Comments Invited on Charter School Program’s National Leadership Activities Grants

The U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) invites public comment on the notice of proposed priorities, requirements, and definitions for CSP grants for National Leadership Activities, published in the December 3rd Federal Register. The Department may use these proposed priorities, requirements, and definitions for a National Leadership Activities competition in FY 2014 and beyond.

Proposed priorities included in this notice will be used to ensure that grant projects funded under future National Leadership Activities competitions address key policy issues currently facing charter schools and impact stakeholders on a national scale. The proposed priorities will also create incentives for organizations to improve the quality of charter schools by providing technical assistance and other types of support on issues of national significance and scope and by disseminating information to stakeholder

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National Conference Highlights Federal Grants to Charter Schools

When charter schools and their supporters are looking for federal funds, most head straight for the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s (OII’s) Charter Schools Program (CSP). With a FY 2013 budget of about $242 million, the CSP administers eight grant programs, which have contributed to what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently described as the “extraordinary accomplishments” of charter schools in the past two decades.

Topping the list of accomplishments, Secretary Duncan indicated in his recent keynote address at the National Charter Schools Conference, “is that high-performing charters have irrefutably demonstrated that low-income children can and do achieve at high levels.”

CSP’s grant programs aim squarely at helping disadvantaged children to achieve academically through the creation of more high-quality educational options. These include the Replication and Expansion for High Performing Charter Schools program, which provides funds for nonprofits, including charter management organizations, to grow existing charter schools or open new ones based on models that have demonstrated success.

But two other highly competitive and high-profile Department of Education grants outside of CSP have similarly supported at-risk children attending charter schools — the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund and the Race to the Top‑District (RTT-D) programs. One session at the national conference focused on these programs, which have allowed charter schools and charter management organizations to grow in number, in impact, and in quality.

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Special Education Strides Highlighted at National Charter Schools Conference

In his recent keynote address at the National Charter Schools Conference, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan challenged charter schools to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. “I want to see charters pioneering solutions that do a better job of educating students with disabilities,” he told the gathering last month of more than 4,000 charter school leaders in Washington, D.C.

The conference, organized annually by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, provided a variety of sessions with a special education focus. Was there a common thread? Yes, strong partnerships make for better services for students with disabilities.

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U.S. Department of Education Awards $12 Million in Grants to Support Charter School Facilities

(July 18, 2013) The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that it awarded three grants totaling $12 million to three different organizations that are working across the country to help charter schools obtain facilities through the purchase, lease, or donation of real property, the construction of a new facility, or the renovation, repair or alteration of existing facilities under the Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program (Credit Enhancement). The recipients include a non-profit organization called The Reinvestment Fund, a consortium of non-profits called Build with Purpose, and the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency.

One of several grants under the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program, the Credit Enhancement program helps to improve educational options for students and parents by targeting funds to areas with the greatest need for public school choice.

“Every child deserves a high-quality education in a safe learning environment,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These grants help ensure that children learn in adequate facilities. The Credit Enhancement program supports charter schools, helps put the schools on stable financial footing and allows us all to continue working towards President Obama’s goal of leading the world in college graduates by the year 2020.”

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Uncommon Schools is Broad Prize Winner

Uncommon Schools, a network of 32 public charter schools in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — and current grantee of the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) — is winner of the 2013 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. Roberto J. Rodriguez, special assistant to the President for education, announced the winner on July 2nd at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference in Washington, D.C.

In a press release announcing the winner, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation congratulated Uncommon Schools for their “progress in raising student achievement and their steadfast commitment to ensuring that every child — regardless of family income or background — deserves a world-class education,” citing the schools’ students as the “real winners.” “It is our hope,” said Rebecca Wolf DiBiase of the Broad Foundation, “that the success of Uncommon Schools serves as an example for traditional public schools and others in the charter sector of what is possible.”

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National Study Points to Charter Sector Gains

Charter schools are making gains in their overall performance, including the performance of minority and low-income students, compared to traditional public schools, according to the National Charter School Study 2013 from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. The independent national study of charters and matched traditional public schools in 26 states updates data and comparisons of charter and traditional public schools’ performance in CREDO’s landmark 2009 study that involved 16 states.

The average charter school student in the 26 states gained an additional eight days of learning each year in reading beyond their local peers in traditional public schools, according to the latest study. This compares with a loss of seven days each year in reading for the average charter school student in the 2009 study. In mathematics, charter students went from a 22-day deficit in learning compared to their traditional public school counterparts in 2009 to being on an even par with them in the 2013 study.

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Breaking Through to a Quality Education for Urban Children

Ten-year-old Roberto had failing grades and discipline problems in his Cleveland, Ohio, school, but his mother had high hopes for him — a quality education that met his particular needs and would help him to be college and career ready. Fortunately for her and Roberto, an expanding network of charter schools in Cleveland, Breakthrough Charter Schools, offered a nurturing environment in its Near West Intergenerational School, one of five new charter schools resulting from an OII Charter Schools Program (CSP) grant awarded to Breakthrough Charter Schools. Roberto’s story is the subject of a CBS News report that aired in late May.

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Two Charter Schools Program Competitions Announced

Last year, when the Department announced 20 grants awarded for the Charter Schools Program (CSP) Non-SEA program competitions, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said; “High-quality charter schools across the country are making amazing differences in our children’s lives. These grantees serve a range of students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and prepare them for college and careers.” The Non-SEA (State education agency) competitions provide support for charter schools located in states that are not receiving funds from the CSP’s SEA competition; currently 19 States and the District of Columbia receive SEA funding. Non-SEA grant funds support planning and implementation of program designs for new or existing charter schools or the sharing and dissemination of information about best practices for charter schools.

Last week, CSP announced the start of the 2013 competition with the publication of two Non-SEA notices inviting applicants (NIA) in the Federal Register. Since its inception, CSP has worked to increase understanding of charter schools and to support high-quality charter schools in communities nationwide. The CSP team is excited for that work to continue this year with the non-SEA competitions. The Department plans to award up to $2 million to grantees of both the Non-SEA Planning, Program Design and Implementation and the Non-SEA Dissemination competitions, and estimates making between 10 and 14 awards.

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Charter, Magnet, and Private Schools Honored as 2013 ED Green Ribbon Schools

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, congratulated the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and District Sustainability Awardees on their achievements ata ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 3. In a press release announcing the ceremony, Secretary Duncan said, “These schools and districts exhibit best practices to reduce costs and increase achievement, health and equity, for all schools, not just aspiring green schools.”

Maureen Dowling, director of ONPE (center), congratulates (left to right) Meghan Sayer, director of gift planning at Westtown School; Anne Morse-Hambrock, board member of Racine Montessori School; and Debra Wagner and Jodi Tucker, elementary school teachers at St. Paul Lutheran School.

Maureen Dowling, director of ONPE (center), congratulates (left to right) Meghan Sayer, director of gift planning at Westtown School; Anne Morse-Hambrock, board member of Racine Montessori School; and Debra Wagner and Jodi Tucker, elementary school teachers at St. Paul Lutheran School.

Among the 64 schools honored with the Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) award, 10 are private schools, seven are public charters, and five are magnets. Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) staffs were on hand at the awards ceremony to add their congratulations. “It was inspiring to learn how a number of the private schools that earned the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon recognition have been focused on environmental issues and the health and wellness of students for many years,” said Maureen Dowling, director of the OII’s Office on Non-Public Education. “From vegetable and butterfly gardens, to student environment clubs and ‘electric cops’ who graph data on their school’s conservation efforts, these honored schools are developing environmental awareness and responsibility in their students. In short, their students are becoming good stewards of planet earth.”

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OII Staff Shadow Teachers to Appreciate Their Work

The U.S. Department of Education celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10) with a variety of events and outreach. The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) kicked off the week with a Google+ Hangout. At the end of the week, the Department’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows organized ED Goes Back to School Day. More than 60 staff from the Department visited schools and shadowed teachers across the D.C. metropolitan area on Thursday, May 9, 2013. OII was fortunate to be hosted by eight teachers in schools in D.C.

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