December 05, 2005

The Education Innovator

USDE enlarged logo.jpgThe Education Innovator, a publication of the U.S. Office of Education, presents news of educational reform, change, and department activities. Almost every issue features a tradition-breaking school in some detail. Policy, arts education, technology, private schools, charter schools, innovative programs, funding opportunities and the like arrive in an attractive weekly email. This useful source with access to much other information can be subscribed to at no cost.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

Small District with 13 School Choices

The Appleton, WI school district sponsors 13 charter schools (9 operating and 4 in planning) so that students have choices to meet their diverse interests and learning needs. The charter schools remain part of the district under Wisconsin law but it is unusual for a district to willingly offer so many choices that compete for students with its 25 traditional schools. The charter schools range from highly structured approaches to progressive practices and thematic programs. Appleton Schs.gif

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2005

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning (also called hands on learning, learning by doing) is found in all levels of schooling seeking better ways of engaging students. Many alternative programs use the philosophy of experiential learning as a foundation. A considerable body of research supports experiential approaches for achieving the broad aims of education as well as basic skill acquisition.

Several sources of information provide definitions, research, practices, examples and other useful data. The Association for Experiential Education and the National Society for Experiential Education are fine sites for further information.
Experiential cartoon.jpg

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2005

Black Alliance for Educational Options

The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) strives to ensure that quality educational alternatives are available to Black families. Their web site contains definitions and other information on the many types of parental choices now present in schools including the following:

-Charter Schools
-Home Schooling
-Innovations in Traditional Public Schools
-Privately Financed Scholarships
-Public School Contracts with Private Organizations
-Supplementary Education Programs
-Tax-Supported Scholarships (Vouchers)
-Tuition Tax Credits and Deductions
-School Choice Glossary

BAEO leads the fight to empower parents, particularly low income parents, to choose educational programs that help their children succeed.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2005

Diversity of Charter Schools

What does the phrase “charter school” convey? Besides some basic information about structure, governance, and Playing to Type.jpg
accountability, what does the charter heading tell us about the curriculum, pedagogy, and theory of learning of the roughly 3,500 schools that fall under it? To fill the void of information, the Fordham Institute has fashioned a typology of charter schools—one that distinguishes between one, a giant lump of “charters” and 3,500 completely unique institutions. The 24 page 2005 publication Playing to Type maps the charter school landscape into:

-Traditional: teacher centered, back to basics, etc. 23%
-Progressive: student centered, hands on, etc. 29%
-Vocational: career, internships, etc. 12%
-General: conversions, district operated, etc. 30%
-Alternative delivery: online, home based, etc. 6%

Charts show examples of each of these types. The average age of charter schools is 3 years, still a very young movement. For each of the types, percent of free and reduced lunch and minority enrollments are shown. A very useful and important student that sheds light on the diversity of schools under the charter banner.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2005

National Charter Schools Conference

Online registration for the 2006 National Charter Schools NAPCS.jpg Conference has begun. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is hosting the conference in Sacramento, California from February 28 to March 3, 2006. The event will be held in partnership with the 13th Annual California Charter Schools Conference, hosted by the California Charter Schools Association. Participants can save 15% by registering between now and October 31. All early bird registrants will be entered into a drawing to receive one complimentary registration and three complimentary hotel nights. Virtual attendance will be available for sessions and chats with speakers. Access the conference website to register and to make hotel reservations. For general conference information, email or call 213-244-1446 x.201.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2005

Eco Schools

InterestWind power.jpg in "green" ecology has struck charter schools. Senn Brown of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association assembled a list of 30 some charter schools thematically dedicated to saving the environment.

The schools, though principally in the midwest, are probably but a fraction of the true number in the U.S. Already, the schools have held a conference and involved higher education and other organizations to share ideas and practices. For further information, email your name and contact info to or call 608-238-7491.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

Public School Choice

Enormous growth is being registered in the choices available to Minnesota families, an early adopter of providing educational options. As an example of the growing desirability of choices, here are the data and types of choices for Minnesota between the years 1996-97 and 2004-05 (Source: Minnesota Department of Education): See newspaper story by reporter, James Walsh in the Star Tribune on this topic.
Minnesota Choices.gif

Postsecondary enrollment options: This program permits high school juniors and seniors to attend college and other post secondary programs with 90% of the revenue following the student to pay tuition which the post secondary insitituion must accept as full payment if they chose to participate. Growth 18%.

Open enrollment: Permits students to attend another school district. 64%

Alternative programs for at-risk students: 156%

Homeschooling: 41%

Charter schools: 736%

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2005

Charter Schools in England

England is establishing "academies" to replace failing secondary schools. Academies are the equivalent of charter schools in the U.S. because they are publically funded but operate autonomously with little federal or local regulation. About 17 have been established with the backing of Tony Blair's blessing with a goal of 200 by the end of the decade. This action has created controversy. Teacher unions oppose this movement partly because for-profit business groups have established some of the schools.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:31 PM

January 28, 2005

Charter Schools: Good or Bad Alternative?

Numerous studies have tried to assess the charter school movement. This is like trying to say public schools in general are successful or are unsuccessful. Charter schools vary enormously from highly experimental to ultra traditional, from serving affluent suburban students to rescuing high-need students, and from tiny to huge. Judgments about charter schools usually focus on test score comparisions lumping all these diverse schools together--hardly good research. In addition, there is usually no attempt in studies to tease out beginning schools vs. experienced schools in existence, say, 8-10 years or more (few schools in the nation qualify with the 13 year history of charter schools). Likewise, little mention is made of the considerable financial handicap almost all charter schools operate under. Paul Hill at the University of Washington addressed this topic thoughtfully and comprehensively in an article, "Assessing Student Performance in Charter Schools."


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:22 AM

December 11, 2004

Choices Expanding with Charter Schools

Two examples of the rapidly changing rules around charter schools illustrate an "institutional bypass" of the present system. In New York City, with 25 charter schools, the sytem plans to create 50 more chartered schools as "seeds of change" for the remainder of the district. The only mayor in the U.S. with the authority to create charter schools is Bart Peterson in Indianapolis. He has opened or has plans to serve 4,500 students in charters in the next year and is seeking more beyond that. Another report, The Rugged Frontier: A Decade of Charter Schooling in Arizona describes the conditions in Arizona which has more charter schools than any state, about 500 sites.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:57 PM

Changing High School

Because high schools have been so resistant to change, educational choices have expanded enormously. Why can't high schools change? A provocative essay, "The Blind Men and the High School" descibes six strategies to change school. Each states a strategy, problem definition and theory of action. Here is one of the stategies as an example:

Strategy: Devise new institutional forms for secondary education: "Early college" high schools, small high schools, schools-within-schools, charter schools, "KIPP" high schools, virtual high schools. Much has been said and done on this front, and the innovations take many shapes, as do the choice schemes whereby young people and their parents can access the version that works best for them.

Problem definition: The circa-1950s, one-size-fits-all, "comprehensive high school" is dysfunctional and off-putting for many, besides being an inefficient, out-moded vehicle for teaching them what they need to learn.

Theory of action: Create new options for delivering and receiving secondary education, using technology, modern organizational theory, out-sourcing and the like, then give young people choices.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:29 PM

District Choices

More often these days, school districts offer a variety of choices. This might be to meet the growing competition for students from charter schools, nonpublic schools and homeschooling, all of which have eaten into district enrollments. Other reasons for offering choices include catering to student interests or ways of learning and to provide for a greater diversity of students. Choices include schools with special themes such as science, technology, health careers, arts, open education. Here are a few examples of how districts offer, in some cases, a blizzard of choices: Saint Paul Public Schools with 30 choices; Seattle Public Schools; some 27 Small Learning Communities in the Minneapolis Public Schools; Kansas City Public Schools (MO) with 30 magnet schools; About 30 choices in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 01:31 PM

September 12, 2004

Resources for Charter Schools

One-way to accomplish new learning alternatives is to create charter schools, now available in various degrees of autonomy in 41 states. There are numerous resource manuals with much technical assistance available. Here are a few web sites where you can read or download guides, which are detailed and helpful: Official U.S. Charter Schools website

Center for School Change at U. of Minnesota

State Organizations

Charter Friends National Network


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:07 AM

July 11, 2004

Enemies Sharpen Resistance to Charter Schools

During 2003-04, 3,000 charter schools (independent public schools) served 700,000 students in the U.S. The movement started in 1991 with the first charter statute in Minnesota. Enrollment increased 40% between 1999 and 2003. Now 41 states and DC have charter laws. Clearly, this threatens the established system and it's fighting back. For example, the Massachusetts Legislature voted a freeze on more charter schools. Governor Romney vetoed the bill. Washington (state) enacted a new charter law but it's suspended pending a statewide referendum this November. Another tactic is to try for anti-charter candidates.

Much is being written about charter schools which generally have enjoyed bi-partisan support. The official government supportedsource contains a wealth of information including an email newsletter about this significant movement.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:27 PM

June 16, 2004

Private Companies Providing Alternatives

The story, "Multimillionaire Buys Major Charter School Manager" tells how a wealthy couple created a new company, Imagine Schools, Inc. and purchased a chain of existing charter schools to become the second largest for-profit manager of schools involving more than 70 schools and 20,000 students. Their principles mention that schools should be places of integrity, justice and fun. Dennis and Eileen Bakke plan to invest an additional $140 million in their schools.

Edison Schools, the largest for-profit firm, manages schools serving some 132,000 public-school students in 40 states. A good source information on the fast-growing educational entrepreneurship sector is the Education Industry Association.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 04:25 PM

May 10, 2004

Create New Schools

Community Based Organizations (CBOs)have entered the education scene by sponsoring new charter schools. The YMCA of America, YouthBuild and the National Council of LaRaza are examples. YouthBuild received a $5.4 million Gates Foundation grant to establish 10 new schools to add to the network of 23 Youthbuild schools. How National Organizations and Their Affiliates Can Support the New Schools Strategy describes the backgound of this movement and provides details.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:07 PM

May 04, 2004

Increasing Public School Choices

Increasing the Supply of Public Schools provides a thoughtful discussion of how charter schools can fill a niche of parental desire for choices and deal with low performing schools identified through No Child Left Behind. The article is by the Public Policy Institute a good site for contemporary issues.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:35 AM

April 14, 2004

Japan Interest in Alternative Schools

Over the past 8-10 years, several people have commented on the numbers of Japanese educators and others visiting alternative schools and charter schools in the U.S. The reason given for this interest is that increasing numbers of Japanese are unhappy with the rigidity and structure of the present federal system of education. They state that students do not learn creativity, spontaneity, and positive teamwork skills in the current highly academic, competitive system. One article describes their interest in charter schools and the attempt to obtain supportive legislation.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:32 PM

March 08, 2004

Charter School Conferences and Information

Charter schools represent one of the fastest-growing alternatives in education. Numerous conferences are being held. For example, Wisconsin: March 28 - 30 (Sunday afternoon thru Tuesday) Milwaukee and the 5th national conference in Miami, June 16-18. The best source of information is supported by the US Department of Education sponsored web site where you can learn of the state organizations and their activities plus much other vital information.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 12:05 PM

March 03, 2004

Valuable Database of State Alternatives

The Education Commission of the States has compiled a very useful database of all 50 states and the islands showing policies and statutes for educational choices including open enrollment, charter schools, vouchers, tax credits and tax deductions and dual/concurrent enrollment.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:03 AM

February 24, 2004

3,000 Charter Schools and State Ratings

The public school charter movement has hit 2,996 schools this school year, the 12th year of the movement. The Center for Educational Reform provides a useful chart of each state, the number of charter schools and a rating of each state's charter school laws as to their strength. For example, of the 41 states with charter statutes, six got an "A" grade and two an "F." About 750,000 students attend charter schools this year.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:47 PM

February 23, 2004

Education Management Organizations

Leading educational management organizations (EMOs) have formed the National Council of Education Providers to work on behalf of public relations and legislation favoring private management of schools. The council includes: Charter Schools USA, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Chancellor Beacon Academies, of Coconut Grove, Fla.; Edison Schools Inc., of New York City; Mosaica of New York City; National Heritage Academies, of Grand Rapids, Mich.; and White Hat Management, based in Akron, Ohio. Their schools serve 140,000 students according to a story in Education Week.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 03:53 PM

January 31, 2004

National Charter Schools Conference

The U. S. Dept. of Education will sponsor the 4th National Charter Schools Conference in Miami Beach, FL, June 16-18 at the Fountainebleau Hilton Hotel. The conference page provides registration and other information.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 08:41 AM

December 16, 2003

Charter Schools Study

A new report, Charter Schools Today: Changing the Face of American Education, by The Center for Education Reform describes the charter school movement in 24 states. The report says, "In 24 states that offer good data, charters have
made notable gains, particularly in serving a wide spectrum of students. In addition to serving 'average' populations, charters are serving exceptionally well children of color, children with special needs and huge numbers of poor children. More importantly, parents of these students report high satisfaction with the education their children are finally receiving." Descriptions are of programs in these states: AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, LA, MA, MI, MN, MO, NJ, NY, NC, PA, SC, TX, UT, WI.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 05:51 PM

December 03, 2003

Choices in Wisconsin

Several references to alternatives or choices have popped up in Wisconsin. One is about online schools or virtual schools and controversy surrounding their approval. Another is a study, Charter Schools in Wisconsin: Assessing Form and Performance by Dr. John Witte of the University of Wisconsin addressing to what degree charter schools are offering additional choices to parents and determining their performance. Another article, Public Charter Schools: The Next Generation of Innovation suggests that charter Schools offer considerable promise to support new approaches ot schooling.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:12 AM

November 23, 2003

Charter Schools Online Database

One form of alternatives is the charter school movement in the U.S. About 3,000 charter schools are operating during the 2003-2004 school year. The Education Commission of the States has assembled a valuable database from which reports can be generated across the states about charter school profiles, laws, enrollments, size, policies, funding, facilities, etc.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 09:12 PM

November 01, 2003

Choice: 2 Schools Under 1 Roof

In Stapleton, Colo., traditional public school Westerly Creek Elementary is collocated with Odyssey Charter School in a single 80,000 square-foot-building. The two schools, which have separate entrances and parking lots, share a cafeteria, gym and library in the middle of the building.

One school relies on a classical, books-oriented curriculum. The other uses outdoors adventures to instruct.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 07:20 PM

October 21, 2003

Evaluating New Schools

A new report by Ted Kolderie is a real breakthrough on the topic of a fair and balanced approach to evaluating new schools. Though the title of the report, Evaluating Chartering, addresses charter schools, its points pertain to evaluating all types of alternatives. The report is from a thoughtful organization, Education Evolving. The report is brief and well-worth reading.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:17 AM

October 10, 2003

National Charter Schools Conference

The 5th national charter schools conference will be in Miami, June 16-18, 2004 at the Fontainebleau Hilton sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Check the site. Questions can be directed to Dean Kern, Information on previous conferences is also available.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:43 PM

September 18, 2003

Wisconsin Charter Schools

Learn about the movement to establish more educational choices in Wisconsin through their active charter movement. Their site features existing schools, legal requirements, a video, conferences and resources.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 01:11 AM

August 15, 2003

Statement of Purpose

This is from the California Charter Schools Association and affirms the concept of choice and alternatives that is the focus of IALA:
"We have tremendous optimism as we embark on the next decade of the charter school movement here in California....

As we launch our new, strengthened statewide association, we believe that we have a unique opportunity to prove that charter schools offer the best path to meaningful reform of public education. As a result, we are committed to ensuring that high-quality charter schools of all educational models succeed, including non-site-based charter schools, conversion charter schools, schools serving at-risk and dropout students, English language learners, community-based and independently operated charter schools, and innovative future school models yet to be developed. We will be an association that strongly advocates for student achievement through choice, innovation and diversity within the public school system.

We are a movement committed to the belief that all students can learn, that children should be treated as individuals, that educators’ entrepreneurial and innovative spirit must be embraced, that local communities should be engaged in the educational process and that parents must have the ability to choose the school their child attends. We also embrace the accountability that goes hand in hand with these values.

Besides steadfastly supporting the values we hold dear, our association has four goals:

* Core Strength-- We are committed to serving our member schools. This includes providing an array of services, expertise and financing tools to strengthen all our schools and support our members in focusing on what matters most: educating students. This also means listening constantly to our members and drawing on their expertise to strengthen the movement.

* Advocacy-- We will be the collective grassroots voice of California’s charter schools. We will aggressively advocate for increased flexibility and funding for all our schools. We will aggressively communicate to the broader community the strength and potential of charter education.

* Quality-- We will raise the bar for public education as an organization that promotes high quality and accountability through a variety of measures.

* Leadership-- We will aggressively focus on leadership development in a manner that helps the charter school movement to grow. Our goal is to bring high-quality charter schools to every community in order to create enough external pressure to bring about lasting reform.

Today, the charter school movement is under attack from many directions. The status quo continues to publicize charter school failures while critics allege that accountability is nonexistent. The historical response from the charter school movement has been fragmented and has lacked the resources to defend the promise that this movement offers. This new association will address this by uniting the charter school community behind a common vision and by providing all charter schools with the resources, board and staff support to take this exciting movement to the next level. "


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 02:34 PM

August 01, 2003

Alternative Education in Minnesota

A new paper "Alternative-Education Programs: The ‘Quiet Giant" in Minnesota Public Education" describes the rapid growth of student enrollment and programs. About 1 in 4 students at the secondary level use alternative programs full or part time. Many' but not all programs, are for at-risk students. Much of this growth has occurred in the past 5 years.

The study comes from Education Evolving, a group urging policy initiatives led by Ted Kolderie and Joe Graba.


Posted by Wayne Jennings at 10:54 AM