greg Richmond
2:53
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
We all know violence against Chicago youth has been a problem--pointing toward a need for a culture change. Charlotte has a question about a cultural shift among a different group of people: the adults fighting the traditional vs. charter battle. Can the debate move past the acrimony?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:53 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
2:53
[Comment From Charlotte WhalenCharlotte Whalen: ] 
2) In the current controversy over Race to the Top funding in New York State, the fiscal crisis is driving the charter and district school sectors apart rather than bringing them together. It seems to me that now more than ever it is important for everyone to work together to preserve funding for education. What can be done to foster collaboration between the charter movement and district schools - both for education advocacy and to support the original goal of charter schools: to experiment, discover best practices, and bring those back to all schools and kids? In all the news, research, and debate on this issue, this last point never appears: can you point to some examples of positive collaboration between charter schools and their districts to share practices so that both can improve? Why are we told that we have to choose one system over the other?
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:53 Charlotte Whalen
2:55
Greg Richmond: 
Great question Charlotte. Your last sentence is really important: we shouldn't be told that we have to choose one system over another. That concept was common in the charter sector in the 1990s and, I'm glad to say, you hear it less often now. There was too much hubris then and too little humility. Now, you are much more likely to hear charter school advocates talk about the fact that charter schools are one of multiple ways to improve educational opportunities for students.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:55 Greg Richmond
2:57
Greg Richmond: 
Charter advocates DO still believe that the traditional way of running school districts doesn't work very well. But now they're also interested in bring new charter ideas about autonomy, accountability and choice into the traditional system.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:57 Greg Richmond
2:58
Greg Richmond: 
It's not about a new instructional program, per se. It's about more time on task, better assessments, better data, school-level autonomy and real accountability for results.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:58 Greg Richmond
2:58
Paul Hill: 
On funding, both districts and charters would benefit if all funding went to whatever public school a student attended. Then both sides would benefit equally from any increase in finding.
New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Denver, and Hartford are all places where the district uses chartering as one of the normal ways it provides schools, and they are always looking for good practices that can be replicated, whether by district schools or charters. That's how it should be. Public education is a common enterprise, charters and district run schools should be more partners than opponents. I don't know the Charlotte case, but a lot of the antagonism comes from people in district schools feeling that THEY (the charters) are taking away OUR money. The money is for the students and should be used wherever they are educated.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:58 Paul Hill
2:59
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
For those of you interested in learning more about charter schools, check out our charter schools topic page on edweek.org.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 2:59 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
3:01
Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week: 
We have come to the end of the hour, and I'd like to thank Paul and Greg for joining us today to share their insights with us. Thanks to all of you for your many good questions--we weren't able to get to them all. A transcript of today's chat will be available soon on our website.
Tuesday May 25, 2010 3:01 Dakarai I. Aarons, Education Week
3:01
EdWeek Producer: Jennifer: 
Thank you again to everyone for joining us today, and to Dakarai Aarons for moderating an excellent discussion.

And make sure to check out other upcoming chats at www.edweek.org/go/chats
Tuesday May 25, 2010 3:01 EdWeek Producer: Jennifer
3:01
 

 
 
 

Building High-Quality Charter Schools

Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 2 p.m. Eastern time


As charter school managers look to scale up their operations across the country, how can they ensure quality and hold both new and existing schools accountable for performance? Join our experts for a conversation on the best practices in creating high-quality new charters, what research says about charter school performance, and why top-notch authorizing is important.

Guests:
Greg Richmond, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Charter School Authorizers
Paul T. Hill, Director, Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington
Dakarai I. Aarons, Staff Writer, Education Week, moderated this chat.

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