Paving a New Path: The Growth of Illinois Charter Schools Outside of Chicago

Students at 8 Points Charter Middle School in Jacksonville, Ill., are prepared to succeed in high school academically, socially, and emotionally. (Photo courtesy of 8 Points Charter Schools)

Students at 8 Points Charter Middle School in Jacksonville, Ill., are prepared to succeed in high school academically, socially, and emotionally. (Photo courtesy of 8 Points Charter Schools)

During the past three years, the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) has dramatically expanded its work to educate Illinois residents about the charter school model, and to support charter school “design teams”— made up of teachers, former educators, and community organizations, for example — that seek to launch new, high-quality public schools in their respective communities. With support from the Office of Innovation and Improvement, INCS has grown its Charter Starter Consulting program to deliver consistent content and counsel to design teams while maintaining a strong focus on customized services. As a result, INCS has planted the seeds for additional charter schools to thrive, especially outside of Chicago, Illinois’ largest city, and to raise student achievement for increasing numbers of Illinois students.

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Success in Arizona: A Focus on Increasing Quality Schools in Phoenix’s Urban Core

Vista Prep founder Julia Meyerson (left) observes a small-group lesson to provide coaching and support for the teacher. Vista Prep is a New Schools For Phoenix pilot school that achieved impressive results in its inaugural year. (Photo courtesy of New Schools For Phoenix)

Vista College Prep founder Julia Meyerson (left) observes a small-group lesson to provide coaching and support for the teacher. Vista Prep is a New Schools For Phoenix pilot school that achieved impressive results in its inaugural year. (Photo courtesy of New Schools For Phoenix)

Phoenix charter school leaders Jenna Leahy and Tacey Clayton believe that something has to change for students in the nation’s sixth-largest city. The majority of the 215 public schools in the Phoenix urban core serve low-income, minority students, and of those schools, only 8 percent received an “A” — the highest academic performance label — in 2014.

After two years of leadership and school development, Jenna and Tacey are poised to help change the life paths of Phoenix students, as CASA Academy opened its doors to 149 students in kindergarten through second grade this August.

CASA and six other schools are part of a new initiative, New Schools For Phoenix, that grew out of a three-year, $1,179,855 National Leadership Activities grant from OII’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) to the Arizona Charter Schools Association in 2010.

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Webinar Will Explore Arts Education’s Impacts

How do in-school arts education programs affect student creativity, academics, or social outcomes? That is the central question for an August 27th webinar by the National Endowment for the Arts that will feature researchers from the Kennedy Center and Johns Hopkins University, who will share their investigation of these topics.

Ivonne Chand O’Neal, director of research and evaluation at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, will share her study on the Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) program on Washington D.C.-area public school students, their parents, and teachers. The CETA program is supported by an OII Arts in Education National Program grant to the Kennedy Center. Mariale Hardiman, professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and former principal of Roland Park Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, Maryland, will discuss her work at the intersection of cognitive research and effective teaching strategies.

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Illinois Principal Quality Efforts Nationally Recognized

Jeremy Anderson, President of Education Commission of the States; Dr. James Applegate, Executive Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education; Dr. Harry Berman, former Executive Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education; Dr. Erika Hunt,  Director of SLP funded IL-PART grant, Center for the Study of Education Policy; and Dr. Chris Koch, State Superintendent. of the State of Illinois receiving the Frank Newman Award for Innovation at the ECS Award Ceremony (Photo courtesy of the Education Commission of the State)."

From left to right: Jeremy Anderson, president of the Education Commission of the States; James Applegate, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education; Harry Berman, former executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education; Erika Hunt, director of SLP-funded IL-PART grant, Center for the Study of Education Policy; and Christopher Koch, Illinois State Superintendent receiving the 2014 Frank Newman Award for Innovation. (Photo courtesy of the Education Commission of the States)

Since 2005, Illinois has pursued improving the quality of school principals as a top priority to reform K-12 education. A Commission on School Leader Preparation, followed by an Illinois School Leader Task Force, paved the way for groundbreaking state legislation in 2011, requiring alignment with new criteria for principal preparation programs and certification standards.

Behind this progress is a strong collaboration between the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the State Board of Education, and the Center for Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. On July 1, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) presented the 2014 Frank Newman Award for State Innovations to the three entities for their work. “In improving our schools, there is little that matters more than the quality of our principals,” said ECS President Jeremy Anderson, in a press release. “Illinois’ work exemplifies what can happen when stakeholders collaborate in such a critical area.”

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National History Day Contest Deepens Understanding and Appreciation of History

My colleague, Mia Howerton, and I were invited to serve as judges for the National History Day (NHD) competition finals in College Park, Md., on June 17, 2014. History is an area of special interest for us, as we both serve as program officers for the Teaching American History program. Mia also taught social studies at the middle school level for six years in Richmond, Va. It was refreshing to have the opportunity to leave our Washington, D.C. office for a day and interact with students. Being able to see the exemplary projects students have created in pursuit of their quest for historical knowledge and understanding helped us to better appreciate the impact that national education programs can have on individual students.

Students from Whittier Middle School in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the group documentary “The Mark of McCarthy.” (Photo by  Route 1 Multimedia, courtesy of National History Day)

Students from Whittier Middle School in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the group documentary The Mark of McCarthy. (Photo by Route 1 Multimedia, courtesy of National History Day)

NHD offers middle and high school students the opportunity to create a history project of their choosing based on an annual theme — Rights and Responsibilities in History for 2014. The project categories are exhibit, performance, documentary, paper, and website. All project types can be done by individuals or groups, except for papers, which must be individual. Projects are judged on three evaluation criteria: historical quality (60 percent), relation to the theme (20 percent), and clarity of presentation (20 percent). Prizes are also awarded to projects that focus on particular themes in history, such as the Civil War History prize sponsored by the Civil War Trust, the Outstanding Entry on an International Theme prize sponsored by The History Channel, and the Native American History prize sponsored by the National Park Service.

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Teacher Residency Program Provides Tools for Classroom Success

The 31 graduate students in the Richmond Teacher Residency (RTR) are not your typical teacher candidates, and the Virginia Commonwealth University master of teaching degree program is not your typical graduate program for new teachers. Like other urban school districts, the Richmond Public Schools (RPS) faces unique challenges, not the least of which is providing its 25,000 students with outstanding teachers. For RTR, that means persons with “extensive content knowledge, along with the heart and vision to create a more equitable outcome for all students.”

Among the 31 aspiring teachers in this year’s RTR program, several are Peace Corps veterans, some have come to teaching from other professional careers following college, and others are fresh from their undergraduate degree programs, but often without undergraduate teaching experience. These “nontraditional” teacher candidates experience an intensive, year-long residency in Richmond City Schools’ classrooms, in a teacher-training model adapted from the field of medicine.

Creating a pipeline of extraordinary teachers

The RTR program is part of a national effort — the Urban Teacher Residency United Network — and a grantee of ED’s Teacher Quality Partnerships (TQP) grant program, which supports model teacher preparation programs through reforms by higher education institutions working in collaboration with high-need schools and districts. As it is with the RTR program, TQP places an emphasis on recruiting effective individuals, including minorities and persons from outside the teaching profession.

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Ready To Learn Series Gets the Red Carpet Treatment

Billy Aronson (second from left) and Jennifer Oxley, co-creators of “Peg + Cat,” a production of the Fred Rogers Company, share their Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Series” and “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation for Production Design” with Ready to Learn (RTL) program manager Brian Lekander (left) and RTL program officer Adam Bookman. (Department of Education photo by Paul Woods)

Billy Aronson (second from left) and Jennifer Oxley, co-creators of “Peg + Cat,” a production of the Fred Rogers Company, share their Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Series” and “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation for Production Design” with Ready to Learn (RTL) Program Manager Brian Lekander (left) and RTL Program Officer Adam Bookman. (Department of Education photo by Paul Wood)

Peg + Cat, the animated PBS KIDS math series launched last fall, won three Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards last month, including Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Series. Funded in part by ED’s Ready To Learn (RTL) program, the series follows the spirited Peg and her loyal sidekick Cat, as they embark on hilarious musical adventures, learning math concepts along the way. The series provides young viewers with a new way to experience math and highlights its importance in a variety of everyday situations. Music is used as a teaching tool throughout the series and each episode features an original song.

Series co-creator and executive producer Jennifer Oxley also received the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation for Production Design. Oxley made her first film at the age of 7 and has devoted much of her professional career to educational television and film, including direction of 15 short films for Sesame Street, as well as the award-winning adaptation of Spike Lee and Tanya Lewis Lee’s children’s book, Please, Baby, Please. Eleven-year-old Hayley Faith Negrin, the voice of Peg and the youngest nominee at this year’s Daytime Emmy Awards, received the award for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Program.

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San Antonio Promise Zone Progress on Display at Town Hall

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited San Antonio last month to participate in a town hall discussion on how the President’s Promise Zone initiative is helping the city’s Eastside community create ladders of opportunity to ensure that all children can achieve social mobility. San Antonio is one of five Promise Zones announced earlier this year, and one of three in which Promise Neighborhoods, a program of the Office of Innovation and Improvement, are playing an integral role.

Since 2010, the Eastside Promise Neighborhood has worked to improve educational opportunities for the community’s children, beginning with preschool education. And the efforts are paying off, according to Secretary Duncan, who noted a reduction in chronic absenteeism for 8th graders from 33 percent to 8 percent and an increase in graduation rates at Sam Houston High School from 46 to 84 percent. ”Where a whole community embraces the importance of education,” he noted, “that sets an example for the rest of the nation.”

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KIPP Schools is 2014 Broad Prize Winner

Bruce Reed, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (second from left), and Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (far right), congratulate representatives from KIPP Schools for winning the 2014 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools: from left, Stephen Mancini, director of public affairs, Carissa Godwin, chief development officer for KIPP Delta Public School in Helena, AR, and Eric Schmidt, school leader of KIPP Courage College Prep in Houston. (Photo courtesy of Al Powers for The Broad Foundation)

Bruce Reed, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (second from left), and Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (far right), congratulate representatives from KIPP Schools for winning the 2014 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools: from left, Stephen Mancini, director of public affairs, Carissa Godwin, chief development officer for KIPP Delta Public School in Helena, AR, and Eric Schmidt, school leader of KIPP Courage College Prep in Houston. (Photo courtesy of Al Powers for The Broad Foundation)

The KIPP Foundation, a network serving 50,000 students in 141 schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia — and current grantee of the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) and Investing in Innovation (i3) program — is the winner of the 2014 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. The $250,000 award, which will support college readiness efforts for KIPP students, was announced on July 1st at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference in Las Vegas.

Bruce Reed, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, announces that KIPP Schools is the winner of the 2014 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools before an audience of 3,000 people at the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of Al Powers for The Broad Foundation)

Bruce Reed, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, announces that KIPP Schools is the winner of the 2014 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools before an audience of 3,000 people at the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of Al Powers for The Broad Foundation)

In a press release announcing the winner, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation congratulated the KIPP Foundation for its “ability to scale and to bring an increasingly high-quality education to thousands of low-income students and students of color who otherwise might not have the opportunity.” More than 86 percent of KIPP students are eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch and 95 percent are students of color. Citing KIPP’s “no excuses” policy “when it comes to ensuring every student the opportunity to a great education,” Bruce Reed, president of The Broad Foundation, said, “KIPP Schools is providing a quality education to low-income students and students of color on a scale that naysayers of public charters thought was impossible.”

Stephen Mancini, the KIPP Foundation’s director of public affairs, said the results of KIPP’s efforts “are showing that demography doesn’t determine destiny,” and gave credit for the award to “the teachers, school leaders, and families who work hard to climb the mountain to get kids to and through college every day.”

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Preschoolers “On the Go” at the Department of Education

Children begin their learning activities after receiving a sticker from the “Word Machine” (upper left). Each sticker has the name and picture of a vehicle. (Photo courtesy of HINN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

Children begin their learning activities after receiving a sticker from the “Word Machine” (upper left). Each sticker has the name and picture of a vehicle. (Photo courtesy of HITN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

“Things That Go” was the theme of a recent Family Day Event at the Department of Education headquarters that featured the latest efforts of the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network’s (HITN) Early Learning Collaborative (ELC), which uses an innovative transmedia approach to early learning.

More than 30 young children from the University of the District of Columbia Lab School and the Barbara Chambers Children’s Center of Washington, D.C., many of them English language learners, attended the event, along with their teachers, parents, and education professionals.

HITN Coloring (cropped)

A preschooler colors his vehicle as part of his journey to Baby Bird’s birthday party. (Photo courtesy of HITN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

Through a series of hands-on activities, the children and adults engaged in a rich variety of experiences based on ELC’s English language development transmedia PlayGround called “Things That Go.” The PlayGround includes non-digital and digital materials, Web-based games, and the PlaySet— ELC’s tablet-based app.

This transmedia approach develops pathways to early learning through play and multiple, interconnected platforms that include storybooks, puzzles, picture/word games, as well as Web-based games and highly engaging digital apps. In 2013, ELC launched the pilot phase of its transmedia preschool learning PlayGround and tablet-based PlaySet at the Newseum (see this OII home page article for more information).

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