The Quality Challenge for Charter Schools

Our guests examined what efforts are under way to help improve charter quality, the merits of those initiatives, and what more can and should be done.

Chat: The Quality Challenge for Charter Schools

March 3, 2009; Read the Transcript

When President Barack Obama pledged on the campaign trail last September to step up federal aid for “successful” charter schools, he was touching on a matter of mounting concern: how to ensure better and more consistent quality across the growing charter sector.

Amid worry about the mixed academic results for charter schools—and a belief that too many chronic low performers have not been shut down--a variety of efforts are emerging to tackle the issue of quality. The focus on charter quality comes a quarter-century after A Nation At Risk declared that a “rising tide of mediocrity” was eroding U.S. education. With some 4,600 public schools now serving more than 1.3 million students across the nation, the charter sector represents one of the most notable shifts in the U.S. education landscape since the report’s release.

Our guests examined what efforts are under way to help improve charter quality, the merits of those initiatives, and what more can and should be done.

Moderator: Erik W. Robelen, an assistant editor of Education Week, and our guests:

  • Nelson Smith, president and chief executive officer, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools;
  • Christopher Barbic, founder and head of YES Prep Public Schools, a charter school network based in Houston; and
  • Gary Miron, professor of education at Western Michigan University.

Related Stories:

  • Network Says ‘YES’ to College for All
  • Quality Seen as Job One for Charters
  • Thanks for participating. Click on the arrow to view the archived chat. And feel free to comment in the comments section below.

    Live Chat: The Quality Challenge for Charter Schools(03/03/2009)


    2:54 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Hi everybody. We’ll be starting in a few minutes. Keep the questions coming!

    3:00 Moderator: Erik Robelen:

    Good afternoon. I’m joined today by three distinguished guests who know a great deal about charter schools. Their task is to answer your questions (and a few of my own) about efforts to improve charter school quality, the merits of those initiatives, and what else is needed.

    3:01 Moderator: Erik Robelen:

    To help frame things, let me start with a quick question.

    3:01 Moderator: Erik Robelen:

    Nationally, how would each of you grade the academic performance of charter schools currently? A? B? C? etc… Chris, if you like, you could answer this specifically for Texas, where you are based.


    Gary Miron:

    Nationally, I would grade the charter reform movement with a “C” which is average. There is considerable differences in quality between and within states

    3:02 Chris Barbic: Thanks, Erik. I would give Texas a “B”. There are great examples of charters going to scale in different areas of the state. Unfortunately, there are a few poor-performers who have grabbed the attention of the State.

    3:03 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Nelson, what say you?


    Nelson Smith:

    Of course I say A-plus! Actually, there are three bands. At the top is a significant group that really is A-Plus. Then a large group in the middle, a solid B, and at the bottom, some schools that probably rate less than C and should be closed.

    3:03 Moderator: Erik Robelen: So, we’ve got A’s, B’s, and C’s...

    3:04 Moderator: Erik Robelen: And less than C....

    3:04 Nelson Smith: And the “B” group, I should add, is the prize here. They tend to get better over time, and need things like buildings and equitable finance to keep moving ahead.

    3:04 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Next question is about what we mean by quality.

    3:04 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Nelson, why don’t you take this question on quality first.

    3:04 [Comment From Janette Iachini]
    What do you feel are the top three components of a quality charter school?

    3:05 Nelson Smith: There are some non-negotiables -- growth in test scores, meeting standards, and getting a clean audit.... beyond that it’s really meeting the objectives in your charter.

    3:05 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Chris? How do you define quality?


    Gary Miron:

    Here is where things get complicated. Plenty of misunderstanding when we talk about quality.

    The original charter school concept was to be mission driven, so quality should have been relative to the mission of the school and the measurable objectives that would be used to monitor quality.


    Chris Barbic:

    At YES Prep, quality means student achievement results that are not marginally better than the traditional school--but significantly better... At YES, top three components: Great People, a focus on results and great relationships betweens students, parents and staff.

    3:06 Moderator: Erik Robelen: By the way, guests, feel free to comment on what the others say.

    3:07 Gary Miron: Today quality is largely defined by student academic achievement on standardized tests.


    Nelson Smith:

    For a quick baseline of “things that should be measured,” I’d refer folks to the Framework doc on our website, that was mentioned in your article. But this is a floor, not a ceiling - -Gary’s right that mission is really important, and hard to measure sometimes!

    3:07 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Gary, what are some other things you would like to help define quality?

    3:08 Chris Barbic: I’d like to add to Gary’s comment... When it comes to standardized tests, YES Prep focuses on college graduation more than standardized tests.

    3:08 Gary Miron: I really like the charter school idea with charter schools being judged based on their mission. I think we have come along way away from this. Test results are easier to use but not the best indicator of quality, especially when looked at in isolation of other quality indicators

    3:08 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Nelson, I’m glad you mentioned the academic framework document . What are the challenges of getting thousands of individual charter leaders across the country to embrace that sort of thing?

    3:09 Nelson Smith: And... maybe this is an “input” but Chris demonstrates the pre-condition: High Expectations. Setting a school culture that’s relentless around achievement. You see it in any great school, not just charters.

    3:09 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Have you seen the academic framework document, Gary? What do you think of it? Does it hit the right points?


    Nelson Smith:

    Can’t type fast enough -- now for Erik’s question....

    3:09 Gary Miron: I have not yet seen this.


    Nelson Smith:

    It will take time to get school folks, authorizers (especially) and state folks not just to read the “indicators, metrics, and measures...”

    3:10 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Here’s a question from K. Carpenter. Chris, want to take a stab?

    3:10 [Comment From K. Carpenter Teachers.Net]
    What according, to the proponents of charter schools, makes charter schools an improvement over traditional public schools?

    3:10 Nelson Smith: but also to adopt the mindset. So we’re anticipating a lot of training around Performance Management -- using data to drive improvement.


    Chris Barbic:

    Charter schools provide a targeted program to a targeted student. And we get to create new schools instead of turning around existing ones. Additionally, we have more control over people and program.

    3:12 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Nelson, do you want to respond to that question, too, from K. Carpenter?

    3:12 Nelson Smith: K -- They’re not always an improvement. They take risks and some don’t work. But as a movement, charters drive upward. The best replicate and the ones that don’t work go away. That’s how it should work.

    3:12 Chris Barbic: Agreed!


    Gary Miron:

    K.Carpenter. There are too many answers to your question depending on who you talk to and which charter schools they are thinking of.

    3:13 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Gary, I guess one critique is that the ones that are not working don’t go away. What do you think? Is that happening?


    Gary Miron: Yes, there are many poor performing charter schools in the mix.


    Chris Barbic:

    I’d like to chime in...

    3:14 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Nelson or Chris. What say you on this issue of some low-performing schools not getting shut down. What is the problem here?


    Nelson Smith:

    Let’s face it, authorizers are really the linchpin for quality and - -as your article noted --there are too many that don’t do, ummm. “best practice.” And sometimes, their own powers are unclear. Some fear they’ll get sued for closing a poor school. So we need to make sur ethey’ve got that authority - -and then hold them accountable for performance.


    Gary Miron:

    The poor performing charter schools exist and continue to exist for many reasons, including the fact that some authorizers are not able or willing to do oversight, and many charter schools establish political constituencies which make it difficult to close. In some states there are perverse financial incentives for authorizers to keep school on line even when they should be closed

    3:15 Chris Barbic: In Texas, the poor performers are not going away fast enough. In the meantime, they are diminishing the charter movement. But if you look at the top 100 public high schools--charters are MORE than well-represented.

    3:15 Nelson Smith: Amen.

    3:15 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Gary, what to Chris’ point about high-performing charters? Are there a disproportionate number?


    Gary Miron:

    There are also high performing traditional public schools and magnet schools. My guess, is the there is an equal proportion of traditional public schools that are positive outlyers.

    3:16 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Next, to a question about unionizing charters.

    3:16 [Comment From Julie]
    What is the response of the National Charter School Alliance to the recent union organizing at KIPP and other schools in Boston and Philly? Do you believe that teachers having a voice in their schools will hurt or help quality?

    3:18 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Gary or Chris, feel free to chime in on this question about unionizing as well.

    3:19 Chris Barbic: Teachers having a voice is essential to high quality. I am not convinced that unions are the best avenue.

    3:19 Moderator: Erik Robelen: What are your concerns about unionizing, Chris?

    3:19 Nelson Smith: Sorry -- Just got knocked offline (for the union question...hmm.....)... Actually, there’s a statement on Teacher leadership in Public Charter Schools on our website that gives a full rundown of our views...

    3:20 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Nelson, maybe give us a taste of that?

    3:21 Gary Miron: When or if working conditions worsen, teacher attrition rates will rise and the odds of unionization will likely increase. Some charter school models are not affected by the very high attrition, but I think one of the problems with establishing and maintaining quality in charter schools is teacher attrition


    Nelson Smith:

    There are certain bright lines that need to be observed - -the ability of the school to set its own calendar, for example. But charters also need to provide “voice” like Chris says, and make sure that they’d paying a competitive wage, good benefits, and cultivate real professionalism and opportunity in the workplace.

    3:21 Chris Barbic: To your question, Erik... YES Prep has been at this for 10 years and we want to stick with what’s been working: Finding great people, investing in their development and giving them avenues for growth and feedback. In short: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    3:21 Moderator: Erik Robelen: There’s also a question here about the stimulus and charter schools. Stand by.

    3:21 [Comment From Lorna Bonner]
    How will stimulus affect charter schools?

    3:22 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Nelson, want to tackle this?

    3:22 Nelson Smith: I think the “attrition” argument is largely specious. Districts lose 50% of their entering teachers in the first 5 years. And, especially in the early years of a charter, you would expect to see turnover as the mission and staff come into alignment.

    3:23 [Comment From Sol]
    Surely Ed Week can do better than this frustrating format which isn’t working properly. Why can’t you do a regjular video so you can be seen and don’t have to rely on your typing skills. It’s 2009 folks-get with it.

    3:24 Moderator: Erik Robelen: here’s the link to the Teacher Leadership post that Nelson mentioned


    Nelson Smith:

    On the stimulus: First, there’s a lots of money to plug budget gaps, so if you’ve been hit by cutbacks, there’s new revenue. Second, there’s a lot of Title I and IDEA money, that will be distributed by regular formula. Third. charters are eligible to compete for the 650M “Innovation” grants that DOE will distribute. Lots more on our website about this.

    3:24 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Sorry Sol. This is our maiden voyage with this software...

    3:25 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Next , a question about teacher attrition. Chris, want to answer this?

    3:25 [Comment From Chris Torres]
    What are the most important challenges to address in stemming high teacher attrition in charters? Can charters achieve high standards with high teacher attrition?

    3:26 Gary Miron:
    Charter schools that try to be innovative have a hard time doing this with high teacher turnover. Too much spent on preparing new teachers only to see them leave.

    3:26 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Nelson, do you see teacher attrition as a big issue?


    Chris Barbic:

    The days of people coming out of college doing the exact same job for 30 years are over... Teaching professionals included. You can combat attrition by providing teachers a professional career track that leads to more growth, responsibilty and money.

    3:27 Nelson Smith: Chris -- Long-term, remember that this movement is just 16 years old. A lot of schools are now looking at “sustainability” in general. In the early years of any charter some attrition may even be good -- but once you’ve hit your stride you want teachers to make a career there, if they’re good. So a lot of schools are now looking at worklife issues, pensions, all that.

    3:27 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Here’s a question about the “market” and charter schools. Gary, how about you take this first?

    3:27 [Comment From lstowell]
    Should not market forces be the deciders of whether or not a charter is terminated? I mean, if a school is not doing a good job educating children, should not the parents and teachers at the school have the most important say in the charter continuing? They can vote with their attendance, right?

    3:28 [Comment From Sol]
    To stem high attrition in charter schools, you need to provide assistance to first year teachers - and this should come from the Principal down. My experience with Canadian Charters schools is that they do not want to pay enough to get first rate principals. As the principal goes, generally, so goes the school.

    3:28 Gary Miron: Should we say the same thing about out economic crisis. Has the market done a good job of regulating.

    3:29 Chris Barbic: Istowell- In an ideal world,that would be true; however, we have seen examples here in Texas of poor-performing schools on every scale. But, for some reason, students are still enrolled.


    Nelson Smith:

    Istowell -- That’s the theory and it’s often right, especially if folks have really good information about performance. But sometimes parents get attached to a school that’s mid-educating kids. We have public accountability here - -so there is a role for an authorizer to make sometimes-unpopular judgments.

    3:29 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Here’s a comment from Patricia.

    3:29 [Comment From Patricia]
    Problem is, some parents are willing to leave students in a school just because it’s safe.


    Gary Miron:

    This whole notion that our K-12 schools can be considered a market is silly. We are talking about a public good, not a private good.

    3:29 Chris Barbic: Sol- assistance to first-year teachers is crucial. Good point.

    3:30 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Here’s a question about those who might want to launch their own school.

    3:30 Nelson Smith: Gary, it’s not an either-or proposition. Some regulation is needed, but not the one-size, top-down variety of the 19th-century “school district.”

    3:30 [Comment From Dianna]
    How do you start a charter school? Is there guidance and grant funds available to support efforts to start new charter schools?

    3:31 Moderator: Erik Robelen: But, I’d like to go back for a moment. A follow-up question for Chris.

    3:31 [Comment From Elliott]
    Chris, How do you support 1st years teachers at YES?

    3:31 Nelson Smith: Yep -- Talk to your state charter association (contacts at and also look at the Charter Schools Program on the DOE site.


    Gary Miron:

    In some states, likey my state (MI) groups are disuaded to start their own school without a management company. hmmm.

    3:32 Nelson Smith: Michigan is a wayyyy outlier on that --75% of the schools are EMO-related. nationally it’s about 10%.

    3:32 Moderator: Erik Robelen: I’m going to summarize (and oversimplify) a question from Bob Tate: Whither “innovation” in charter schools? Is there as much as should have been hoped for? What are the barriers?

    3:33 Chris Barbic: We have a program called, the Teaching Excellence Program. It kicks off with an intense summer pre-service program. It is followed by support throughout the year (instructional coaches with a 14:1 ratio of coach to teacher); pre-observation meetings, observation, post-observation follow-up every three weeks and monthly workshops.

    3:33 Gary Miron: Michigan has over 80% run by for-profit EMOs. Nationally, close to 25 percent of charter schools are operated by for profit or nonprofit EMOs.

    3:33 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Meanwhile, a comment about EMOs in Ohio.

    3:33 [Comment From Patricia]
    And Governor Strickland of Ohio is trying to put management companies (for-profit business) out of business in Ohio!

    3:34 Gary Miron: Ohio has followed many of the mistakes of Michigan. Tried to get too many charter schools up and running as fast as they could, and EMOs were seen as vehicle for doing this.

    3:34 Moderator: Erik Robelen: What mistakes have you seen in Ohio, Nelson?

    3:36 Nelson Smith: The state did all the chartering at first, and botched it; Then they allowed too many sponsors without enough oversight. There are some great charters in Ohio, it’s important to note, but their good is overshadowed sometimes. That’s why we, NACSA, and Fordham recommeded a “housecleaning” in 2006 - -and that legislation is now really having an effect.

    3:37 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Indeed, as I understand it, as many as 23 charter schools in Ohio may be forced to close in June under the 2006 housecleaning law.

    3:37 Gary Miron: Good point Nelson. I have worked with some good schools in Cleveland. Gems, but they are an exception.

    3:37 [Comment From Bob Tate]
    Will any of the guests be responding to my question about innovation?

    3:37 Chris Barbic: Bob- can you restate the question, please?

    3:38 Gary Miron: Too be innovative, charter schools require more funding that can be devoted for this purpose, and I believe they need a more qualified and stable work force.

    3:38 Chris Barbic: I’d like to add to that...

    3:38 Moderator: Erik Robelen: While we wait for Bob, my sense was that he wanted to know why there wasn’t more innovation in charter schools nationwide, and what could be done to encourage it.


    Gary Miron:

    With NCLB, charter schools have also seen more restrictions in terms of autonomy, which makes innovation more difficult.

    3:39 [Comment From Bob Tate]
    Erik’s summary works for me: Whither “innovation” in charter schools? Is there as much as should have been hoped for? What are the barriers?

    3:39 Nelson Smith: A lot of state laws called for “innovation” meaning new classroom procedures. But charters tend to take a variety of approaches and combine them in new ways. And there is huge innovation in finance, use of time, compensation, accountability and other areas..,.

    3:39 [Comment From Chris Torres]
    The key to innovation and good charters are good people. That is in short supply. Of course, structure matters too which is why CMO’s like KIPP, Uncommon, and Achievement First often provide comprehensive structures that build good people and make them great, but the challenge is finding enough of them and holding on to them long enough.

    3:40 [Comment From S. Duncan]
    Will we be able to get a copy of today’s chat?

    3:40 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Yes, it will be available right here on this same page.

    3:40 Chris Barbic: The first line of innovation, are now becoming standards: More time on task, summer opportunities--these are things that started in the R&D lab and have now been taken to scale. Other innovations center around using technology to leverage high-performing teachers and drive collaboration across multiple schools. Includes, cirriculum, best practices, resources.

    3:40 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Here’s a question about the “saturation point” in charter growth.

    3:40 Nelson Smith: Human capital is key. One of our great challenges is finding enough great leaders and teachers for the growing needs of the movement. All those models you mentioned would scale faster if that challenge coule be resolved.


    Gary Miron:

    Innovation was linked with mission driven schools, which we seem to gone away from.

    3:41 [Comment From Derrick Chau]
    Greetings to old acquaintances Gary and Nelson! What is the panel’s position on whether some areas (such as Los Angeles) are reaching their saturation point with the large number of charters opening and the proposed expansion of many management organizations? Is there still room for growth?

    3:41 Chris Barbic: Nelson- you are dead on about human capital.

    3:41 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Chris. You have plans to help further saturate the market in Houston. Can you tell viewers about that? And how much is enough?

    3:41 Nelson Smith: There’s only “saturation” when parents stop demanding space in charters for their kids!

    3:42 Gary Miron: Hongmei Ni, did an interesting study on Metro Detroit and found that when Market saturation increased above 7 percent that the performance of traditional public schools dropped, in large part because most resource-rich families had left.

    3:42 Chris Barbic: As long as there is a waiting list- there is room for growth. In Houston we have more students on the waiting list (3,500) than we currently serve (2,600). Our goal is 10,000, 6-12th grade students in Houston on 13 campuses.


    Nelson Smith:

    Hmm., We have 31 percent charters in DC and the performance of DCPS has improved a lot -- there’s no numeric formula, it depends on leadership - -and Michelle Rhee is quite a leader.

    3:43 Moderator: Erik Robelen: And here’s a comment all the way from Alaska on innovation...

    3:43 [Comment From Mark Standley]
    We are a standards-based, student-centered charter school in Alaska. Our mission is “educating for leadership, educating for life.” As a performance based school, we find our innovation is to think and act outside of the Carnegie Unit box.

    3:44 [Comment From K. Carpenter Teachers.Net]
    What of the kids whose parents don’t put them on waiting lists for charter schools? Will they be left in public schools where the best and brightest no longer attend because their parents have moved them to charter schools?

    3:44 Nelson Smith: It’s time to scrap Carnegie Units!! We should be measuring outcomes, not seat time.

    3:45 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Nelson, care to respond to Carpenter’s question?

    3:45 Nelson Smith: K -- I love that question, because the answer is to provide more great schools, for all the kids. More charters of there is demand, and use of the charter example in the regular system to make sure no one is “left behind.”


    Chris Barbic:

    K. Carpenter: Charter schools in Texas are all open-enrollment. We dont take the “cream of the crop”. We believe enough examples of what is possible will drive higher performance on a larger scale.


    Gary Miron:

    Charter schools can have reputations that help them attract the higher performing students, and there are also some charter schools that end up atttracting the lower performing students. It really depends on the specific charter schools and the student they target and eventually serve.

    3:46 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Here’s a question about profiteering in education.

    3:46 [Comment From MARILYN BARNETT]
    How do we monitor individuals who seek to open charter schools simply as a business to profit themselves?

    3:46 Nelson Smith: And BTW, I don’t believe in the “unmotivated parent” theory. I worked in DC Public Schools for awhile and there were PLENTY of motivated parents - -they just faced a brick wall of a system.

    3:47 Chris Barbic: Marilyn, if they are performing well- who cares. If not, shut them down!

    3:47 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Gary, what do you say on the “unmotivated parent” theory?

    3:48 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Here’s a question that digs deeper into defining quality.

    3:48 [Comment From Eli]
    What about schools that cater to students who have fallen through the cracks because of behavior or academic issues. How are they supposed to measure up with state testings? They’re really playing with a rigged deck.


    Gary Miron:

    staff at one large EMO, National Heritage Academy reported to me that they expect $1,000 per student in profit per year. We did out own analysis and found that their Michigan schools had a “cost advantage of $1,033 per pupil/year. Not bad for profit. And that does not count the equity the company (i.e., sister company) acquires through the facilities that are paid off in a little more than 5 year.


    Nelson Smith:

    Gary -- The question is not how much NHA is making but how well their kids are learning!

    3:50 Chris Barbic: Eli- that is why individual student growth records (where students started and ended the year) is where we need to head in terms of accountability.

    3:50 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Chris. How do you feel about forprofit companies running charters? Clearly, you decided to go with YES Prep Public Schools.


    Gary Miron:

    The issue is not the unmotivated parent, the issue is the uninformed or misinformed parent, and it is also whether parents have transportation (when required) to actually choose. There is a large body of international studies on which types of parents choose.

    3:50 Chris Barbic: Nelson is right: student outcomes matter.

    3:50 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Oops. I meant to say that Chris, clearly you decided to go the NONprofit route.

    3:50 Nelson Smith: And on the testing issue - -this is one reason it’s so important that we move to a more value-added or “growth” system of assessment. Yes, the tsts should show kids growing toward an agreed high standard, but schools that serve those kids who “fell through the cracks” really need to get credit for the terrific work they do in moving those kids back onto a success track.

    3:52 Gary Miron: NHA students do well here in Michigan. In fact, they do as well as their demograhically similar schools, but not better.

    3:52 Moderator: Erik Robelen: So, Gary, do you object to forprofits running charters?

    3:53 Gary Miron: I object to for-profit EMOs starting schools. This was supposed to be public school reform.

    3:53 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Back to an earlier question...

    3:53 [Comment From Israel]
    Do many of these students attend charter schools because “they have fallen through the cracks”

    3:53 Gary Miron: I have yet to be convinced that a for-profit EMOs are performing better than demographically matched schools.

    3:54 Nelson Smith: Of course, the EMOs operate on contract to non-profit charter boards, everywhere but a few states. So.... do you object to school districts buying books from for-profit textbook companies, or food from for-profit catering services....?


    Chris Barbic:

    A 6th grader in ALL of Houston has a 7% chance of graduating from college. Given this stat, all of our students are at risk. 90% of YES Prep students are first-generation college-bound.

    3:55 Moderator: Erik Robelen: A question on assessing students...


    Gary Miron:

    In increasing number of cases, the EMO comes before the school board is established. I would like for charter school boards to consider at least 3 bids for EMOs before hiring one. How ‘bout that.

    3:55 [Comment From Jeffrey Grove]
    Another question on assessment - what means are available other than standardized testing to measure student growth?


    Nelson Smith:

    Israel -- In three big state studies (FL, TX, and CA), RAND and other researchers found that kids who enroll in charters really are disproportionately behind their peers academically. So while some of our schools explicitly cater to “at-risk” kids, a whole lot of charters do enroll kids who have at least started to slip.....

    3:56 Moderator: Erik Robelen: We’re running out of time, unfortunately. Maybe one or two more questions...


    Nelson Smith:

    Jeffrey -- Lots of charters administer their own value-add testing. Check out Terra nova or NWEA for those purposes.

    3:57 [Comment From Steve]
    Many charters have difficulty providing services to students with disabilities based on individual student needs. Often the barrier is lack of understanding of student need vs administrative convenience and pressure from the administrative staff to provide minimal services without considering student need. Do any of the panel members have suggestions on how to address this issue.

    3:57 Nelson Smith: And again, the Framework for Academic Performance goes into more detail, on our website.

    3:58 Gary Miron: special education and charter schools to not easily mix. Charter schools are about de-regulation and special education is the most regulated component of our education systems.\

    3:59 Nelson Smith: Charters are required to serve kids with disabilities, like any other public schools. One big problem is that charters that are part of district-LEAs often don’t get the best services from the district and are kind of trapped in that arrangement. It’s better if the charter gets its own budget and can go to marketfor the best servies for these kids.

    3:59 Moderator: Erik Robelen: A quick one I wanted to ask. Thoughts about what President Obama had to say about charters schools on the campaign trail? What can and should the feds do on charter quality?


    Chris Barbic:

    Steve, 9% of YES Prep students qualify for Special Ed services and 100% of the graduating seniors have been accepted to four-year colleges. Charters are at an advantage because they foster strong relationships and small class size.

    4:00 Gary Miron: Also on special education, its a matter of economies of scales. It is difficult for small charter schools to cost-effectively serve students with disabilities. Some interesting ideas are starting to come up to share costs across networks of charters, etc.

    4:00 Nelson Smith: If the new budget is any indication, it looks like Obama will follow through on his promise to expand funding. We’ve suggested a new program just for replication of effective models, and keeping the existing program for startups -- but tuning up the grantmaking to ramp up quality.

    4:00 Chris Barbic: We hope that President Obama’s support for charters reaches all of us here on the ground.

    4:01 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Gary, do you see a role for the feds in promoting charter quality?

    4:01 Gary Miron: Charter schools are proving to serve as a vehicle to accelerate the segregation of our public school systems by race, class, and ability. Is this what Obama wants to stand for.??? We need to fix this so charter schools can serve other purposes/

    4:02 Nelson Smith: GARY< THAT"S OUTRAGEOUS.


    Gary Miron:

    It is outrageous, and its very unfortunate.


    Chris Barbic:

    It’s inaccurate.

    4:02 Nelson Smith: And not supported by fact. Obama sees charters a way to EXPAND opportunity, and he’s right!

    4:02 [Comment From Michael Russell]
    Gary Miron is telling the truth, ugly, but the truth.

    4:03 Moderator: Erik Robelen: Do you want to briefly elaborate, Nelson?

    4:03 Gary Miron: Read the new commentary in Ed Week, this week I believe by Amy Stuart Wells


    Nelson Smith:

    I’ll just say this: Some really, really bad “research” has purpoted to make the conclusion Gary just typed. There is no movement more committed to expanding opportunity -- and I cite Chris Barbic as one example - -than the charter movement.

    4:04 Nelson Smith: Like I said about “research”......

    4:05 Chris Barbic: Thanks, Nelson.

    4:05 Gary Miron: This is a common finding in independent state evaluations. Our traditional public schools are also becoming more segregated, but charter schools are accelerating this.

    4:05 Moderator: Erik Robelen:

    I’m afraid we’re out of time for today. Thanks so much to our panelists, and to all the great questions and comments from the audience. Our Web producer will put up a short poll for you, and you can continue the chat in the “Comment” section below, if you like. Over and out!


    Thanks everyone. We’d love your feedback. What did you think of the format of this chat?
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    Chris Barbic:

    I appreciate everyone’s interest in the charter school movement and our collective efforts to improve student outcomes for ALL kids.

    4:06 Gary Miron: Thanks for the interesting discussion.

    4:09 [Comment From K. Carpenter Teachers.Net]
    I liked the moderator’s participation in the chat. I found this an improved format. Thank you.

    4:10 [Comment From MARILYN BARNETT]
    Thanks for this discussion. It was great!


    Education Week's Spotlight on Charter School Leadership

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