Earlier this fall Face-to-Face Academy, a charter school in St. Paul was named as one of America’s Top Schools for Low-Income Students to Beat the Odds by Newsweek magazine.
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend the December 2014 Graduation Ceremony for nine (9) students of the Academy. In his remarks, Darius Husain, the school’s Executive Director, while acknowledging the honor the school has received spoke passionately about how beating the odds is more than Newsweek’s formula of calculating test scores, graduation rates, etc. – that beating the odds for individual students is a whole different calculation.
It is about the homeless student finding a way to survive on the street and completing his studies; it is about the student works all night to sustain himself and then in the morning come to school without any sleep to work on his dream to achieve a diploma; it is about the young teenage woman who is a mother of a small child who has to find a ways to care for that child and successfully finish high school.
These are the life experiences of what it really means to Beat the Odds.
To listen to the life stories of these nine students and how they are beating the odds is inspiring – it reinforces that beating the odds is more than achieving a high school diploma, which is essential for their future opportunities – however, beating the odds is also, and most fundamentally about facing life’s challenges that one faces 24 hours a day – beyond the four walls of the school.
Public policy makers and educators need to acknowledge that beating the odds is more than some mathematical calculation – it is about young people facing and overcoming the challenges life presents. Schools can and provide a safe place to face those challenges. The graduates of Face-to-Face Academy are a testimony to what Beating the Odds really means.
Congratulations to these nine Face-to-Face Academy students, and every young person who beats the odds that they face in life.
NEWS ABOUT CHARTERS
Hmong College Prep Academy High School of Hmong College Prep Academy, St. Paul; KIPP Minnesota Charter School, Minneapolis; Minnesota Transitions Middle School of Minnesota Transitions Charter, Minneapolis ; and Ridgeway Community School, Ridgeway were recently named CELEBRATION SCHOOLS by the Minnesota Department of Education.
The Celebration School designation is part of Minnesota’s federal accountability system. This year 22 of the 123 schools Celebration eligible schools were named Celebration schools.
World Learner School, Chaska will kick off celebrating its 20th Anniversary on Friday, January 9, 2015 with an All School Reunion. World Learner School is a Montessori school serving grades 1-8.
CHARTERS IN THE NEWS
Nova Classical Academy, St. Paul - Bruce Watkins, Interim Executive Director was profiled in the West End Personalities Column of the Community Reporter a publication that serves the West End neighborhoods of St. Paul. Community Reporter, December, 2014
Hiawatha Academies, Minneapolis – the short and long term facility plans of the school were the focus of a local section front page story in StarTribune. StarTribune, Sunday – December 7, 2014
Venture Academy, Minneapolis – is one of four charter schools highlighted in a report entitled: BREAKTHROUGHS IN TIME, TALENT AND TECHNOLOGY: Next Generation Learning Models in Public Charter Schools, that was published this fall by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Among its many activities the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, an office of city government, regularly coordinates meetings of charter schools located in the City of Minneapolis to discuss issues common among the charters in the city.
Last Tuesday, a number of the 38 charter schools in Minneapolis came together under the auspices of the Youth Coordinating Board to discuss preparations for the Pre-K-12 Minneapolis School Fair Showcase that will be held on January 31, 2015 from 9:00 am – 2:00 pm at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The annual event is great opportunity for schools to showcase their programs and for parents to learn the wealth of educational choices that exist in the city.
The School Fair which includes both Minneapolis Public Schools, and charter schools in Minneapolis is a good example of cooperation that can exist between traditional districts and charter schools when kids and parents are put first.
At the Annual Membership Meeting on Wednesday, December 3rd the Association released five (5) new resources for Charter School Boards.
• Board Member Manual/Handbook – Recommended Content and Checklist
• Charter School Board and Committee Minutes – A Primer
• A Sample Policy and Procedures for Public Comment Periods at Board Meetings
• A Sample Agenda for Regular Board Meetings and a Sample Agenda for Closed Meetings
• The 4th in the series – Questions? Charter School Boards of Directors Should Ask About – Personnel and Human Resource Management
All of these new resources are available to member schools in the Board Governance Section on the MACS Website.
Last Wednesday, Rep. Sondra Erickson, the incoming Chair of the House Education Innovation Policy Committee spoke at the Association’s Winter Public Policy Forum. We appreciate the fact that she spent the entire afternoon at the event. In her remarks Rep. Erickson shared her perspective on a number of issues in the proposed MACS Public Policy Platform and answered a number of questions posed by Forum attendees.
COMMENT – Rep. Erickson, who will begin her 9th term in the legislature has been a consistent supporter of charter schools.
Participants also heard Rose Hermodson, Assistant Commissioner – Office of Innovation, MDE give a presentation on the soon to be released draft of the proposed new Integration Rule. The new proposed rule would require charter schools to comply with the new Integration Rule. The rule making process is expected to take between 12- 18 months.
COMMENT – The proposed new rule is in response to the 2013 legislature rewriting the Integration Law. Charter schools, as schools of parental choice were exempt from the 1999 Integration Law and Rule and they were not mentioned in the new law.
As soon as the proposed rule is published for public comment we will be convening schools across the state for a discussion to determine how we should respond to the proposal.
In brief testimony at the Senate Hearing on Early Childhood Education on Monday I made the following points:
First, that charter schools were appreciative of the legislature’s efforts to assist families that do not have the financial means to obtain early learning opportunities for their children, especially since many of those families attend charter schools. Pointing out that charter schools have a much higher percentages of low income and ESL students than the statewide averages.
Second, that 10% of charter schools now offer state approved Pre-School or Pre-K programs and that there are a number of others who have submitted or are developing applications for programs to serving these young learners.
Third, that there are some issues that need to be addressed that impact families who attend these programs at charter schools if we are concerned about seamless programming for students.
1] While the charter school law was amended last year to clarify that charter schools could operate Pre-School/Pre-K programs, these programs are still considered auxiliary programs outside of the charter. Given that status, we ask the legislature to amend the charter law to redefine that a charter school could be Pre-School – grade 12. Without a change in the law, students in charter school Pre-School or Pre-K are not considered enrolled in the charter school, since those programs are considered a separate entity form the charter school and thus those children may have to go in the lottery to get into the school.
2] Last year’s provision that provided that if a child attended a Pre-School or Pre-K program for free that they would have an enrollment preference in the kindergarten program of the charter school. When the legislation was enacted it was understood that the student was attending the program free, not that that program has to be offered free to everyone for the preference to apply, which is how it has been interpreted. Given this interpretation, we ask the legislature clarify that the low-income enrollment preference is for students who attend a Pre-School or Pre-K program for free or on an early learning scholarship, not that the entire program has to be free.
Finally, school directors have indicated that these programs need sustainable funding and that the early learning scholarships do not cover the cost of the programs. Given that, we ask the legislature to increase the dollar level of scholarships and look at how to sustain these programs in the future.
On Monday December 8th the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committees held a joint hearing on the status and future of Early Childhood Education in Minnesota.
Highlights from the hearing:
• MDE sharing a common definition of kindergarten readiness;
• An economist calling for creating a permanent endowment fund to provide ongoing funding for early education scholarships;
• Researchers reporting on the effectiveness of Minnesota’s Reading Corps program;
• Early childhood program providers testifying that programs are making a difference, yet the need is beyond current capacity;
• Policy advocates urging more and sustainable funding for early childhood programs and scholarships;
• Rural providers and community leaders urging funding flexibility and realization of limitations on program choices in rural areas; and
• A senator proposing that the state to establish and fund universal Pre-K (Age 4) programs
The Senate Committees are expected to take up a number of issues involving early childhood education programs in the 2015 session which begins on January 6th.