[House Hearing, 112 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
EDUCATION REFORMS: EXPLORING
THE VITAL ROLE OF CHARTER SCHOOLS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD,
ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
AND THE WORKFORCE
U.S. House of Representatives
ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH CONGRESS
HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, DC, JUNE 1, 2011
Serial No. 112-25
Printed for the use of the Committee on Education and the Workforce
Available via the World Wide Web:
Committee address: http://edworkforce.house.gov
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COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE
JOHN KLINE, Minnesota, Chairman
Thomas E. Petri, Wisconsin George Miller, California,
Howard P. ``Buck'' McKeon, Senior Democratic Member
California Dale E. Kildee, Michigan
Judy Biggert, Illinois Donald M. Payne, New Jersey
Todd Russell Platts, Pennsylvania Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey
Joe Wilson, South Carolina Robert C. ``Bobby'' Scott,
Virginia Foxx, North Carolina Virginia
Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Lynn C. Woolsey, California
Duncan Hunter, California Ruben Hinojosa, Texas
David P. Roe, Tennessee Carolyn McCarthy, New York
Glenn Thompson, Pennsylvania John F. Tierney, Massachusetts
Tim Walberg, Michigan Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio
Scott DesJarlais, Tennessee David Wu, Oregon
Richard L. Hanna, New York Rush D. Holt, New Jersey
Todd Rokita, Indiana Susan A. Davis, California
Larry Bucshon, Indiana Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona
Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Timothy H. Bishop, New York
Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania David Loebsack, Iowa
Kristi L. Noem, South Dakota Mazie K. Hirono, Hawaii
Martha Roby, Alabama
Joseph J. Heck, Nevada
Dennis A. Ross, Florida
Mike Kelly, Pennsylvania
Barrett Karr, Staff Director
Jody Calemine, Minority Staff Director
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD,
ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
DUNCAN HUNTER, California, Chairman
John Kline, Minnesota Dale E. Kildee, Michigan
Thomas E. Petri, Wisconsin Ranking Minority Member
Judy Biggert, Illinois Donald M. Payne, New Jersey
Todd Russell Platts, Pennsylvania Robert C. ``Bobby'' Scott,
Virginia Foxx, North Carolina Virginia
Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Carolyn McCarthy, New York
Richard L. Hanna, New York Rush D. Holt, New Jersey
Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania Susan A. Davis, California
Kristi L. Noem, South Dakota Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona
Martha Roby, Alabama Mazie K. Hirono, Hawaii
Mike Kelly, Pennsylvania Lynn C. Woolsey, California
C O N T E N T S
Hearing held on June 1, 2011..................................... 1
Statement of Members:
Hirono, Hon. Mazie K., a Representative in Congress from the
State of Hawaii, prepared statement of..................... 54
Hunter, Hon. Duncan, Chairman, Subcommittee on Early
Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education.............. 1
Prepared statement of.................................... 3
Kildee, Hon. Dale E., ranking member, Subcommittee on Early
Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education.............. 3
Prepared statement of.................................... 4
Statement of Witnesses:
Beyer, Debbie, executive director, Literacy First Charter
Prepared statement of.................................... 15
Miron, Dr. Gary, professor of evaluation, measurement, and
research, Western Michigan University...................... 18
Prepared statement of.................................... 19
Purvis, Elizabeth Delaney, executive director, Chicago
International Charter School............................... 23
Prepared statement of.................................... 25
Rowe, DeAnna, executive director, Arizona State Board for
Charter Schools............................................ 7
Prepared statement of.................................... 8
Ms. Hirono, articles written by Susan Essoyan, Star
Advertiser, submitted for the record:
``Experiments in education reap widely varying results,''
May 22, 2011........................................... 55
``Institution founded on choice produces strong test
scores, May 22, 2011................................... 57
``Once-struggling campus makes educational U-turn,'' May
22, 2011............................................... 58
``Former private school finds some success in transition
to public Waldorf education, May 23, 2011.............. 59
``State's fastest-growing charter maintains individual
attention for each of its students, May 23, 2011....... 60
``Close ties color boards' decisions, May 24, 2011....... 61
``Legislation seeks to shed light on operations and
spending, May 24, 2011................................. 63
``With stable teaching staff and financial aid, Waianae
school is model for student success, May 24, 2011...... 64
Mr. Kildee, reports submitted for the record:
``Equal or Fair? A Study of Revenues and Expenditures in
American Charter Schools,'' Internet address to........ 54
``Profiles of For-Profit Education Management
Organizations, Twelfth Annual Report--2009-2010,''
Internet address to.................................... 54
``What Makes KIPP Work? A Study of Student
Characteristics, Attrition, and School Finance,''
Internet address to.................................... 54
``Profiles of Nonprofit Education Management
Organizations,'' Internet address to................... 54
Scott, Hon. Robert C. ``Bobby,'' a Representative in Congress
from the State of Virginia, reports submitted for the
``Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16
States,'' Internet address to.......................... 47
``Choice Without Equity: Charter School Segregation and
the Need for Civil Rights Standards,'' Internet address
``Schools Without Diversity: Education Management
Organizations, Charter Schools, and the Demographic
Stratification of the American School System,''
Internet address to.................................... 47
EDUCATION REFORMS: EXPLORING THE VITAL ROLE OF CHARTER SCHOOLS
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Early Childhood,
Elementary and Secondary Education
Committee on Education and the Workforce
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 12:06 p.m., in
room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Duncan Hunter
[chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Hunter, Kline, Petri, Biggert,
Foxx, Roby, Kildee, Payne, Scott, Holt, Davis, Grijalva,
Hirono, and Woolsey.
Also present: Representatives Miller and Polis.
Staff present: Katherine Bathgate, Press Assistant/New
Media Coordinator; James Bergeron, Director of Education and
Human Services Policy; Casey Buboltz, Coalitions and Member
Services Coordinator; Heather Couri, Deputy Director of
Education and Human Services Policy; Daniela Garcia,
Professional Staff Member; Barrett Karr, Staff Director;
Rosemary Lahasky, Professional Staff Member; Brian Melnyk,
Legislative Assistant; Krisann Pearce, General Counsel; Mandy
Schaumburg, Education and Human Services Oversight Counsel; Dan
Shorts, Legislative Assistant; Alex Sollberger, Communications
Director; Linda Stevens, Chief Clerk/Assistant to the General
Counsel; Alissa Strawcutter, Deputy Clerk; Tylease Alli,
Minority Clerk; Daniel Brown, Minority Junior Legislative
Assistant; Jody Calemine, Minority Staff Director; Jamie
Fasteau, Minority Deputy Director of Education Policy; Brian
Levin, Minority New Media Press Assistant; Kara Marchione,
Minority Senior Education Policy Advisor; Helen Pajcic,
Minority Education Policy Advisor; Julie Peller, Minority
Deputy Staff Director; Melissa Salmanowitz, Minority
Communications Director for Education; and Laura Schifter,
Minority Senior Education and Disability Policy Advisor.
Chairman Hunter. A quorum being present, the subcommittee
will come to order.
Good morning and welcome to our witnesses. Thank you for
being here. We appreciate you taking the time to join us.
Today we will review the important role charter schools
play in the nation's education system.
As you may know, charter schools are public schools created
through a contract with state agencies or local school
districts. The contract affords a school more flexibility to
meet the unique education needs of students. And in exchange
for this freedom, charter schools are held accountable for
parents and communities for achieving the goals set out in
Republicans on this committee have been strong proponents
of charter schools for many years as we recognize the
opportunities they offer for parents and students.
Charter schools empower parents to play a more active role
in their child's education and offer students a priceless
opportunity to escape underperforming schools.
These innovative institutions also open doors for teachers
to experiment with fresh teaching methods and curricula that
they believe will have the greatest positive impact on students
in their individual community.
Charter schools have a proven track record for success,
encouraging higher academic achievement in even the most
troubled school districts.
For example, a Louisiana charter school established in the
wake of Hurricane Katrina enrolled many students who had fallen
significantly behind other students their age after the
disaster forced them to miss a full year of school. Despite
these difficult circumstances, dedicated teachers tailored
groundbreaking course work to meet the needs of those students.
As a result, student achievement levels soared and this
charter school is now the third most successful high school in
Other areas of the U.S. could greatly benefit from the
launch of similar high quality charter schools. Take Detroit
which has closed 59 schools and cut 30 percent of the school
system's workforce in the last 2 years due to enormous budget
Parents and students in Detroit are desperate for new
education opportunities, and that is why the city is now
exploring a plan to convert as many as 45 traditional public
schools into charter schools.
As we work to improve the nation's education system, and
raise student achievement levels, much can be gained from
expanding access to high quality charter schools. Unfortunately
barriers to charter school growth exist in the form of state
caps, limited authorizers, and hostile state legislatures.
Efforts must be undertaken to streamline charter school
funding and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy at the federal
level. We must also explore ways to help states and authorizers
support charter schools in meeting high quality standards and
provide incentives for states that encourage the establishment
of charter schools.
Today's witnesses--excuse me. Today's witness testimony
will be very valuable as we develop proposals to support the
development of high quality charter schools in communities
across the country.
I look forward to gaining our witnesses' perspectives on
the successes and challenges facing charter schools, and
learning what must be done so that more families and students
can benefit from these groundbreaking institutions.
I would now like to recognize the ranking member, Mr. Dale
Kildee, for his opening remarks.
[The statement of Mr. Hunter follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Duncan Hunter, Chairman, Subcommittee on
Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education
Today we will review the important role charter schools play in the
nation's education system. As you may know, charter schools are public
schools created through a contract with state agencies or local school
districts. The contract affords the school more flexibility to meet the
unique education needs of students, and in exchange for this freedom,
charter schools are held accountable to parents and communities for
achieving the goals set out in the charter.
Republicans on this committee have been strong proponents of
charter schools for many years, as we recognize the opportunities they
offer parents and students. Charter schools empower parents to play a
more active role in their child's education, and offer students a
priceless opportunity to escape underperforming schools. These
innovative institutions also open doors for teachers to experiment with
fresh teaching methods and curricula that they believe will have the
greatest positive impact on students in their individual community.
Charter schools have a proven track record for success, encouraging
higher academic achievement in even the most troubled school districts.
For example, a Louisiana charter school established in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina enrolled many students who had fallen significantly
behind other students their age after the disaster forced them to miss
a full year of school. Despite these difficult circumstances, dedicated
teachers tailored ground-breaking coursework to meet the needs of these
students. As a result, student achievement levels soared and this
charter school is now the third most successful high school in New
Other areas of the U.S. could greatly benefit from the launch of
similar high quality charter schools. Take Detroit, which has closed 59
schools and cut 30 percent of the school system's workforce in the last
two years due to enormous budget shortfalls. Parents and students in
Detroit are desperate for new education opportunities, and that's why
the city is now exploring a plan to convert as many as 45 traditional
public schools into charter schools.
As we work to improve the nation's education system and raise
student achievement levels, much can be gained from expanding access to
high quality charter schools. Unfortunately, barriers to charter school
growth exist in the form of state caps, limited authorizers, and
hostile state legislatures. Efforts must be undertaken to streamline
charter school funding and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy at the
federal level. We must also explore ways to help states and authorizers
support charter schools in meeting high quality standards, and provide
incentives for states that encourage the establishment of charter
Today's witness testimony will be very valuable as we develop
proposals to support the development of high quality charter schools in
communities across the country. I look forward to gaining our
witnesses' perspectives on the successes and challenges facing charter
schools, and learning what must be done so more families and students
can benefit from these ground-breaking institutions.
Mr. Kildee. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I also want to thank our distinguished witness panel for
their participation in today's hearing.
I believe we have a great deal to learn about the potential
benefits and challenges of charter schools, and how they can be
a part of education reform.
I hope your insights bring us closer to our goal of
providing a high quality education for all students.
While the American education system is one of the best in
the world, the status quo is no longer acceptable. We must
prepare our students to compete in the global economy.
The top 10 percent of American students are competitive
with our peers internationally. But we fall flat when it comes
to educating our poor and minority students. The persistent
achievement gap is a threat to our country's competitive
fitness, our economy, and our national security.
Furthermore, there is a moral imperative to do better by
our needier students. Higher standards and better assessments
will help. But we must push the envelope with innovative
strategies for reform.
Charter schools were originally intended to be a new form
of public school that would develop and share innovative
practices, and promote competition leading to improvements
among the traditional public schools as well.
While the original goals of charter schools hold promise,
they must be held accountable for their performance and work.
And work collaboratively with other public schools to improve
the high quality educational options available to all students.
And very often one rarely sees that collaboration between
the charter schools in a community and a school three blocks
away which is a traditional public school.
I watched too many bad--if I may use that word--charter
schools divert resources from the traditional public school
system only to finish the school year with students farther
behind. Charter schools are public schools and must be held
accountable as such.
Innovative cannot occur without proper oversight. And I
will push for policies that hold these schools accountable for
I am also concerned that charter schools all too often fail
to serve a representative sample of the student population.
Charter schools are not a real choice for most families around
the country. They operate in only 40 states and are often
located solely in urban school districts.
Where they do operate, their effectiveness is often
unclear. The performance of charter schools varies tremendously
with predominantly--showing in their studies that overall
charter schools performed no better or worse than traditional
Even when charter schools are improving student outcomes,
too often they do not provide services to those students most
in need. As we explore strategies for comprehensive school
reform, we should never lose sight of our commitment to equal
access for all students.
I look forward to a productive discussion about these
important issues during today's hearing so we can move forward
with solutions acceptable to all.
And I want to thank the chairman for calling today's
hearing, and look forward to the discussion.
I yield back the balance of my time.
[The statement of Mr. Kildee follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Dale E. Kildee, Ranking Member, Subcommittee
on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
I also want to thank our distinguished witness panel for their
participation in today's hearing. I believe we have a great deal to
learn about the potential benefits and challenges of charter schools
and how they can be a part of education reform. I hope your insights
bring us closer to our goal of providing a high quality education for
While the American education system is one of the best in the
world, the status quo is no longer acceptable. We must prepare our
students to compete in the global economy.
The top 10 percent of American students are competitive with our
peers internationally, but we fall flat when it comes to educating our
poor and minority students. The persisting achievement gap is a threat
to our country's competitiveness, our economy, and our national
Furthermore, there is a moral imperative to do better by our
neediest students. Higher standards and better assessments will help,
but we must push the envelope with innovative strategies for reform.
Charter schools were originally intended to be a new form of public
school that would develop and share innovative practices, and promote
competition, leading to improvements among traditional public schools,
While the original goals of Charter schools hold promise, they must
be held accountable for their performance and work collaboratively with
other public schools to improve the high-quality educational options
available to all students.
I have watched too many bad charter schools divert resources from
the traditional public school system only to finish the school year
with students farther behind.
Charter schools are public schools and must be held accountable as
such. Innovation cannot occur without proper oversight, and I will push
for policies that hold these schools accountable for performance.
I am also concerned that charter schools all too often fail to
serve a representative sample of the student population.
Charter schools are not real choice for most families around the
country. They operate in only 40 states and are often located solely in
urban school districts.
Where they do operate, their effectiveness is often unclear. The
performance of charter schools varies tremendously, with predominating
studies showing that, overall, charter schools perform no better or
worse than traditional public schools.
Even when charter schools are improving student outcomes, too often
they do not provide services to those students most in need. As we
explore strategies for comprehensive school reform, we should never
lose sight of our commitment to equal access for all students.
I look forward to a productive discussion about these important
issues during today's hearing so we can move forward with solutions
acceptable to all.
I want to thank the Chairman for calling today's hearing, and look
forward to the discussion.
Chairman Hunter. I thank the ranking member.
I would also like to recognize Mr. Polis from Colorado who
is here today. He is a big proponent of charter schools and
interested in today's debate.
Now pursuant to committee Rule 7C, all subcommittee members
will be permitted to submit written statements to be included
in the permanent hearing record.
And without objection, the hearing record will remain open
for 14 days to allow statements, questions for the record, and
other extraneous material referenced during the hearing to be
submitted in the official hearing record.
It is now my pleasure to introduce our distinguished panel
Ms. DeAnna Rowe first--was named executive director of the
Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, an independent state
agency with the statutory responsibility to authorize new
charter schools and oversee existing charter schools in 2007.
Previously, she served as director of academic affairs for
the Arizona State Board of Charter Schools.
Ms. Rowe began her career as an employment coordinator for
Valley Temporary Services from 1986 to 1990. She went on to
serve as manager at Franklin Printing and Office Supply from
1990 to 1992.
Her work in the public school system started as a high
school teacher in the Peoria, Illinois Unified School District
from 1992 to 1997. There, she focused on the design and
implementation of an integrated academics program which
emphasized both workplace and academic skills.
In 1997, she co-founded Career Pathways Academy and served
as co-director until 2001.
Thank you for joining us today.
And Ms. Debbie Beyer is next, and a friend of mine. One of
the many schools that I visited was hers in San Diego.
Debbie, thanks for coming all the way out here.
She currently serves as executive director and principal of
Literacy First Charter Schools which she founded in 2001. She
began her career in education as a kindergarten teacher, was a
high school Spanish teacher, and served as a director and
developer of home education programs.
Ms. Beyer also started Del Rey Schools, a home schooling
program that provides support services and accountability for
families that choose to home school, serving as director and
developer of the organization.
Next is Dr. Gary Miron. He is a principal research
associate at Western Michigan University's Evaluation Center.
There, he works on a variety of school reform evaluations
including the evaluations of charter schools in Michigan,
Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois, and Cleveland.
He has researched and written on topics such as educational
evaluations, special needs education, educational planning and
policy, multi-method research, charter schools, and school
Dr. Miron worked at Stockholm University where he completed
his graduate studies.
And last, Dr. Beth Purvis.
She began her career as a teacher of the blind and visually
impaired in Montgomery County, Maryland Public School systems
from 1988 to 1993. From 1995 to 1998, she was an early
childhood special educator for Tennessee's Early Intervention
In 1998, she went on to serve as an assistant professor of
special education and the associate director of the UIC Child
and Family Development Center at the University of Illinois at
She is the executive director of the Chicago International
Charter School, and currently serves on the boards of the
Illinois Network of Charter Schools, the Illinois State
Advisory Council, the Illinois State Board of Education, and
the Education Subcommittee of the Chicago Urban League.
She has served on the editorial review board of two peer
review professional journals, has published and presented
numerous papers, and has been awarded various grants in her
Thank you all for joining us.
Before I recognize each of you to provide your testimony,
let me briefly explain the lighting system.
You will each have 5 minutes to present your testimony.
When you begin the light in front of you will be green. When 1
minute is left it will turn yellow. And then when that minute
is up, it would turn red at that point.
Please try to wrap up your point at that point in time.
After everyone has testified, members will each have 5
minutes to ask questions of the panel.
I would now like to recognize Ms. Rowe for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF DEANNA ROWE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARIZONA STATE
BOARD FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS
Ms. Rowe. Good afternoon Chairman Hunter, Ranking Member
Kildee, and members of the subcommittee.
I am DeAnna Rowe, the executive director of the Arizona
State Board for Charter Schools. And I am pleased to be here
today to participate in your discussion.
I have been involved in charter schools in Arizona almost
since their inception, first as a charter school operator, and
for the last 10 years as a member of the Charter Board staff.
As an Arizona native, I have been witness to a great deal
of progress in Arizona's public education system. And much of
it can be attributed to both charter schools and the work of
the Charter Board.
We now have over 500 charter schools serving over 123,000
students in--across our state. In Arizona, we have a charter
school law that provides for autonomy in charter school
operations and includes flexibility within their organizational
With the variety of ownership and management structures, as
well as variations in government, Arizona has a rich collection
of operations that produce some of the strongest charter
schools in the nation.
These programs offer a variety of instruction and--which
are often not found in traditional public schools.
With a strong charter school law that establishes a solid
foundation from which an authorizer can grant charters, it is
incumbent upon the Charter Board as an authorizer to create a
portfolio of quality charter schools from which families are
able to make educational choices based on programs that are
considered the best fit for their children.
In its most recent strategic planning process, the Board's
strategic planning team focused on ensuring its policies moving
forward: to continue to provide a fair and transparent means to
measure each schools' academic performance, and to close
schools that aren't making academic gains.
And it is the evaluation process that I will focus on for
the rest of my time with you today because as you will see, it
is this process that started with charter schools that will
soon play a vital role in measuring the success of all Arizona
In evaluating school performance for 5-year interval
reviews, in consideration of expansion, and in making renewal
decisions, the Charter Board looks at a combination of
individual student level data of the Arizona growth model and
raw test score data.
Multiple years of data, when plotted over time, create a
visual representation of each school showing on an annual basis
the percent of students passing the state test and how fast its
school is catching up its struggling students.
Examples of the graphs have been included in the appendix,
and demonstrate how the Charter Board can utilize data to make
high stakes decisions based on the school's academic
The Arizona growth model is a replication of a Colorado
growth model. And its implementation in Arizona must be
credited to the Arizona Charter Schools Association.
The Charter Association explored, and the Charter Board's
subsequent adoption of this model were made possible through a
U.S. Department of Education grant titled, Building Charter
The Charter Board pioneered the use of the growth model
which now has gained general acceptance across the state as a
means to measure student achievement. Administrators in both
charter schools and district schools have access to growth
model data and professional development regarding the use of
the data through the Charter Association.
Recently, the State Board of Education explored the most
appropriate means to calculate the state's new system for
identifying school academic performance. And it too evaluated
the growth model.
At its May meeting, the Arizona State Board of Education
finalized the new Arizona Learns formula, incorporating the use
of the growth model to measure the academic performance of all
public schools in Arizona.
A change in the way public schools are evaluated is an
explicit and notable example of how the inclusion of charter
schools in Arizona's education system has contributed to
improving public education in Arizona.
There are other examples as well. Charter schools, through
their provision of varied and innovative quality academic
programs, are having an impact on the decisions made at the
local school district.
Districts, in their continuous efforts to provide
educational opportunities for their families, have devoted
resources to researching charter school operations and what
makes charter schools the choice of parents.
The best practices and programs of instruction found to be
effective in our charter schools are now being implemented at
the district schools as well, further expanding quality
opportunity for all of our students.
Charter schools provide a range of benefits for students
and their families in Arizona. Not only do the schools provide
an alternative for families seeking to find an environment that
will allow each student to reach his or her full potential, but
they have proven to be a tremendous source of innovation,
providing all schools with the tools and methods of improving
Because of strong, progressive charter school legislation,
charter schools in Arizona are not a threat to the public
education, but rather an integral part of the complex system
that is rapidly adapting to meet the needs of the Arizona
Thank you for the opportunity today.
[The statement of Ms. Rowe follows:]
Prepared Statement of DeAnna Rowe, Executive Director,
Arizona State Board for Charter Schools
Good afternoon, Chairman Hunter, Congressman Kildee, and members of
the Subcommittee. I am DeAnna Rowe, Executive Director of the Arizona
State Board for Charter Schools and I am pleased to be here today to
contribute to your discussion of the vital role that charter schools
play in education.
Charter schools provide options for families that want the benefits
of a public education for their children but desire the ability to
select an instructional model and educational environment where they
believe their students will thrive. The presence of charter schools in
the American education landscape provides a level of competition that
works to increase school quality while at the same time increasing the
accountability measures for all public schools. If the desired end in
public school reform is improved educational results for all children,
then charter schools play an important role in this common goal for
quality public schools.
In my capacity as the executive director of the Arizona State Board
for Charter Schools (``Charter Board''), I'd like to share my
perspective of how an authorizer creates and monitors the performance
of charter schools to ensure their quality which is vital to our
pursuit to improve public education in Arizona.
As an authorizer in Arizona, I have the pleasure of working within
a charter school law that:
1) Supports the creation of various educational opportunities
without boundaries for operations; we have charter schools in 14 of our
2) Does not restrict the number of charter schools that can operate
or limit the enrollment at its schools; we have 385 charter holders in
Arizona operating 512 charter schools serving 123,633 students. This
translates to one in every 4 public schools in Arizona being a charter
school serving 12% of the Arizona's public education population.
3) Provides for autonomy in charter school operations and includes
flexibility within their organizational structures. The law provides
for authorizers to contract with a public body, private person, or
private organization. This variety in ownership and management
structures, as well as variations in governance, creates a rich
collection of operations that produce some of the strongest charter
schools in the nation. This flexibility of structures also allows
charter holders to respond quickly to educational needs. The inclusion
of the private sector provides opportunities for the active involvement
of individuals outside the traditional educational arena and
incorporates an additional skill set in the development of
instructional programs and operations of the school.
4) Provides exemptions from many state laws and district
regulations. Charter holders use these exemptions to implement
instructional programs such as Montessori, Expeditionary Learning, back
to basics and performing arts focused schools which are not often found
in the traditional public schools. The law allows for charter schools
to act as incubators for innovation, creating schools that are
responsive to community needs and current educational research.
With a strong charter school law that establishes a solid
foundation from which an authorizer can grant charters and hold schools
accountable to quality performance standards, it is incumbent upon the
Board, as an authorizer, to grant charters to applicants that
demonstrate a quality educational program that is supported by a sound
business plan which will be managed by individuals or entities that
demonstrate the capacity to effectively utilize state resources. By
doing so, it creates a vast array of choices for families from which
educational decisions can then be made based upon program choices that
are considered the best fit for the children, school locations, and
other factors deemed important to the family.
Over 15 years of authorizing, the Charter Board has experienced
many iterations of the ``new charter application,'' each one
considering lessons learned and improving on past versions in an effort
to capture the key components that will ensure the establishment of an
additional quality charter school option when approved. As in much of
its work, the Charter Board has utilized the National Association of
Charter School Authorizer's Principles & Standards as a resource and a
guide in improving its practices.
In its endeavor to provide quality choices, the Charter Board has
also established replication criteria which, when met, provide a
successful charter holder a streamlined process to open additional
schools. Replication has been an efficient process for expanding the
number of quality choices available to families.
With the receipt of Federal Charter School Program Funds in 2009,
the Arizona Department of Education established the Arizona Charter
Schools Incentive Program to support the start-up of new, high-quality
charter schools in Arizona over the next five years. This program is
focused on creating schools in urban and rural areas that will serve
students at risk of not succeeding. Because these sub-grants encourage
replication of quality schools, there has been an increase in the
number of replication applications submitted to and approved by the
Charter Board. After two years, early results are showing that the
increased funding to support these schools in planning and
implementation is yielding significant academic gains.
An authorizer's role in conducting ongoing oversight to evaluate
performance and monitor compliance is the means to the desired end
result--a portfolio of quality schools. In its efforts to assure that
all approved charter schools provide a learning environment that
improves pupil achievement, in accordance with the law, the Charter
Board has created a level of oversight that holds schools accountable
to quality standards while protecting their autonomy which ensures the
flexibility and independence of their operational practices which is
instrumental to their success.
In evaluating the charter school's efforts to maintain quality
standards of operation, the Charter Board considers the following:
First, the success of the academic program, including academic
achievement; next, the viability of the organization, including fiscal
management and compliance, and finally, the charter holder's adherence
to the terms of the charter.
As with its new application, the Charter Board's oversight
processes have continued to be refined. Keeping ``fair and
transparent'' as well as ``autonomy for performance'' at the forefront
of the development of all policy, the Charter Board recently revised
its oversight processes placing academic performance at its core. The
Charter Board established a Level of Adequate Academic Performance
(LAAP) that provides a means to measure academic improvement from one
year to the next, replacing its use of the State's academic
accountability system which provided a means to monitor school
performance by way of a performance label.
The LAAP is based on a combination of individual student level
growth (Arizona Growth Model) and raw test score data to determine
whether schools are teaching kids what they need to know and how fast
the school is ``catching up'' its struggling students. The analysis of
the data and development of the Arizona Growth Model must be credited
to the Arizona Charter Schools Association (``Charter Association'').
The Arizona growth model is a replication of the Colorado growth model,
developed by Damian Betebenner of the National Center for Assessment,
and used for state-wide accountability. In addition to Colorado,
Massachusetts has also adopted this growth model for its statewide
system. The Charter Association's exploration and the Charter Board's
adoption of this model were made possible through the US Department of
Education's National Leadership Grant titled ``Building Charter School
In evaluating school performance for five-year interval reviews, in
consideration of requests for expansion, and in making renewal
decisions, the Charter Board looks at graphs that contain multiple
years of data over time instead of a single point in time. Examples of
the graphs have been included in the Appendix. When viewed over
multiple years, policy-makers and parents can identify schools that are
consistently strong in growing their student's level of knowledge, or
those that are consistently weak.
The Charter Board pioneered the use of the growth model which has
now gained general acceptance across the state as a means to measure
student achievement. The Charter Association has provided
administrators in both charter schools and public school districts with
access to data and professional development regarding the use of the
Growth Model to evaluate student achievement. Administrators were
trained to interpret the growth model data and make informed
instructional decisions. Recently, as the State Board of Education
explored the most appropriate means to calculate the State's new system
for identifying school academic performance, it too evaluated the
growth model. During its May meeting, the State Board of Education
finalized the new AZ LEARNS formula incorporating the use of the Growth
Model to measure academic performance of all public schools in Arizona.
A change in the way public schools are evaluated is an explicit and
notable example of how the inclusion of charter schools in Arizona's
education system has contributed to improving public education in
Arizona. There are other examples as well. Charter schools, through
their provision of varied and innovative quality academic programs are
having an impact on the decisions made at the local school level.
Districts, in their continuous effort to provide the best educational
opportunities for their families, have devoted resources to researching
charter school operations and what makes charter schools attractive to
parents. The best practices and programs of instruction found to be
effective in our charter schools are now being implemented in district
schools as well, further expanding quality opportunities for all
Charter schools provide a range of benefits for students and their
families in Arizona. Not only do the schools provide an alternative for
families to find the environment that will allow each student to reach
his or her full potential, but they have proven to be a tremendous
source of innovation, providing all schools with new tools and methods
of improving student achievements. Charter schools have also proven to
be role models for districts around the state. They have presented
alternative instructional and organizational models that districts can
use to improve the education for all children.
Because of strong, progressive charter school legislation, charter
schools in Arizona are not a threat to public education but rather an
integral part of a complex system that is rapidly adapting to meet the
needs of all children.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to present this information
to you today. I am happy to provide the Subcommittee with additional
information that it may deem necessary or helpful, and to answer any
questions from the members.
Chairman Hunter. Okay, thank you, Ms. Rowe. And thanks for
being--just about right on time.
Now, I would like to recognize Ms. Beyer for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF DEBBIE BEYER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LITERACY FIRST
Ms. Beyer. Chairman Hunter, Mr. Kildee, and esteemed
members, the controversy over how and what is the best way to
educate the future of our country has been a raging debate
since back in the 1980s when Reagan's Nation at Risk Report
While there are many factors that contribute to the success
or failure of American students in school, the report of
yesteryear was clear to indicate that parental involvement was
the number one indicator for student success.
Now some 30 years later that fact remains a common
denominator when looking at students that seem to achieve
academic success and those that we continue to call at risk.
In 1992, California was the second state, after Minnesota
in 1991, to pass charter school legislation. That was the
genesis of the Charter Schools Act of 1995. To date, 39 states
and the District of Columbia have charter legislation.
The goal of this movement would be to provide options for
families that beforehand had none and poor underperforming
A system that would provide parents choice regardless of
geographical or district boundaries, provide teachers the
opportunity to develop innovative and resourceful programs,
provide for research proven methods and programs to be
implemented, and develop communities that would embrace and own
the learning of their children.
While there are many public schools doing great things for
our children, the data is telling us that there are not enough
of them. And for those seeking change, it is not happening fast
enough. And our children deserve better.
To be realistic about what is necessary for students to be
successfully educated and to be ready for a global marketplace,
it would seem imperative that the paradigm shifts from the one
size fits all to a buffet of opportunities. Charter schools
have begun--have been the beginning of this change.
As for my own personal experience with charter schools, 10
years ago Literacy First began as a little start-up school in
East San Diego County with 114 little boys and girls,
kindergarten through third grade.
It was a giant dream and the most difficult endeavor I have
ever encountered. Now 10 years down the road, with four school
sites, 1,200 plus students, and more than the rusty old desk
and tables that we began with, Literacy First has spun that
dream of years past into an incredible place where the tenets
upon which charters were enabled happen daily.
Parents do have choice. Teachers are developing innovative
and resourceful programs. Research proven materials and methods
are being used daily. And a community has developed that owns
and embraces the learning of their children.
While we began with a team of just six, after 10 years,
that team has grown to almost 130. You might also note that
there is this myth that exists that charters don't do special
At Literacy First, we have a very diverse student
population which includes almost one-third of our students
being English language learners. The majority of whom are from
Iraq. And our special education population is about 13 percent,
where the average in our area is--of a typical school is 10
Despite those numbers, we have some of the highest test
scores in the entire county. Although we opened up a new school
this past fall, we continue to have a waiting list of over 800.
``Waiting for Superman'' is not an urban legend. We live it
every day at Literacy First.
While not every charter school operates as we do, some of
the distinctions that our school has that are important factors
to note are our school calendar, our longer day, and longer
We have tried to do what research says works and that is
more time on task and more time in school. We know that schools
in our area have changed their behavior in an effort to compete
with what we are offering.
We think that is great. In every other area of our lives as
Americans, we view competition as a good thing. Why not in
In addition, we do not have tenure at Literacy First. Our
teachers understand that they are competing for their jobs
every day by way of accountability. They hear me often say, we
serve at the pleasure of the taxpayer.
We recognize that we cannot compete with the traditional
union-owned public schools' pay scale. So we have a merit pay
system. This merit pay applies to everyone from the
housekeeping staff to me, the executive director.
Additionally, we have what is called an above and beyond
program. This pay incentive is an option for any staff that
chooses to be entrepreneurial in developing a new program,
heading a committee, or a variety of innovative options that
could be endless.
Their regular salary is for an outstanding job, not a
mediocre one. And the end of that, not only are our students
served more effectively, but our staff is invested in the
mission of what we are doing and intent on individual student
According to the Center for Education Reform, this fall
there will be almost 5,500 charter schools nationwide serving
1.7 million students with the goal being to meet the needs of
our children more effectively.
In my state of California, there are 912 charters, with 115
of those just opening this past fall. We serve 365,000
These are public schools, publicly funded, making a huge
impact on closing the achievement gap and giving hope to many
that previously have felt abandoned by underperforming schools
with no way out.
Like most movements that go against the status quo,
developing the charter is not an easy task. However, despite
challenges in growth and in funding and facilities, charters
are proving themselves to be resilient.
Parents have recognized that choice is a great option. It
gives back power to the people in very real, tangible, and
Charters are providing a much needed sense of relief to a
system that has been unresponsive for decades.
As for Literacy First, there are so many good things going
on at our school, it is hard to put it into 3 minutes or 30
minutes for that matter.
However as the founder--I am executive director for
Literacy First. Let me say that this is a place where we
recognize that what we are doing is more than teaching content.
It is about training the future of America.
It is about bringing families together in a process and
partnering with them in these difficult times. It is a place
where character counts, where parents matter, where teachers
care. And because of that, children thrive.
Thanks so much for letting me come and share our experience
with you and this movement today.
[The statement of Ms. Beyer follows:]
Prepared Statement of Debbie Beyer, Executive Director,
Literacy First Charter Schools
Chairman Hunter, Mr. Kildee and Esteemed Members: Among the few
subjects that can get a group in serious debate quickly, how we as
Americans view education is one of them. The controversy over how and
what is the best way to educate the future of our country has been a
raging debate since back in the 80' when Reagan's first report came in
the Nation at Risk Report. I recall as a young new idealistic teacher
being concerned then at the ``not so good'' news regarding our American
way of education. While there were many factors that contribute to the
success or failure of American students in school, that report of
yesteryear was clear to indicate that ``parental involvement'' was the
number one indicator of student success. Now, some 30 years later, that
fact remains a common denominator when looking at students that seem to
achieve academic success and those that we continue to call ``at
In 1992 California was the second state after Minnesota in '91 to
pass charter legislation. This movement was gaining steam all across
the nation: an innovative idea that initiated the idea of allowing
schools within the public sector to have a little more freedom, in
exchange for more accountability. That was the genesis of the Charter
Schools Act of 1995. It seemed the compromise between political parties
that allowed for choice within the public school market. This began the
journey of each state having the opportunity to enact its own charter
legislation. This in itself is unique as there is no standard model.
Therefore each state has determined its own way to fund, develop and
regulate charter schools. To date, 39 states and the District of
Columbia have charter legislation. The impetus of this movement was due
to continued poor performance by many public schools and the continuing
under-performance of a large population of our students, the goal was
to provide opportunity where prior there had been none within the
1) Parents would have choice about where their children attended
school, regardless of geographical or district boundaries
2) Teachers would be provided the opportunity to develop innovative
and resourceful programs
3) Research proven materials and programs would be developed and
4) Community would be developed that owned and embraced the
learning of their children.
This grand experiment afforded parents the opportunity to seek a
school that would meet their expectations and serve their children.
While there are many public schools doing great things for our
children, the data is telling us that there are not enough of them, and
for those seeking change, it is not happening fast enough. Our children
deserve better. If we are serious about the training of our children
and preparing them to be ``21st Century Skills ready'', able to compete
in a global market as viable candidates in the job market, we've got to
take seriously the data that is telling us that our young adults are
not making the cut. If you've viewed the YouTube video ``Did you
know?'' you'll find that as far as global competition China and India
have more honors students that America has students! These are daunting
statistics for those of us committed to the education of our children.
To be realistic about what is necessary for our students to be
successfully educated in ways that will prepare them to be ready for a
global market place, it would seem imperative that the paradigm of the
``one size fits all'' of our traditional American public education
system must change. Charter Schools have been the beginning of that
Our culture has changed, our families have changed, and our world
has changed. How can our education programs not change? How can we
continue to debate whether this idea of choice is viable? There are
large bodies of data as reported by the Center for Education Reform
(see http://www.edreform.com) and others including the latest report,
``Portrait of a Movement'', by the California Charter Schools
Association, that indicate comparing apples to apples, charters are
doing a better job educating the underperforming and at risk student.
As one involved in this movement daily, it is obvious that we must
change our view of education to one of a buffet, rather than ``the
everybody eats the same meal concept''. Students today don't want the
same things as students of your age or your mom's once wanted. Every
young person does not want a 4 year high school with cheerleaders and
Charter schools have arrived on the scene for precisely this
purpose and precisely for this moment. Small schools, run by people of
vision and mission for a particular program, invested completely in the
mission of their program, totally in control of not only their
finances, but their staffing, allow for the most incredible opportunity
for our students across this country: the ability to ``choose'' a
program that fits their own idea of preparation for their future.
Clearly, charters are not the panacea to all the ills of public
education, and not all charters are doing a bang up job. But they are
an incredible option for families that are becoming acute consumers of
public education. Underperforming schools are not only a problem with
charter schools, they are the very reason that charters exist,
underperforming traditional public schools. The difference is that
among charter schools, there is not an entitlement to exist forever,
taking public dollars and continuing to do a poor job at educating
children. The National Charter Schools Authorizers, along with many
state charter school association, including the California Charter
Schools Association, is committed to culling out the poor performing
charters, so that indeed, we are doing exactly what we've been put into
existence to do. Would it not be great if we were able to close any
public school that consistently performed poorly?
As for my own personal experience with charter schools, as the
founder, 10 years ago Literacy First began as a little start up school
with 114 little boys and girls k--3rd grades in their new school
clothes with their back packs on their backs. Eager eyes waited as
proud nervous parents stood close by anxiously looking at a rag tag,
maverick group of enthusiastic dream weavers to whom they were
entrusting their children with the promise of and in the adventure of
building a school that was going to prepare their children for the
The San Diego County Board of Education had the foresight to be our
partner in this educational venture * * * and now 10 years down the
road with 4 school sites, 1200+ students and more than rusty old desks,
Literacy First has spun that dream of years past into a incredible
place where all the tenets upon which charters were enabled, happen
1) Parents do have a choice
2) Teachers are developing innovative and resourceful programs
3) Research proven materials and programs are being used, and
4) A community has developed that owns and embraces the learning of
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and while time
is a constraint in this hearing, I would encourage you to visit our
website at www.lfcsinc.org for a picture of what a great set of schools
are doing in San Diego. Actually, I'd like to invite you to visit at
any time. We're more than happy to share our story.
After ten years, this is the success story, while we began with a
team of just 6, that team has now grown to almost 130 and of that 6/5
original team members are still standing. You might also note that
while the myth exists that charters don't do special populations, at
LFCS we have a very diverse student population which includes almost
one third of our students being English language learners, the majority
of whom are from Iraq, and our special education population is about
13% where the average in a typical school is considered to be 10%;
despite these numbers, we have some of the highest test scores in the
county (note the color brochure). Additionally, although we opened up a
new school last fall, we continue to have a waiting list of over 800.
Waiting for Superman is not an urban legend; it speaks to our school
experience as well. Our lottery for 2011-12 was just held last Tuesday.
We have lived with this disappointment for the past 7 years. At this
point we feel that if we ``build it, they will come'', however again,
facilities are such an ordeal, including over zealous building codes
and anti--charter legislation in CA, that finding facilities is akin to
a nightmare. Nonetheless with the understanding that ``replicate-able
models'' should be reproduced we continue to look for new options for
the families of East County.
While not every charter school operates as we do, some of the
distinctives of our schools that are important factors to many charters
is that of our longer school day and longer school year. We have a
unique calendar in that generally speaking we have a week off each
quarter rather than the three overextended months off in the summer
that originated with our country being an agrarian culture. This is no
longer true. While we do have an extended summer break, we've tried to
do what research says works and that is: more time on task, more time
in school. We know that schools in our area have changed their behavior
because of our existence. Calendars have changed, curriculum has
changed and programs have changed in an effort to compete with what we
are offering. Is that not great? In every other area of our lives as
Americans, we view competition as a good thing * * * why not in
education? We know that in the end children are being served better
because of the pressure that our schools have placed on other schools
in our local area. I know that this same impact is felt in other areas
where high performing charters exist. In addition, we do not have
tenure at LFCS. Our teachers understand that they are competing for
their jobs every day by way of accountability. We have strong grade
level teams, strong internal leadership and mentoring, and we recognize
that we are only as strong as our weakest leak. For that reason,
everyone is invested in building the entire ``team'' of LFCS. While we
recognize that we may not be able to compete with the traditional union
owned public schools pay scale, we do have a merit pay system which is
based on a set of criteria established by our Board. This merit pay
applies to everyone from the housekeeping staff to me, the Executive
Director. We all recognize that the role that each plays, like Patton
told his troops in Normandy, is vital to the success of the entire
team. Additionally, we have what is called an ``above and beyond''
program. This pay incentive is an option for any staff that choose to
be ``entrepreneurial'' in developing a new program, heading a
committee, serving in leadership or a variety of innovative options
that could be endless. This allows teachers that choose to be over the
top to be rewarded for that extra effort. Their regular salary is for
an outstanding job, not a mediocre one.
In the end, not only are our students served more effectively, but
our staff is invested in the mission of what we are doing and intent on
individual students' success.
As a charter school organizer, I am always puzzled by those claims
that charters hold an unfair advantage. Charters have been commissioned
with one basic mission: make a difference in our education and the
proof of that is higher graduation rates, higher test scores and more
successful students. The trade off of our existence comes down to this:
If charter schools don't perform, they cease to exist. Performance is
the bottom line. It is a brilliant marriage between business and
education. It forces competition and requires serious and deliberate
attention to every daily detail to justify our existence. There is
absolutely no sense of entitlement. My staff hears from me often, ``We
serve at the pleasure of the tax payer''.
According to the Center for Education Reform, this fall there will
be almost 5500 charter school nationwide, serving over 1.7M students
with the goal being to meet the needs of our children more effectively.
In my state of California there are 912 charters with 115 of those
opening just last fall. We serve 365,000 students. These are public
schools, publically funded schools, doing school a little bit
differently, making a huge impact on closing the achievement gap and
giving hope to many that previously have felt abandoned by
underperforming schools with no way out.
An interesting factor to note regarding charter schools is that
there are as many charter schools types as there are charter school
operators. This is the unique nature of charters that allow for
innovation to thrive. This was the grand experiment. Find replicate-
able models, and replicate them. Like most movements that go against
the status quo developing a charter is not an easy task. However,
despite challenges in growth, funding and facilities, charters are
proving themselves to be resilient. This in itself is a testament to
the strength of the movement and the need for the reform. Parents have
recognized that ``choice'' is a great option. Finding a school that
meets their needs, fits their students' abilities or strengths is an
American ideal. It gives power back to the people in very real,
tangible and powerful ways. Charters are providing a much needed sense
of relief to a system that has been unresponsive for decades.
As for Literacy First, there are so many good things going on at
our school it's hard to put it into three minutes, or thirty minutes
for that matter, however as the founder and Executive Director of LFCS,
let me say that this is a place where we recognize that what we do is
more than just teach content. It's about training the future of
America; it's about raising students that get what it is to be
American. It's about bringing families into the process and partnering
with them in these difficult times. It's a place where character
counts, parents matter, teachers care * * * and because of that
Thank you for the opportunity to bring my experience in charter
education forward today as it pertains to their vital role to the face
of American public education today.
Chairman Hunter. Thank you, Debbie.
I would now like to recognize Dr. Miron for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF DR. GARY MIRON, COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, WESTERN
Mr. Miron. Thank you, and thank you for the opportunity to
participate in this hearing today.
My name is Gary Miron. I am a professor of education at
Western Michigan University.
Over the last couple of decades, I have been evaluating
school reforms and education policies both here in the states
and in Europe.
Here in the states, I have been asked nine times by state
education agencies to come and conduct comprehensive
evaluations of charter schools with--I have on record now, some
of them are more favorable results that favor--in favor of
charter schools from Connecticut and Delaware.
We also have some of the results from our evaluations that
showed that charter schools are not performing well,
particularly in my home state of Michigan.
In more recent years, I am doing more research with my
doctoral students on education management organizations. And we
are tracking the growth of these organizations that now manage
close to a third of all the charter schools in the nation.
I like the charter school idea, particularly as it was
articulated in the 1990s in the legislation. And when we look
back at the legislation, we still see many of these original
goals of charter schools still intact.
Now I want to talk about those briefly. And then talk about
some of the evidence that we see today relative to those goals
One of the objects of those charter schools was to empower
local actors in communities. And this was certainly the case in
the 1990s. It created a lot of new opportunities for educators
and others to start schools.
Today however, we are seeing increasingly charter schools
being run and operated from across state or across the country
in corporate offices, as more and more of the impetus for
growing charter schools is going to private education
Another thing is--an original goal was to enhance parental
involvement. The research has been very consistent here.
Parents that choose charter schools and stay in charter
schools consistently report high levels of satisfaction and
opportunities for involvement.
When we look at open access for all, charter schools--our
public schools are open to all. There is anecdotal information
here and there that charter schools counsel out students.
In my evidence that I have seen from my state evaluations,
I don't see that. We do see however that charter schools are a
vehicle for accelerating segregation by race, by class, and
ability. Not necessarily because the charter schools are doing
anything, but parents help select.
So the next thing is professional--to create professional
opportunities for teachers was one of the original objectives.
And we haven't seen this so much.
Today we are seeing more and more scripted education. So--
and the role of teachers being lessened in charter schools and
eroded. So the high attrition rates that we see among teachers
now between 20 and 30 percent annually, is part of that issue
about working conditions for teachers.
Another--one of the objectives we talk most about is
charter schools creating higher performing schools. And when we
look at the evidence, when we look at local studies, we look at
case studies or individual schools, we tend to see evidence to
suggest that charter schools perform better.
But when we look at the evidence from state education
agencies, when they contract evaluations, or from the federal
government, we see that the evidence looks different. The
larger the scale, the study on student achievement, we also see
they tend to be more negative.
Just to mention three studies--in 2007 we did a Great Lakes
study that covered six states. We found charter schools
performing at a lower level, although they were gaining faster
than traditional public schools.
What we noticed in the other charter schools states like
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, the performance tended to
level off once the performance level neared or became closer to
the traditional public schools.
Illinois was the only state where we saw that the
performance surpassed the local district.
Another study was a Stanford study in 2009. They--it was
the largest study to date. Sixteen states were included.
They found that in 17 out of 100 comparisons, charter
schools did significantly better. Thirty-seven out of 100
comparisons, they found charter schools performed significantly
worse. The rest were a mix.
One last study I want to emphasize is from the U.S.
Department of Education, spent over $5 million on a rigorous
study that was published last year. It was done by Mathematica.
In there they found looking at over-subscribed charter
schools, which are their popular high-performing charter
schools that they have large waiting lists, they found that
these schools performed--the students in these schools
performed similar to those students that were on the waiting
I do have some concerns about the rapid growth and
expansion of charter schools. And I know to some extent my
concern about quality--rather over quality finds that many, I
think, in the charter school establishment may find this
antagonistic, but I think in the longer run, focusing on
quality, revisiting the original goals and objectives of
charter schools, will help to strengthen the charter schools in
the longer run.
[The statement of Mr. Miron follows:]
Prepared Statement of Dr. Gary Miron, Professor of Evaluation,
Measurement, and Research, Western Michigan University
I am a professor of evaluation, measurement, and research at
Western Michigan University. Over the last 2 decades I have had
extensive experience evaluating school reforms and education policies
in the United States and Europe. I have conducted 9 comprehensive
evaluations of charter school reforms commissioned by state education
agencies and have undertaken dozens of other studies related to charter
schools and private education management organizations (EMOs) that have
been funded by the US Department of Education, state agencies, private
foundations, as well as advocates and critics of charter schools. In
addition to my direct research or evaluation work related to charter
schools, I have provided technical assistance to charter schools in
Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. This
assistance has largely focused on developing accountability systems and
helping schools to collect and report data.
In Europe, I have studied the national voucher reform in Sweden and
conducted research on school restructuring in other four countries. For
the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), I
have been serving as an external expert and over the past few years I
have worked with a network of OECD countries to develop international
indicators related to school choice, parent voice, and school
In recent years, my research has increasingly focused on education
management organizations and efforts to create systemic change in urban
schools in Michigan and rural schools in Louisiana. Prior to coming to
Western Michigan University in 1997, I worked for 10 years at Stockholm
University. Aside from a long list of technical reports, I have
authored or edited eight books and has published more than 3 dozen
articles or chapters in books.
Original Goals of Charter Schools
Charter schools were created as a new form of public school that--
in exchange for autonomy--would be highly accountable. They would
improve upon traditional public schools in two ways: by developing and
sharing innovative practices, and by promoting competition. Charter
schools have received considerable bipartisan support and have become
one of the most prevalent and widely debated school reforms visible in
the last several decades. Today there are around 5,000 charter schools
in 40 states and the District of Columbia, enrolling close to 1.5
While I looked favorably upon the original intent of charter
schools, I am increasingly concerned that after two decades and
substantial growth, the charter school idea has strayed considerably
from its original vision.
A growing body of research as well as state and federal evaluations
conducted by independent researchers continue to find that charter
schools are not achieving the goals that were once envisioned for them.
Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice, free
from many regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The
specific goals for charter schools are typically found in legislative
acts. Let me identify these goals and comment on the related research
Empower local actors and communities. Involvement of local
persons or groups in starting charter schools is shrinking, replaced
instead by outsiders, particularly private education management
organizations (EMOs), which steer these schools from distant corporate
headquarters. Claims that EMOs can make charter schools more effective
have not been substantiated by research.
Enhance opportunities for parent involvement. Parents who
choose schools can be expected to be more engaged, presumably leading
to higher student achievement and other positive outcomes. Evidence
suggests that parent satisfaction is one of the strengths of charter
schools. Most of this evidence, however, is based on surveys of parents
whose children remain in charter schools and excludes parents whose
children have left these schools. Nevertheless, the fact that charter
schools are growing in size and number is a strong indication of the
demand that still exists for charter schools.
Create new opportunities for school choice with open
access for all. Charter schools are schools of choice. With few
exceptions, they are open to students from any district or locale.
Advocates argue that the very act of choice will spur students,
parents, and teachers to work harder to support the schools they have
chosen. Evidence, however, suggests that charters attract and enroll
groups sorted by race, class, and ability. Increasingly, charter
schools are using admissions or placement tests. Last year, research
conducted by Western Michigan University found that only one-quarter of
charter schools have students populations that are similar to local
school districts in terms of ethnic composition and the proportion of
low-income students. When it came to student composition based on
students with disabilities or students classified as English language
learners the findings were even more stark.
Develop innovations in curriculum and instruction.
Proponents argued that charter schools could function as public
education's R&D sector, and their benefits would extend to traditional
public schools that adopted and emulated their innovations. Evidence to
date, however, suggests that charter schools are not more likely than
traditional public schools to innovate.
Enhance professional autonomy and opportunities for
professional development for teachers. Allowing teachers to choose
schools closely matching their own beliefs and interests was to create
school communities that spent less time managing stakeholder conflicts
and more time implementing effective educational interventions.
Although some charter schools have created and fostered professional
opportunities for teachers, the overall evidence on this goal does not
suggest that this has been realized. High levels of teacher attrition
suggest teachers are not finding suitable professional learning
communities in charter schools.
Create high performing schools where children would learn
more. Notwithstanding pressure for performance on state assessments,
the growing body of evidence indicates charter schools perform similar
to demographically matched traditional public schools on standardized
tests. This is so despite the existence of some exceptional charter
schools in every state.
Create highly accountable schools. In exchange for
enhanced autonomy over curriculum, instruction, and operations, charter
schools agree to be held more accountable for results than other public
schools. Schools that fail to meet performance objectives can have
their charter revoked or not renewed (performance accountability);
schools that don't satisfy parents may lose students and, in theory, go
out of business (market accountability). Yet closure rates are
relatively low, and most charter schools that close do so because of
financial mismanagement, rather than performance or market
accountability. The burden of producing evidence regarding charter
school success has shifted to external evaluators or authorizers.
Charter schools--on the whole--have not been proactive with regard to
accountability; instead of being ``evaluating'' schools, they have
become ``evaluated'' schools.
Reasons Why Goals for Charter Schools Have Not Been Achieved
Why this overall lackluster performance?
Lack of effective oversight and insufficient
accountability. Many authorizers lack funds for oversight and some of
them are unprepared and--in some cases--unwilling to be sponsors of
charter schools. A key factor that undermines effective oversight is
that objectives in charter contracts are vague, incomplete, and
unmeasurable. Between 2002 and 2008 more attention was given to the
role and importance of authorizers, however, this seems to receive less
Insufficient autonomy. Re-regulation and standardization
driven by NCLB and state assessments are limiting autonomy.
Requirements that charter schools administer the same standardized
tests and have the same performance standards as traditional public
schools means that they cannot risk developing and using new curricular
Insufficient funding. The financial viability of charter
schools is dependent on the state, on how facilities are funded, and on
the particular needs of the students served. Some charter schools
maintain large year-end balances thanks to less costly-to-educate
students or extensive private revenues; others are clearly underfunded
for the types of students they serve or because they lack social
capital to attract outside resources, or both. Funding formulae vary by
state, but it is fair to say that if charter schools are expected to
innovate, they need more funding, not just greater autonomy.
Privatization and pursuit of profits. The increasing
numbers of private operators may bring expertise or experience, but
they also glean high management fees and tend to spend less on
instruction--and reports continue to show that EMO-operated schools
perform less well than non-EMO operated schools. There are some
emerging nonprofit EMO models that may prove to be more effective.
Strong and effective lobbying and advocacy groups for
charter schools quickly reinterpret research and shape the message to
fit their needs rather than the long-term interests of the movement.
They attack evidence that questions the performance of charter schools
and offer anecdotal evidence, rarely substantiated by technical
reports, in rebuttal. Such lobbying has undermined reasoned discourse
and made improving charter schools more difficult.
High attrition of teachers and administrators, ranging
from 15 to 30 percent, leads to greater instability and lost
investment. Attrition from the removal of ineffective teachers--a
potential plus of charters--explains only a small portion of the annual
Rapid growth of reforms. In states that implemented and
expanded their charter school reforms too quickly, charter schools have
faced a backlash as shortcomings in oversight and other neglected
aspects of the reform become apparent. The states that have grown their
reforms more slowly have been able to learn from early mistakes and
establish better oversight mechanisms.
Questions Policy Makers Should be Asking
Can we create better public schools through de-regulation and
demands for greater accountability? How are charter schools using the
opportunity provided them? The answers to these questions require
comprehensive evaluations--resisting the dodge that every charter
school is its own reform and should be looked at separately. More
specific questions that policy makers should be asking include:
How can charter school laws be revised to create more
Can funding formulae be revised to ensure that charter
schools serving the neediest students receive sufficient funding,
motivating more charters to attract and retain more-costly-to-educate
students, such as high school students, those with special needs, and
those living in poverty?
How can incentives and regulations be used to ensure
poorly performing charter schools will be closed?
Are there better uses for public resources than charter
schools--smaller class size, increased teacher remuneration or
incentives, increased oversight of public schools, support to
restructure struggling or failing district schools, etc.?
Who Stole My Charter School Reform?
Even as the original goals for charter schools are largely ignored,
charter schools fulfill other purposes.
Promote privatization of public school system. Charter
schools have provided an easy route for privatization; many states
allow private schools to convert to public charter schools, and
increasing the use of private education management organizations is
increasingly being seen as the mode for expanding charter schools.
Today, one-third of the nation's charter schools are being operated
by private education management organizations (EMOs) and this
proportion is growing rapidly each year. In states such as Michigan,
close to 80% of charter schools are operated by private for-profit
EMOs. Claims regarding privatization remain rhetorical and unsupported
by evidence. The recent economic crisis has shown that our economy
requires greater public oversight and regulations, a finding that can
be reasonably extended to markets in education.
Means of accelerating segregation of public schools while
placing the ``Private Good'' ahead of the ``Public Good.'' State
evaluations find that charter schools seem to accelerate the re-
segregation of public schools by race, class, and ability, instead of
creating homogeneous learning communities based on particular learning
styles or pedagogical approaches.
If privatization and accelerated segregation are not outcomes that
the federal government wishes to achieve with charter schools, then it
would be wise to consider how federal funding can be used to persuade
states to revise their charter school reforms.
Federal and state policy makers need to revisit the goals and
intended purpose of charter schools, clearly articulating values and
Quality versus Quantity
Once dedicated to educational quality, today's charter school
movement is increasingly dominated by powerful advocates of market-
based reform and privatization in public education.
As the federal government considers how it wishes to steer and
develop charter schools, it would be wise to articulate a new--or
renewed--vision for chartering that focuses on quality over quantity.
Then, as US Department of Education wields its influence, it can
persuade states to make revisions in their charter school laws that
reflect those goals and values. Most importantly, such guidance should
reward states that create successful charter schools, rather than
states that simply expand the charter school market.
Finally, authorities need to move more aggressively to close poorly
performing charter schools. This will strengthen charter reforms in
four ways: lifting the aggregate results for charters that remain;
sending a strong message to other charter schools that the autonomy-
for-accountability tradeoff is real; redirecting media attention from a
few scandal-ridden schools to successful schools; and opening up space
for new, carefully vetted charters.
Although these suggestions may be seen as antagonistic by the
charter school establishment, we believe they will help improve and
strengthen such schools in the longer run. The charter school idea was
to create better schools for all children, not to divide limited public
resources across parallel systems that perform at similar levels and
suffer from similar breaches in accountability. Rapid proliferation in
the charter sector appears to be interfering with the original vision
for the schools: to serve as a lever of change, spurring public schools
to improve both by example and replication.
The only way to ensure quality may be to get off the expansion
express. Rapid proliferation in the charter sector appears to be
interfering with the original vision for the schools: to serve as a
lever of change, spurring public schools to improve both by example and
Charter schools can be returned to their original vision: to serve
as a lever of change, spurring public schools to improve both by
example and through competition. But if they are to do so, they must be
better than traditional public schools, and they must be held
accountable for their performance.
Chairman Hunter. Thank you, Doctor.
Now I would like to recognize Dr. Purvis for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF DR. BETH PURVIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CHICAGO
INTERNATIONAL CHARTER SCHOOL
Ms. Purvis. Good morning--or good afternoon, Chairman
Hunter, Ranking Member Kildee, and esteemed members of the
My name is Beth Delaney Purvis. And I am proud and honored
to be here today to speak with you about the role of charter
schools and public education.
For the last 8 years, I have served as the executive
director of the Chicago International Charter School. CICS is a
network of 15 charter school campuses serving 8,800 students
from kindergarten through 12th grade in Chicago and Rockford,
The mission of CICS is to provide, through innovation and
choice, an attractive and rigorous college preparatory
education that meets the needs of today's students.
Eighty-six percent of CICS students qualify for free and
reduced lunch, 94 percent are African-American or Latino, and
six of the 14 CICS campuses are located in the 10 highest
violent crime neighborhoods in Chicago.
Our 15th school is located in Rockville--Rockford, Illinois
which was recently ranked as the ninth most violent city in
The highly dedicated teachers and staff across the CICS
network are working diligently to achieve the mission of CICS.
During the 2009-2010 school year, the average student at a CICS
campus open for more than 3 years was performing at or above
the national average in reading and math.
The 4-year graduation rate of CICS is 84 percent with over
90 percent of the graduates being accepted into college.
As you know, charter schools are public schools of choice.
Although they are freed from much of the bureaucracy that
prevails in the traditional schools, charter schools must
employ certified or highly qualified teachers, meet state
learning standards and assess students according to the state
requirements, educate children with disabilities according to
IDEA, if a Title 1 School, meet all federal eligibility
criteria, and participate in a renewal process on a regular
basis as determined by the local authorizer.
This review process requires an in-depth analysis of
student performance, financial stability, and compliance with
local state and federal regs.
According to Illinois State Law, initial enrollment in
charter schools occurs by a blind lottery. In addition to the
8,800 students served by CICS this year, another 2,000 remained
on the waiting list during the school year.
The families that CICS serves, much like most nationwide
charter schools, have few resources to make other educational
choices for their children.
In a city like Chicago, where according to the Consortium
on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, an
elementary-aged male student, who was African-American or
Hispanic, has less than a 10 percent chance of graduating from
Having choice is critical.
In 2009, the Chicago Public Schools approached CICS and
asked us to open a school in the Altgeld Gardens neighborhood
of Chicago. Unfortunately, Altgeld Gardens gained infamy in
September 2009 when Derrion Alpert was beaten to death by his
peers in the aftermath of a fight that occurred earlier in that
Because Altgeld doesn't have a neighborhood high school,
CICS opened the Larry Hawkins campus last September. The
average reading level of the 10th, 11th, and 12th graders who
enrolled at CICS Larry Hawkins is the fifth grade.
In addition, over 50 percent of those same students self-
reported attending school for fewer than 30 days the previous
school year. Our average attendance this year was over 87
As shocking as these facts are, we find that the students
most--are mostly well-behaved, eager to learn and proud that a
new school opened just for them.
I am extremely proud also to tell you that Derrion Alpert's
father, Mr. Joseph Walker, joined the CICS Larry Hawkins launch
committee and spoke on the school's behalf at the CPS school
Charter schools are required to serve all students who
apply through the lottery and are accepted. This means that
charter schools have a legal and ethical responsibility to
serve children in the least restrictive environment according
to the IDEA.
Currently, 14 percent of the students at CICS have
disabilities. Like traditional public schools, the majority of
students served by charter schools have high incidence
disability like ADHD, specific language impairments, and
However, we also serve students who are blind and visually
impaired, have traumatic brain injury, hearing impairments, and
I have often been asked whether charter schools counsel out
students with disabilities. As a person who spent the first 14
years of my career working as a special educator, I am
passionate about the rights of students with disabilities.
The statistics that I quoted to you earlier about CICS
academic performance include our students with disabilities. I
believe that the disciplined environment and no excuses
expectations of most charter schools are ideal for students
I also believe that the ability to veer quickly from the
prescribed curricula when results aren't apparent is a strength
of charter schools.
It is my experience that charter schools provide a strong
vehicle for neighborhood change because they often establish
the schools in the midst of a blighted neighborhood.
By opening schools from the ground up, they can structure
the school day, school calendar and curriculum materials to
address the needs and interests of families who live in the
Charter schools also make significant investments in
buildings in which they reside, create new job opportunities,
and seek partnerships with local businesses.
CICS owns five of its current 14 campuses and leases the
nine others. All leased facilities are owned by the Archdiocese
and we have invested over $20 million in those buildings over
the last 15 years.
In 2007, we issued $49 million in tax-free municipal bonds,
principally with $16 million of that we built a high school in
the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. The site where the school
currently stands had been empty for 12 years with neighbors
reporting that the abandoned school was being used by drug
users, drug dealers, and prostitutes.
I am proud to say that last year, 90 percent of the first
graduating class of Ellison was accepted into college.
Charter schools are most effective when they respond to the
needs of the community. In 2008, CICS was approached by Larry
Morrissey about opening a charter school in the city.
I am proud to say after completing its first year of
educating 240 children, the average growth of students at CICS
Patriots was 1.2 years academic growth.
In closing, I urge you to support the work of charter
schools in your district. As public schools of choice, charter
schools are giving parents options regardless of the child's
skills or the family's economic status.
I encourage you each to visit a charter school so that you
can understand firsthand that charter schools are truly public
schools that serve your constituents.
[The statement of Ms. Purvis follows:]
Prepared Statement of Elizabeth Delaney Purvis, Executive Director,
Chicago International Charter School
Good morning, my name is Elizabeth Delaney Purvis. I am proud and
honored to be here today to speak with you about the role of charter
schools in public education. For the last 8 years, I have served as the
executive director of the Chicago International Charter School. CICS is
a network of 15 charter school campuses serving 8,800 students from
kindergarten through 12th grade in Chicago and Rockford, Illinois.
Prior to joining CICS I was a special education teacher in
Montgomery County, MD; an early interventionist in Nashville, TN; and
after receiving my doctoral degree in special education at Vanderbilt
University, I served for 5 years as an Assistant Professor of Education
at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The mission of Chicago International Charter School is, to provide,
through innovation and choice, an attractive and rigorous college-
preparatory education that meets the needs of today's students. 86% of
CICS students qualify for free and reduced lunch, 95% are African
American or Latino, and 6 of the 14 Chicago Campuses are located in the
10 highest violent crime neighborhoods in Chicago. Our 15th school is
located in Rockford, IL which was recently ranked by the FBI as the 9th
most violent city in America. CICS Patriots is in the midtown
neighborhood, the area of Rockford with the most concentrated poverty
and the highest rate of unemployment.
The teachers and staff across the CICS network are working
diligently to achieve the mission of CICS. During the 2009-2010 school
year, the average student at a CICS campus that was opened for three or
more years was performing at or above the national average in reading
and math according to the NWEA Measure of Academic Progress. The 4-year
graduation rate was 84% with over 90% of the graduates being accepted
As you know, charter schools are public schools of choice. Although
they are freed from much of the bureaucracy that prevails traditional
schools, charter schools must:
Employ certified or highly qualified teachers
Meet state learning standards and assess students
according to state requirements
Educate children with disabilities according to IDEA
If a Title I School, meet all federal eligibility criteria
Participate in a renewal process on a regular basis, as
determined by the local authorizer. This review process requires an in-
depth analysis of student performance, financial stability, and
compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.
I strongly believe that because they are part of the public schools
system, charter schools represent change within the public domain not
change from ``outsiders''. Charter schools are not the only answer to
school reform, but represent one way that school districts and state
agencies can efficiently and affordably improve and increase
educational options for families.
According to Illinois State law, initial enrollment in charter
schools occurs by ``blind'' lottery. In addition to the 8,800 served by
Chicago International this school year, another 2000 remained on the
waiting list during the 2010-2011 school year. The families that CICS
serves, much like most charter schools nationwide, have few resources
to make other educational choices for their children. In a city like
Chicago, where--according to the Consortium on Chicago School Research
at the University of Chicago--an elementary aged male students who is
African-American or Hispanic has less than a 10% chance of graduating
from college, having choices is critical. Parents know that although
the quality of the selective public high schools in Chicago is
exemplary, the traditional high schools offer little hope for students
who strive to go to college.
For this reason, most charter schools are located in high-crime,
high-poverty neighborhoods where the traditional schools are not
meeting the needs of students and families.
In 2009, the Chicago Public Schools approached CICS and asked us to
open a school in the Altgeld Garden neighborhood of Chicago.
Unfortunately, Altgeld Gardens gained infamy in September 2009 when
Derrion Alpert was beaten to death in by his peers in the aftermath of
a fight that had occurred earlier in the day at Fenger High School.
Because Altgeld doesn't have a neighborhood high school, CICS opened
the Larry Hawkins campus last September so that students would not have
to travel the just under 6 miles across gang lines by public bus from
Altgeld to the Roseland neighborhood. What we have learned since
opening this school is that the neighborhood feels betrayed and
forgotten by the City of Chicago. The average reading level of the
10th, 11th, & 12th graders who enrolled in CICS Larry Hawkins is 5th
grade. In addition, over 50% of the students self-report attending
school for fewer than 30 days during the previous school year. As
shocking as these facts are, we find the students mostly well-behaved,
eager to learn, and proud that a new school opened ``just for them''.
I am extremely proud to tell you that Derrion Alpert's grandfather,
Mr. Joseph Walker, joined the CICS Larry Hawkins Launch Committee and
spoke on the school's behalf to the Chicago Public School Board.
Included in his remarks was the point that opening the CICS Hawkins
campus had helped to heal the Altgeld community. Mr. Walker and the
CICS Community Liaison, Ms. Adrienne Leonard have founded another
group--Pain to Power--which works to provide safe passage to and from
school for children at 4 CICS and numerous traditional Chicago Public
Like most charter schools nationwide, the CICS Lloyd Bond and Larry
Hawkins Campuses reflect the ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic makeup
of the neighborhood.
Charter schools are required to serve all children who apply
through the lottery and are accepted. This means that charter schools
have a legal and ethical responsibility to serve children in the least
restrictive environment according to the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act. Currently approximately 14% of the students served at
Chicago International Charter School have disabilities. Like
traditional public schools, the majority of students served by charter
schools have high incidence disabilities such as ADHD, specific
language impairments, and learning disabilities. It is important to
note, however, that charter schools also serve students who have low
incidence disabilities such as blindness and visual impairment,
traumatic brain injury, hearing impairments, and autism.
I have often been asked if charter schools ``counsel out'' students
with disabilities. As a person who spent the first 14 years of my
career working as a special educator, I am a passionate advocate of the
rights of children with disabilities. The statistics that I quoted to
you earlier about CICS academic performance include the performance of
our students with disabilities. I believe that the disciplined
environment and ``no excuses'' expectations of most charter schools are
ideal for students with disabilities. I also believe that the ability
to veer quickly from the prescribed curricula when results aren't
apparent is a strength of charter school curricula.
I think it is important to note that charter school employees also
participate in statewide educational activities and are not always
``outsiders to the system''. Since 2005, I have had the privilege of
representing charter schools on the Illinois State Advisory Council to
the Illinois State Board of Education in accordance with IDEA
It is my experience that charter schools provide a strong vehicle
for neighborhood change because they often establish the school in the
midst of a blighted neighborhood. Charter school operators are explicit
about the communities in which they want to operate. By opening schools
from the ground up, they can structure the school day, school-year
calendar, and curricular materials to address the needs and interests
of the families who live in the community. Charter school operators
often make significant investments in buildings in which they reside,
create new job opportunities, and seek partnerships with local
businesses in a way that is difficult for traditional public schools.
Chicago International owns 5 of its current campuses and has 15-30
year leases in 9 of the others. All nine leased facilities are owned by
the Archdiocese of Chicago. Over the 15 years of its existence, CICS
has infused over $20mm into these properties in terms of ADA
accommodations, preventative maintenance and school readiness. The
pastors of all nine parishes report that, if they were not receiving
rent from CICS, their parishes would most likely close and the
buildings would remain empty.
In 2007, CICS issues $49,000,000 in municipal bonds. $16,000,000 of
these bonds were used to build the CICS Ralph Ellison high school in
the heart of the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood of Chicago. The site where
the school currently stands had been empty for 12 years, with neighbors
reporting use of the abandoned schools by drug users, drug dealers and
prostitutes. Over 90% of the first graduating class of Ralph Ellison
was accepted into college last year.
Charter schools are most effective when they respond to the needs
of the community as defined by the community. In 2008, Chicago
International was approached by Rockford Mayor Larry Morissey about
opening a charter school in his city. After a year of meetings with
local business leaders, community based organizations, and school
officials, the Chicago International Charter School partnered with Zion
Development Corporation and the Patriots Gateway Center to open a new
charter school in the midtown neighborhood of Rockford.
In August 2010, the CICS Patriots Campus opened with 240
kindergarten through fourth grade students inside the community center.
The school principal, Charo Chaney, is a former RPSD205 teacher who
enrolled her two sons in the school. The majority of the teachers
reside in Rockford and see the charter school as a real choice for
middle and low-income families in a city with few affordable private
school options. By locating the school within an established community
center with a long and storied history of community service, the
charter school staff is inextricably linked to the local residents and
CICS Patriots is about to complete its first year of educating
children. I am proud to announce that end-of-year testing in reading
and math using a nationally normed assessment called the NWEA Measure
of Academic Progress shows that the average student at CICS Patriots
made over 1.2 years academic growth. There is a waiting list in every
grade for next year. A charter high school is scheduled to open in
Please know that the federal dollars made available to new charter
schools enabled CICS Patriots to open its doors with new furniture,
interactive white boards in every classroom, and a full-time social
worker. Without that support, I do not believe that our year would have
been as successful as it has been.
In closing, I urge you to support the work of charter schools in
your districts. As public schools of choice, charter schools give
parents options regardless of the child's skills or the family's
economic status. I believe that, nationally, charter schools have
improved significantly the lives and broadened the opportunities for
the children who have few quality choices.
I encourage you each to visit a charter school so that you can
understand first-hand that charter schools are truly public schools
that serve your constituents.
Chairman Hunter. Thank you, Dr. Purvis.
We are now going to have member questions starting with
I yield myself 5 minutes.
The first question is this, Ms. Beyer, you know, I forgot
to mention in San Diego we have the largest population of Iraqi
refugees in the entire nation. And Detroit, I think, is number
But we have the most in my district. And those are a lot of
You went through a renewal of your charter recently in
California. Would you mind sharing with us the process focusing
on what you learned from the charter renewal process, and how
the issue of quality specifically was addressed?
Ms. Beyer. I would be glad to.
This is our second time around. We actually have two
charters, the K-8 charter and then a high school charter.
Literacy First was first approved in June of 2001 and then
we--2006 we did a renewal. And we are actually in the process
right now of the actual final vote will be next Wednesday.
We had our public hearing May 11th.
The process however is one we have been working on for
about 3 months. As you know, when you write a charter there are
16 elements in California that you write your charter to. And
over the 5 years that you have your charter, you know,
statutory law has changed.
So in this process, we have had to update our charter to
reflect all of the new statutes in education law as far as
California law goes, any new programs, all the federal regs on
specific ed, how we treat, you know, our students.
It has been a grueling process, more so than in any year
past. And I think this whole concept of accountability, our
authorizer has taken very seriously.
Even though we have, like I said, the highest test scores--
one of the--actually probably the highest test scores in east
county, they have put us through grueling rigor with regard
to--you know, our test scores are 870. Because we have this
high EL population, this year making AYP, we had one group that
went down two points.
Now mind you, there is still over 850 which the typical kid
in East County is not there. But our EL students, the--you
know, our points went down two points.
And they wanted to know what we were doing to address
that--you know, the two point drop right there.
So they have put us through--we started a committee. There
is a huge committee. They reviewed our charter page by page.
We went through all the special ed parts--what has changed
federally, our concepts on expulsion and suspension, you know,
all those numbers. How we are addressing those.
It has been a very grueling process. And our authorizer has
taken that very seriously, even though we are one of the
highest performing schools in the county.
Chairman Hunter. Okay, thank you, Ms. Beyer.
And I have got about 2 minutes, and I have just been
informed we are going to have one vote. I think we will have
enough time to recognize the ranking member.
And then we will break for a little bit and come back.
Your schools compare to the graduation rates around you.
The graduation rates around you are pretty dismal.
You focus on college prep in your curricula, right?
Can you just kind of talk about that for a second and then
explain why that--why you think that works?
Ms. Purvis. Well, I think there are a number of reasons.
First, I think it is important that every child has choices
at every breaking point in their life, be that eight grade,
choice of different high schools, high school choice of college
or the workforce.
And I believe once we veer away from a college preparatory
curriculum, we are making decisions for students rather than
allowing their parents and the students themselves to make
So to me, it is part of our ethical responsibility to have
high quality college preparatory high school choices for kids.
In Chicago, we have a really high exemplary system of
selective enrollment high schools. Unfortunately, the
traditional high schools in Chicago do not do a great job of
In fact, the 4-year graduation rate for the traditional
high schools that are not elective enrollment at Chicago public
schools is under 65 percent. And the college retention rate is
also quite low.
So I think by having a curricula that gives parents
choices, and allows all kids to know that if they so choose
they can go to college, is very important simply for the
landscape of our future.
Chairman Hunter. Thank you, Doctor.
I would like to yield back the balance of my time and
recognize Ranking Member Mr. Kildee for 5 minutes.
Mr. Kildee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Miron, some argue that charter schools present parents
with choice. However, I think we need to do more to provide
real high quality educational options for families around the
Eighty-nine percent of districts do not have charter
schools. And those that do exist are often not high quality
Research shows that populations including students with
disabilities and English language learners are not being
enrolled at proportional rates. And the lack of student support
services like school lunch and transportation exclude the low
income students who need them.
Dr. Miron, how is this real choice? How do we address these
concerns to make sure charters represent a meaningful part of
educational reform and are part of the whole demography within
Mr. Miron. Thank you for the question.
It is important to keep in mind that parents choose. And--
but I think that some of the incentives that you have
suggested, one of the issues--and it is very difficult when we
talk about charter school's generalizing because things differ
so drastically from state to state.
But some states don't require transportation or don't
require the charter schools, like in Michigan, receive funding
for transportation but aren't required to provide it.
What we have done with the OECD, the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development, we have been developing
these indicators on school choice and parent voice. And we see
internationally circumstances or factors that aren't in place
to have good market accountability.
And that requires things like information. We need
independent broker of information, so parents--all parents get
information and can take choices.
We need transportation systems so that parents can--all
parents can choose. There are a number of things--supports that
could be put in place to ensure that more parents can choose.
In the end, we know, not only in the states but in other
countries as well, not all parents choose. The ones that choose
typically have higher aspirations for their children especially
in terms of educational attainment. So there is always going to
be differences in that.
But coming to your point about how we might address some of
those factors because when we look in charter schools, we do
see only about a quarter of the charter schools has similar
demographic composition as their local districts.
We did a study on this last year, the civil rights project
in--at UCLA also did a study on this. When we look at issues
like an ELL or special ed, it becomes much more dramatic.
But one of the things that could be done is using market
incentives is funding, better funding formulas that would make
it stronger incentive to include children with disabilities.
Charter schools don't count them out necessarily, but they
don't market towards them.
If--and we look across the nation about 40 to 48 charter
schools in the country focus and market themselves as special
ed charter schools. And they have--between 60 and 100 percent
of the students have individualized education plans.
These are exceptional schools. Most of them--most of the
charter schools have very few students with disabilities
relative to the local district. And they tend to be of--with
milder disabilities that are less costly to remediate.
But I think here the funding formulas that vary
considerably from state to state can provide incentives or
disincentives depending on how those are held.
Mr. Kildee. Isn't that a type of cherry picking when--have
the right to apply, enroll in a charter school. That charter
school does not have school lunch.
Now in Flint, Michigan one of the reasons we were able to
get children to school, which is a real problem, truancy, is
the fact that the public go to get their most nourishing meal
of the day at the school lunch program.
And then if you live in the one area of Flint, Michigan,
where I used to teach school, and the charter school is at the
other end, and there is no transportation provided, is that
really open enrollment, in fact?
Mr. Miron. The way the charter schools market themselves--
and there has been some research on the way the messages they
give in terms of uniforms or the demographic composition of the
children in the pictures and so forth, charter schools by the
services they provide and the way they market themselves, they
do--they are part of this process.
I would point out Connecticut is an exemplary where they
require each charter school, not to select based on race or
class, but they require each charter school to recruit from all
segments of the district.
And I think that is a very good approach to help ensure
that charter schools are at least trying to market themselves
to all groups. But in the end, it is parents who are choosing.
Mr. Kildee. With education being a local function, a state
responsibility, and a federal concern is there something we can
do on a federal level--sorry, Mr. Chairman--to encourage that
outreach to bring a broader demographic group into the charter
Is something in federal law--could that assist in that?
Mr. Miron. Not in federal law, there is--the guidance is
that charter schools shouldn't--cannot select based on
characteristics such as race or class.
Mr. Kildee. Okay, thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Hunter. All right. Thank you, Dale.
I would now like to recognize the chairman of the full
committee, Mr. Kline for 5 minutes.
Mr. Kline. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to the witnesses for being with us today and
telling us your stories.
I find it interesting as I am travelling the country, I
have done many round table discussions with school leaders,
superintendents and principals and so forth. And I was at one
of these round table discussions, I think in Pennsylvania.
Maybe it was New York, but I think it was Pennsylvania, not
And one of the superintendents while applauding many of the
steps that we are looking at in this House of Representatives
to--in our efforts to--re-authorize and improve the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act said, ``Well, Mr. Chairman,'' he
said, ``I am really excited about what you are doing. But,'' he
said, ``I see you are a supporter of charter schools.''
And he said, ``That is just not fair. Because--gosh, the
money goes to the student and the charter schools get to
operate under a different set of rules.''
And my response, I think, was something on the order of
precisely. You get to operate under a different set of rules.
And maybe we ought to be considering those different set of
rules for other schools.
But one of the strengths it seems to me of the charter
schools, and varies obviously somewhat by state, but charter
schools have authorizers. And if the charter school is not
performing, the authorizer can shut the school down.
You don't necessarily have that ability in the public
So, Ms. Rowe, let me start with you.
As that authorizer, and I think you are the only authorizer
at the table, it is your responsibility as that authorizer to
identify a low performing school and shut it down.
So my question to you, as your first round of schools came
up for renewal, how did you address the concerns about the
How do you do--identify them? How did you monitor what sort
of protocols did you use?
How did you decide, in short, how to shut down a school?
Can you address that for us?
Ms. Rowe. Mr. Kline, I would be happy to.
And I will try to keep it short. But it is in fact a
lengthy process that--that when over a couple of year period,
when the Charter Board determined the charter contracts in
Arizona are 15-year contracts, and we have 5-year interval
And in establishing what was going to be the criteria for
renewal, the Charter Board looked at what information we have
about our schools.
And we were able to determine that we collect information
on an annual basis regarding their financial operations and
their compliance with the law. But one of the places where we
were really lacking in consistent information over time was in
their academic performance.
And so as we looked at the procedure for renewals, we in--
that is when we embraced the growth model, because the growth
model provided us an ability to look at not only how each
school is performing with their students at a point in time,
but also enabled us to look at how the schools are progressing
And so then at renewal when we had the opportunity to look
at that data, and it was the first time we actually had a
series of data to look at, we were able to make determinations
about the continuation of those charters both on what their
past performance had been, but their story about what they have
learned about their students, how they were going to move
forward in making additional changes and improvements in their
programs for their continuation.
It wasn't--closing a school or not renewing a charter is
never an easy decision. It is the right decision. And it is
appropriate that an authorizer makes those decisions when
Mr. Kline. Well, thank you.
As I said, I think that is a kind of an important feature
as we look at charter schools as we do have that ability--
authorizers have that ability to evaluate the schools.
And I found it interesting that you talked about finances
and other sort of administrative issues, and then got to the
issue of academic performance.
And one of the things as we are looking at accountability
going forward, it is clear, I think, to both sides of the aisle
that we need that information. Authorizers need--and parents
need that information so that they can make informed choices
about whether or not to get in the line of 800--I think that
Ms. Beyer--one of you said you had 800 people waiting to get
into a school.
Well, they need that information to make a determination if
that is a line they want to get into. And you, as an
authorizer, need that kind of information to make a
determination if the school is simply not performing.
I see my time is up. And we have been called to vote.
So I yield back.
Chairman Hunter. I thank the chairman for the yield.
I think we can get one more question in.
Ms. Hirono is recognized for 5 minutes.
Ms. Hirono. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I have some questions for Mr. Miron.
I know that you visited charter schools and other schools
in Hawaii. And you probably had an opportunity to compare the
student achievements in both these schools.
But Hawaii is unique in that while we don't have a huge
number of charter schools, yet a number of the schools are
Hawaiian-based, culturally-based schools to specifically help
native Hawaiian children achieve.
So in your visits to the--to Hawaii schools, did you see
any difference in educational attainment and the mainly
Hawaiian-based charter schools versus the regular schools?
Mr. Miron. One of the original goals of charter schools was
innovation. And I often say charter schools to truly be
innovative organizations, they probably don't have enough money
to become those types of organizations.
We see innovations in a number of states. And one I often
bring up when I am talking about charter schools is--are the
native Hawaiian charter schools. They use play space and site-
based management--or play-based and site-based instruction.
And they truly are innovative in terms of bringing about
new curricular material, and working with a population of
students that is performing very poorly in a traditional public
So therein one thing that I have worked with and is to
assist some of them with funding through the community schools
is to ensure that they are able to demonstrate accountability.
And many charter schools and coming back to that notion
about old notion of charter schools, charter schools were
supposed to be evaluating schools, not evaluated schools.
They were supposed to demonstrate accountability based on
the unique missions and so forth.
So what I have been doing with technical assistance with
charter schools over the years, it is often--I am helping them
to find those measures to capture what they are doing that is
unique and demonstrate accountability to their authorizer based
So we are not only looking at student achievement results.
And the results for this--the schools in Hawaii are--that they
are very difficult to capture because the population is rather
mobile, and some other factors. But they really are accountable
to their unique missions.
Ms. Hirono. I visited a number of those charter schools in
Hawaii. And I think that we really are--these schools are very
unique and meeting some very unique needs.
Now, one part of your testimony that really interested me
was your concern about these education management organizations
that more and more are coming into play in basically running
the charter schools throughout our country.
So can you talk a little bit more--I think in Hawaii these
entities are not the----
Mr. Miron. No.
Ms. Hirono [continuing]. The ones----
Mr. Miron. They are not there yet----
Ms. Hirono. They truly are community-based, parent-based
charter schools in Hawaii.
But in the rest of the country, I--what are your concerns
regarding what sounds like privatizing of charter schools.
Mr. Miron. It is--and I am--sometimes I am a little bit
resentful because I am old-fashioned. I like the old charter
But I almost think we need a new name for these schools
that we are talking about today, whether we call them franchise
schools or corporate schools.
Let us talk about charter schools--is that idea from the
1990s that we are going to be locally run schools. That we are
going to be innovative like the Hawaiian charter schools.
But what we see today, and I will give you an example from
Detroit. Detroit is looking to bring in charter management
organizations to help convert these traditional public schools
to become charter schools.
And they are bringing in only successful and proven
operators, management companies with charter schools.
But when we look at the list of companies involved, they
have terrible records. And many of them have no evidence that
they have ever managed a school in the past.
And so we are pushing--much of the growth today is being
pushed by the use of these education management organizations.
And yet, it is a different reform that we are talking about
And this is an unproven reform today. The only large
operator that I have seen was convincing evidence of student
achievement results. It is our KIPP schools.
And they have several studies that have confirmed that
students that attend and persist in KIPP do better. And that
has been confirmed independently.
The concerns we have with KIPP, based on an earlier study
this year, is selective entry, highly selective exit of
students. And then they receive considerably more money per
pupil. So we are not certain that model is scalable.
But for many of these other operators, especially those
that are making a pitch in Detroit, I am very concerned because
they are not proven yet. We have to depend on them and what
they are reporting as their record of evidence.
Ms. Hirono. Before I go on to my next question, I would
like to acknowledge the presence of two public school teachers
from Hawaii. They have come a long way to sit in this hearing--
it is Greg Lerned and Megan Staring.
I do have a question for Ms. Purvis.
Is Chicago International an education management
Ms. Purvis. No. CICS--thank you for the question.
CICS actually is the portfolio manager. And we hire--we
have contracts with educational management organizations to run
the day-to-day operations of our schools.
We currently have four educational management organizations
with whom we work. Two are for-profit, two are not-for-profit.
But we regulate--we have very strict contracts with them
that regulate the outcomes, and they are 1-year renewable
contracts. So if we believe they are not hitting our sort of
focused outcomes, we can replace those under our existing
Ms. Hirono. Thank you.
I think my time is up. I yield back.
Chairman Hunter. I thank the gentlelady.
The House is currently voting. The members need to be on
the House floor.
As such, the committee shall stand in recess until
immediately following the vote.
I urge my colleagues to return quickly to the hearing. And
I appreciate the patience of our witnesses and the audience.
Chairman Hunter. The committee will reconvene and come to
order following our recess.
I would like to recognize Mrs. Biggert from Illinois for 5
Mrs. Biggert. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and my question is
directed at Ms. Rowe.
It seems like--could you explain a little bit, you are the
authorizer. And it seems like many of the states only allow
state education agencies or the local education agencies to
authorize charter schools.
Do you think that we should permit more independent
authorizers to be involved in the process?
And do you think that the state-wide authorizers are
something that should be considered?
And also, should there be--should the authorizers'
activities be included in funding from the Federal Charter
School Program to make sure that they have got quality,
innovation, and improvement in the charter?
Ms. Rowe. Sure.
Mrs. Biggert, I am--because I work for an independent
chartering board that has statewide authority, it would be
inappropriate for me to answer that in any other way than yes,
I think it is appropriate for statewide authorizers. But I
believe that for--not just because of my employment, but for a
lot of really valid reasons.
First of all, with the Charter Board, the Arizona State
Board for Charter Schools is an independent chartering board.
And so our sole purpose is to authorize charter schools and
then provide oversight.
And because that is all we do, we have been able to develop
fair, transparent, and consistent policies that allow us to
provide oversight of the charter schools across the state.
There is no question about what action the board might
take, because we have consistent policies that are implemented
in all situations.
I believe that local education agencies and other
authorizers have that same capacity. But the success of the
board, and especially in its recent development of its renewal
policies, and the improvements in its 5-year interval review
processes has been based on the guidance of the--the NACSA, the
National Authorizer--National Association of Charter School
Authorizers' principles and standards.
We have used that as a guide in developing all of our
procedures from our application process as we make revisions to
that, in our oversight and in our renewal processes.
So I think that while a statewide authorizer has its
benefits, it is certainly appropriate that regardless of the
size of the authorizer, the boundaries of their authorizing
practices, that they have policies and procedures that can be
Mrs. Biggert. And then how about the funding. Do you think
that the authorizers like today should be included in the
Federal Charter School Program?
Ms. Rowe. The State Board for Charter Schools has recently
benefited from access to the National Association for Charter
Schools Authorizers evaluation practices. And it makes sense to
me that while we have to remember that every state is a little
bit different in their chartering laws, that we--it is
appropriate that we have some common standards, some
Almost every industry has professional standards. It is
appropriate for authorizers to have professional standards as
well. And so to the extent that there can be funding made
available for that purpose I believe it is appropriate.
Mrs. Biggert. Okay. Thank you.
And then you talked about the Arizona growth model and
How--and in determining the quality of the schools, how
much do--in the charter schools, how much do student test
scores count? And how does that factor into teacher
Ms. Rowe. Mrs. Biggert, there is a new evaluation formula
that is being--a framework that has been adopted by the State
Board of Education.
I know in the discussions there was some debate about the
percentage. And I don't remember where they landed.
But there is a percentage of the teachers' evaluation that
is a result of their students' academic performance. And I
would be happy to get that for you----
Mrs. Biggert. Yes, that would be great. And what else is
included in the teacher evaluations and the charter schools
observations, peer review, what else is in that?
Ms. Rowe. The--I am sorry. I didn't prepare for evaluation
framework questions today. So I apologize for that. And I will
get that to you.
But I will share with you that in the requirement that an
evaluation framework be developed, it was determined that
charter schools would be included in that same framework that
district schools are included in.
So that is one situation here recently where a new law in
Arizona included charter schools in it.
Mrs. Biggert. Thank you very much. I yield back.
Chairman Hunter. I thank the gentlelady.
I would now like to recognize Ms. Woolsey for 5 minutes.
Ms. Woolsey. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
It was my understanding in the 1990s--in the olden days
when we first started talking charter schools that charter
schools were going to be examples because of freedoms in
innovation of what would be the best practices to apply to the
public school system.
I am sure that we didn't--I know I didn't intend that we
have a private school system which we have.
And then we have a private charter for-profit school
entity. And then everybody else gets to go to a struggling
So Dr. Miron, what exactly are the exemptions to state laws
and district regulations that make it so much easier for a
charter school to--the ones that are good--because they aren't
all exemplary. We know that. We have heard that.
The 30--35 percent that are being successful, why?
Mr. Miron. That is a very good question. I think a lot of
us would like to know exactly what those factors are.
Just let me comment a little bit. You are correct. In the
1990s, we talked about the account--higher levels of
accountability in exchange for that autonomy given to charter
This autonomy notion is a little bit confusing also because
today charter schools don't receive the autonomy that was
envisioned for them in the 1990s. Part of it is because of
reregulation, but also because of the use of standardized tests
in No Child Left Behind which has brought the charter schools
in forcing them to teach to the same tests which has limited
their ability or interest to go outside and try different
Ms. Woolsey. Well, because they get federal funds.
Mr. Miron. Right, right----
Ms. Woolsey. I mean, they are receiving----
Mr. Miron. Right, but that is one of the reasons why they
don't look that different.
But in terms of the waivers, this is really fascinating and
for example in Pennsylvania, there is a book this thick of
rules and regulations for traditional public schools.
And, you know, only about an inch of--five inches of text
is actually what--is not waivered. So charter schools get lots
of rules waived.
But in reality, they are not significant. They are like two
shade trees must be in front of each public school--a whole
bunch of silly things.
But they do receive the most significant waiver they have
is regarding employment of teachers that essentially they can
hire and fire teachers at will.
That is the biggest waiver or piece of autonomy that they
have today. Because today they still have to--now they are
being held accountable by the same mechanisms as traditional
Ms. Woolsey. Well, where in the system of--you three
charter school experts, where is the public school system
coming in and learning from your successful example?
And why aren't we just using what works for you in the
public school system?
I mean, most kids have--are going to be educated in the
public school system. And don't tell me it is because you are
public schools, because you are public-financed, but you are
also for-profit schools.
I mean I just want to know how you are good--tell me about
you are good examples, and how we can get them into the public
Ms. Beyer. Could I could speak to that.
Ms. Woolsey. All right.
Ms. Beyer. Like I stated in my testimony, I know for a fact
that in our area, we have our public schools in the--Valley
that have changed significantly their calendars. They have
changed--they have made longer school days. They have made
their calendar change. They are using different curriculum.
And it is because--even the private schools in our area
actually have changed the way they are doing things because we
have pulled a lot of the private school population to our
school because it is free.
And we have a huge technology program. And that is
something that a lot of public schools don't have access to.
And the biggest difference is that I see in our case is we
are in charge of our money. The money comes to us and we are in
charge of it.
One small school that is growing bigger, but we are in
charge of how we spend our money. And I know where every dollar
I pick the books. I work with the team when we choose
We are close to every dollar that gets spent. And that, I
know, from my friends who are principals in other public
schools, they don't have that kind of autonomy.
They have very little control over what goes on in their
local public school, whereas with our four schools, I know
where every dollar is going. I know what every--you know, what
is happening. And we are in charge of not only hiring our
staff, but we are in charge of how we spend our money and how
we--what kind of curriculum we use.
And I know for a fact that in East County area, many of the
private schools and the public schools have changed their
calendar and are using different curriculum because of that.
Ms. Woolsey. And, Dr. Miron, can you see any reason why a
public school can it adopt a longer school day.
Mr. Miron. Some of them are doing that already. We are
seeing increasingly--one of the first reactions from
traditional public schools is when a charter school comes in
and offers a full day kindergarten. We will see the traditional
public school offering that.
And so we do see some of the examples of that as some
pressures for change.
Ms. Woolsey. Okay.
Chairman Hunter. I would like to recognize Ms. Roby from
Alabama for 5 minutes.
Ms. Roby. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
To each of our witnesses thank you so much for being here
today and taking the time to answer our questions.
Of course, I am from Alabama. And we are one of 10 states
that do not have charter schools. And part of the reason for
that is that the Alabama Education Association has come out
very much in opposition to charter schools.
And one of their main arguments is that they believe--and
the reason they oppose charter schools is that they believe
that they will take funding away from local traditional
And so, you know, based on your successes which we have
heard about today and even meeting some bright young students
from Democracy Prep while we were voting. And I am encouraged
by their personal testimony.
But Ms. Rowe and Ms. Beyer and Dr. Purvis, if you could
weigh-in--if I could take anything back to my state
legislature, the people who represent me in the state, as well
as our State Board of Education, if I could take back some
really strong arguments that would dispel the Alabama Education
Association's belief that charter schools would take away
funding from local traditional schools, what--how can you
weigh-in on that?
Ms. Beyer. Well, I think there has to be a paradigm shift,
because part of that whole attitude of--they are going to take
money away. I mean, you hear that over and over again.
The money follows the child. And so if we are talking about
what is good for students and what is good for our kids and
education, if the student has a choice and they choose to go
someplace else, that money is going with the child.
It is not an entitlement. And I think that is really kind
of the difference in thought with regard to charters as opposed
to just traditional public schools is, we recognize that we are
commissioned with one thing and one thing alone. And that is
And if our kids aren't doing better, we have the prospect
of being shut down. And so there is this brilliant marriage
between business and education where we know that if we are not
making the most of every single dollar that comes our way, and
we are not showing results with it, that we are no longer going
to stay in existence.
The regular public school doesn't have that sort of
accountability over them. They for years have been putting out
a--you know, having the same thing, collecting federal money.
And doing the same program and putting out the same bad product
in many cases. But they continue to want the money.
And so the paradigms got to shift to say, the money follows
the student. And if the student is not there, you don't deserve
to have the money because the money is not there to build your
district. It is to support the student.
So if the student goes someplace where they can get an
education, then your program needs to reflect that. And you
need to develop a program that is sustainable.
For my program, I know that we have made a commitment that
we do not start programs that are not sustainable. And as, you
know, having to be really accountable for our dollars, we know
that if we get a pocket of money, we can it build some big old
huge programs, because we know that money is not going to be
there next year.
And I think that is one of the issues that have come in
public education is they get these pockets of money and start
programs, and then act as if they are an entitlement to have
that program for the rest of--you know, forever.
And we recognize in charter education that, you know, that
money is precious. And we have got to use every dollar because
we don't get the same funding. And we have got to make it count
for every dollar that we can.
So money has to follow the child. It is not an entitlement
to that school district.
Ms. Roby. Right, thank you.
Ms. Purvis. I always think this is a curious argument both
for what Ms. Beyer said, but if you look at a city like
Chicago, and I think this is similar across school systems
across the country, the disparity in spending per child within
the districts is far greater than the disparity in funding per
child between the charter schools and traditional schools in
the same neighborhood.
So what is interesting to me when I think about this
argument about funding disparity and the money leaving the
public school system, my first reaction is--we are public
The second thing is this is parents exercising their
choice. You go to a public school of choice that may have a
mission or a vision that better is aligned with that family's
And the third is that there is quite a lot of disparity
across Illinois. There is huge disparity in funding from one
district to another.
So the argument about funding between charter schools and
traditional schools, I think is a little bit of a spurious one
if we are not addressing inequity in funding across the state
as a whole.
Ms. Roby. Sure. Thank you so much.
Did you want to--Ms. Rowe?
Ms. Rowe. Thank you. I guess a question that I would take
back to your friends in your state would be to ask them if they
truly believe that the needs of every child are being met.
And asking those teachers too, do they believe that they
have the flexibility in their classrooms to make the decisions
that they need to make to truly educate the students in the way
that they need to, and be able to provide them each with a
quality academic education.
Ms. Roby. Thanks so much.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Chairman Hunter. Mrs. Davis is recognized.
Mrs. Davis is not here, so we are going to move to Mr.
Grijalva who is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. Grijalva. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, appreciate that.
Mr. Miron, one of the concerns that I have and I think has
been mentioned to some extent or another by all of you is the
issue of underrepresentation in student population in charter
schools. Special populations, I am concerned that they are not
receiving the attention and the services.
And could you talk a little bit about any concerns you may
have that--which the--for the special populations in charter
schools briefly. And also, do these concerns or the
underrepresentation increase when a charter school is a for-
Mr. Miron. Last year, we conducted a study. It is called,
Schools without Diversity. And it was a look at nation's
And we looked at using the federal data set, the--of data.
We looked at the demographics in charter schools and compared
them to local districts.
And we found that only about a quarter of the charter
schools had similar demographic compositions in terms of race
and class in terms of free and reduced lunch count as the local
The other schools were what we would call segregate of
white or segregate of minority. Many people have expressed
concerns that charter schools are going to lead to white
flight. White families will leave urban schools and create
their own white schools.
What we have found in our study was that is happening. But
what is more pronounced is actually black flight or minority
flight. Where minorities are fleeing somewhat diverse schools
and going to schools with much higher concentrations of the
similar population demographically.
So this is happening across the country. And of course in
every state there are exemplary schools that have made great
efforts to recruit and ensure that there is similar composition
But now when we get to issues about English language
learners and children of special needs, it becomes much more
pronounced. A very small proportion of the schools have similar
populations of their local district.
When we get to charter schools, in terms of special needs,
we see that there is usually about 3 to 6 percent less students
with disabilities. But when we look more closely at that in
state level data, we can see that the nature of the children
with disabilities tends to be more mild disabilities, less
costly to remediate.
And I think an important thing when we look at finance--we
have done a lot of work on charter school finance, when we look
at spending on special ed, say even at KIPP schools, we find
that they have half the number of students with special needs
at the local district. But they spend one-tenth per pupil what
a local district would spend.
And so we can see those as very big disparities. And they
do have an impact on traditional public schools, especially
when--depending in the state, but many times the funding
formulas are such that it--the charter schools don't benefit
from serving children with special needs because they are not
Mr. Grijalva. Got it----
Mr. Miron [continuing]. By state and federal funds. And so
by serving these kids, they in a sense have to sometimes divert
some of the students' resources for traditional public school
Mr. Grijalva. Those concerns more pronounced in a for-
profit or not-for-profit----
Mr. Miron. Yes, we did see that. It is somewhat more
pronounced with the for-profit schools that they had smaller
numbers of children with disabilities.
That is correct.
Mr. Grijalva. Thank you.
Mrs. Beyer, you mentioned that in one of the schools, that
up to a third of the students are English learners, although
the California Department of Ed says 15 percent. But why
The--and 27 percent of the district around it is a--is
primarily English learners.
Because of your--because of that population in your
experience, what have you learned about your successes and
failures with English language learners?
What do you--that you think could inform and help us get
those kinds of achievements at a national level--that
significant population that you are dealing with?
Ms. Beyer. Well, what we found, we actually located our
school specifically in the corridor where we did because it is
in the lowest socioeconomic area of San Diego County. And there
is kind of a two-mile wide swath that it is in a very well
Mr. Grijalva. What is the primary language other than
English that you deal with?
Ms. Beyer. Arabic. Arabic.
So in this neighborhood, about--you know, we have all
these, you know, walking students within the two miles. And we
do have about 25 percent of our students are Iraqi students
that speak Arabic or Caldean.
And then about 12 percent that are Hispanic students. But
our Hispanic students come more ready with English then our
Iraqi students because generally they come as refugees from
What we found when we started our school, we knew that we
would have this EL population. And so from the very beginning,
our program started as one that would cater to English
We developed an English language master plan. And in that
we decided that our English language learners, we started with
them in kindergarten. And they come to school earlier.
The--we have two kindergarten sessions. They come to school
earlier or stay later for a 30-minute block where they are just
learning English language when they start with kindergarten.
And then during the school day, we have specific times
where students--in California we have a test called, The
California English Language Development Test. And every English
learner is tested with this test. And they are ranked on a
scale of one to five of what their skills are in English.
Depending on where they fall on that ranking, we develop a
program specifically for those students.
And our program basically does two things. First, it
teaches them English. And we know that when kids come in a lot
of them speak English, but it is not academic language.
I mean they are social. Their parents say, well, they don't
need English because they speak English at the----
Mr. Grijalva. My time is up Ms.--but----
Ms. Beyer. Okay.
Mr. Grijalva. And thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the
indulgence of letting the witness talk longer.
But, Mr. Chairman, if I may, I think this is a very, very
important question. We have struggled with it across the
And, you know, an in-depth look at what appears to be a
unique and singular success story in this one school, I think,
with Arabic mind you, not Spanish or Vietnamese. I think it
would merit a much closer look.
Ms. Beyer. Thank you.
Chairman Hunter. I agree with the gentleman. And it happens
to be in my district.
I was just talking to Mr. Kildee. We have the highest
population now of Arabic refugees--of Iraqi refuges that speak
Arabic in my district.
But I recognize Mr. Scott for 5 minutes.
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Miron, who gets--you have some private, some public.
Who gets to attend a charter school?
Is this the lottery or, you know, you have to kind of be in
the know, or you have to pay or how do you get in?
Mr. Miron. Parents choose. And parents--we see this around
the world. Parents who have higher aspirations for the students
will choose. Parents with a higher educational background, they
will choose--they are more likely to choose.
But also where there are supports and mechanisms to
encourage choice more families will choose.
Mr. Scott. Well, is there enough room for everybody that
wants to go?
Mr. Miron. Pardon?
Mr. Scott. Is there enough room for everyone who wants to
Mr. Miron. In many cases there is. There is--we don't
have--audit the data that is often reported about waiting
So sometimes we are hearing very large numbers. But this is
not an accountability mechanism. But what we understand is that
there is waiting list.
Mr. Scott. Now, does experience show that some are better
than private--than public schools and some are worse?
Mr. Miron. Yes, I am--there is in every state that we have
evaluated. And when I look at the broader body of research,
there is some schools have performed better.
And the most comprehensive study being the Stanford study
where they found 17 out of 100 comparisons they made were
demographically matched students, the charter schools were
However in 37 out of 100 comparisons, the charter school
students were doing significantly worse. The rest of the
comparisons, there was no significant difference.
Mr. Scott. How would a parent know which one to choose?
Mr. Miron. This is an--I mean, parents know because the
ones who are--have higher aspirations, more wherewithal
perhaps, two parent families where they can get out and make--
and collect that data and information. They will go out and
find that information and take decision--again, not all parents
There was a recent study in Arizona actually by David
Garcia and his colleagues at Arizona State University where
they looked at parents' decision-making. And when parents were
informed about--that they had a low performing school and what
their options were, so the state agency was informing parents.
And yet, very few parents choose to leave.
Even among those charter school parents who were informed
that their charter school was performing very poorly, the
parent didn't necessarily use that information to choose and
Mr. Scott. One of the things--one of the issues we have in
the voucher debate is that a lot of people who would get a
voucher would have ended up in a private school anyway.
When you have charter schools that the number of--and if
you talk about following--the money following the student, if
you have a number--increase the number of charter schools does
the number of students in public schools go down by the same
Mr. Miron. Generally, it does. I mean, we see in some
states and in some urban municipalities that--especially some
of the Christian schools are hit pretty hard by charter
And even some----
Mr. Scott. No, I mean the public schools, because you are
trying to save money.
Mr. Miron. Pardon?
Mr. Scott. If you--in the public school does the number of
public school students go down when you increase the number of
Mr. Miron. It often does. And as well----
Mr. Scott. Often does some----
Mr. Miron [continuing]. Private schools as well.
Mr. Scott. And sometimes it doesn't?
Mr. Miron. And sometimes--I mean, it is--and sometimes it
doesn't. Especially with the virtual schools, the virtual
charter schools are largely--draw from the home school
Mr. Scott. Well, if the number of public school students
doesn't go down when you fund charter schools, then you really
are taking money away from the public school system.
Mr. Miron. Yes. In terms of the funding issue, there is a
number of ways that charter school funding hurts traditional
One is it is true that the money follows the student. But
it is also true that charter schools can set a cutoff. We
want--we have two teachers, we are going to take 30 students
per class. We will take 60 students.
Traditional public schools don't have that luxury. So they
can't do the economic planning.
So when they loose a student, a lot of times they are
operating with half classes because they can't do that economic
planning that a charter school can.
But another important factor on that finance thing is that
charter schools--they should be open to all. But it doesn't
mean that they have to receive students during the school year.
Traditional public schools often have a burden of taking
students throughout the school year, and many of them coming
from charter schools. And in some states, depending on the
funding formula, in most states, it means that the students
will be returning to the traditional public school without the
funding attached, with the funding staying at the charter
Mr. Scott. Thank you----
Mr. Miron. And that hurts.
Mr. Scott. Now, you mentioned segregation a little bit. Any
jurisdictions where the existence of charter schools did not
You showed a--many jurisdictions segregation was----
Mr. Miron. The one example I would say from my state
evaluations and the look at the larger data, it is--Connecticut
would stand out.
They have segregated schools. But they are similar
populations--characteristics are similar in the charter schools
as the local districts.
Mr. Scott. So it didn't make it worse. But usually the
segregation is increased when you have charter schools?
Mr. Miron. In other context it has accelerated the re-
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Hunter. The former chairman and ranking member of
the full committee is now recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. Miller. Thank you very much for your testimony and the
questions and answers have been helpful.
My concern is--some of my concerns, I have been a strong
proponent of charter schools. But I am really starting to think
about whether we are really getting value-added here.
And I recognize that there is not a formula--parents choose
the charter school. They may choose it for safety. And they may
choose it for convenience.
They may choose it because their friends' kids go there.
However, they do that.
Hopefully, they are seeking a better education result for
But the idea of choice alone doesn't really tell us
anything about quality. I mean you have large urban districts
where you have district-wide choice.
So that in itself doesn't tell you. If that was the case we
would have a lot of high-performing schools in a number of
urban areas if that was an indicator of it.
So the question is what happens when you choose these
And, Mr. Miron, you are suggesting that the study suggests
a small percentage are doing better than the schools they left
or the schools in the district--similar schools in the district
about a third are doing the same and about a third are not
doing so well--are doing not better then.
So what is it we are getting here? In terms of again, a
number of my colleagues have mentioned the initial idea that
these were our laboratories for experimentation. We were to
learn from them.
They were to help pull the rest of the schools in the
direction of good practices and good outcomes.
That is not exactly working. And again, I can--like
everybody, I can run and show you a number of charter schools
where it is working. I mean in terms of the outcomes.
Mr. Miron. The anecdotes and the--you know, the case
studies that successful charter schools are important because
they help to show us that charter schools can work and help us
to inform us on how they are working.
Again when we look at the larger scale studies and those--
especially those commissioned by state agencies or the federal
government, the results show that they are not working and
the--on the whole.
And so what we are getting in this reform, today we largely
see the two outcomes are accelerating segregation by race,
class, and ability. And we see a mechanism for accelerating the
privatization or private involvement, and in this--in the
public school system.
Mr. Miller. The other concern I have is that--and the woman
sitting next to you said we are a public school.
Well, sort of.
Because you are not taking--or not required--you mentioned
there is some schools where they don't take kids who show up in
the middle of the year or any time in the school year.
They have their set universe and that is it. If it shrinks,
it shrinks. But that they don't have to do it.
And yet in most urban schools or rural schools with migrant
populations, you have kids coming and going all of the time.
There is a big difference in those classroom studies than
in a school that is very stable for a given period of time.
The question of re-segregation or ELL learners, how that
takes place, so, you know, I am desperate to have them continue
to be the laboratories for experimentation and the path finders
But to not operate in fairly similar situations, then that
is not going to be the case because you don't get to deny
children access to a neighborhood school if they move into the
neighborhood or somewhere close by.
So again, I want to know what the rules are here. And I say
this is as--is a battle for the charter schools. But I am
really concerned now. That and the questions of whether
authorizers really have oversight--exercise oversight and the
tough decisions that have to be made.
Ms. Beyer. Mr. Miller?
Mr. Miller. Yes.
Ms. Beyer [continuing]. Speak to that?
I think part of the concern, like you, as one who has been
involved in this movement for years, is the grand experiment
was what we said in the 1990s. That these would be laboratories
where we would define best practices and replicatable models
and replicate them.
However what I found in California is because there was,
you know, this kind of gaining steam about this movement that
would have some exchange of red tape for more accountability,
legislation came in and every time, you know, a new legislative
session happens, I have--I am in fear because they put more
regulations on me that pull me back in to being the same as the
school in the box.
So for me to try to be innovative and resourceful, I have
to not only climb over the same box that the rest of the public
schools are doing, but then I have to do the other things on
top of it, and not one because I chose to do this.
But it is a difficult task because that experiment to allow
us to kind of go out there and do the innovative thing has been
taken away in many regards because we have been pulled into No
Child Left Behind, having to do the same sort of testing,
having to do come up with the same sort of results.
The fact that I have 30--you know, 25 percent of my
students are English language learners. And that they don't
speak English at all. They came to this country, you know, 6
months ago with no English doesn't change the fact that in May,
they have got to take the state test. And they have got to
perform the same way.
And so--and there is no, you know, no allowance for that.
So those kinds of things have taken some of the
entrepreneurial ability for us to be innovative and resourceful
out of the equation and forced us back into the box.
So it is not so much that the people in the charter
movement would not want to stay that way, it is that a lot of
regulation continues to be forced on to us that causes us to
have to get back in the box. Which really is not what we had
originally intended I think in the 1990s.
Mr. Miller. Thank you.
Mr. Scott. Chairman, you know, consent to enter into the
record several reports----
Chairman Hunter. Yes----
Mr. Scott [continuing]. One is from the Center for Research
and Education outcomes, one from the Civil Rights Project at
UCLA, and another Education and Public Interest Center at
University of Colorado?
[The following report, ``Multiple Choice: Charter School
Performance in 16 States,'' may be accessed at the following
[The following report, ``Choice Without Equity: Charter
School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards,''
may be accessed at the following Internet address:]
[The following report, ``Schools Without Diversity:
Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools, and the
Demographic Stratification of the American School System,'' may
be accessed at the following Internet address:]
Chairman Hunter. Without objection.
Mr. Scott. Thank you.
Chairman Hunter. Now recognize Mr. Payne for 5 minutes.
Mr. Payne. Thank you very much and thank you all for coming
As you know, that whole question of charter schools is a
tremendous issue that we have been grappling with in my state
of New Jersey. There is a strong movement.
Of course I think it is already been raised. But as we may
recall 1896 had separate but equal decision by the Supreme
Court saying it is separate but equal was constitutional. Of
course they were never equal.
However as you know in the 1954 Brown Versus Topeka Board
of Education it was overturned unanimously.
However, what I am finding out is that we are sort of back
to where we were, at least at my state of New Jersey, Governor
Christie's state. We had the most segregated schools in the
Now I am not proud of it. You would think it might be down
in the deep south or where these five cases came up for the
NAACP to take the case to the Supreme Court.
But in my state of New Jersey, which was not one of those
states, we have the highest segregated school system in the
nation. Now, charter schools is just exacerbating it.
And in that 1954 Supreme Court decision--now part of it was
not the fact knowing that they were unequal but there was a
false feeling of superiority on the part of white children who
were all in all white schools.
And conversely a false feeling of inferiority on the part
of blacks students who were in substandard segregated schools.
Now the charter movement is--and we had it already before
the charter movement came in--but I have never seen an attempt
to have a diverse charter school in my neck of the woods in New
Up until recently, we saw very few handicapped kids. There
is supposed to be a lottery too, so there must have been some
very skillful pickers out of the lottery pot.
The other thing was that the siblings of a child who was
fortunate enough to get in the charter school automatically
could then go to the charter school. Once again the same
family, highly motivated, could drive across town with their
kids every morning, pick them up.
And there is nothing wrong with highly motivated parents,
you know, providing for their kids. I mean I am the last to say
that that is wrong. That is not wrong.
However, what is left and what is being left in the public
schools are public school teachers dealing with the rest. We
had a governor just--I guess we had about 20 new charter
Things that we found out, they are saying charters are
doing better in New Jersey. Well, they started to look at the
demographics and don't you know, anyway in New Jersey. I don't
know about your district.
But there are more girls in elementary school, charter
schools, just happen to be, not like the normal balance.
You know, little girls tend to do better in school. I
taught school. I mean, it is--you know, I am an ERA person. You
know, the girls do better. They just achieve better.
I taught in elementary. I have taught in secondary. I
taught in post-secondary--3 years in each.
And so I did it on purpose to find out what was wrong. I
started with high school, believe it or not. And then went down
to junior high and then went to elementary.
And was clear to find all three categories. So I had spent
a lot of time in education, in my early career.
But what the re-segregation, with the fact that there are
more girls, the fact that there are not handicapped kids, with
the fact that there were very few special eds, the charter
schools got high ratings.
Ms. Beyer. I understand that----
Mr. Payne. Also in our state, we have $900 million voucher
program--probably the only state in the north that has started
to have vouchers.
So we are going to see under our new leadership in the
state of New Jersey a really--destroying of the public school
system. And there is no way that charter schools can fill the
You know, my time is about up. I didn't even get to my
But this is really something that is of concern. And if we
go to simply continue to re-segregate schools, those
psychological issues might return.
There is very little way to monitor what is going on. I
talked to some kids. They were going to a high school. They
haven gotten a building yet. And they don't even know where
they are going to do it.
Actually the Board of Ed had to try to--you know, they are
giving public schools to charter schools. And so they are
trying to find--converting one school into two schools, and
using that school for the new charter school.
And a lot of experimentation is going on. And a lot of
children are really going to lose a lot of valuable time in
very young years. That I think that is good for those who are
attending it. And I do commend those that are doing well.
I question the for-profit because I think that that is the
goal of public education--the last big public pot. And industry
needs a way to make money.
And I think it is going to be the privatization of public
schools is what the goal is. And I don't think that is good for
Chairman Hunter. Thank the gentleman.
The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. Holt is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. Holt. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am going to follow a line of questioning that others have
Ms. Rowe, you mentioned that as has often been said, that
charter schools are incubators for innovation. And you went on
to say that, ``Best practices and programs of instruction to be
found in the charter schools are now being implemented in
traditional public schools.''
What are the mechanisms for transferring best practices and
the innovation that is demonstrated?
And give us--I would like a couple of for instances. And I
would like to ask each of the witnesses of that. So if you
could keep it very brief, I would appreciate it.
Ms. Rowe. Chair--thank you, Mr. Holt.
I am--what we have seen in Arizona as the primary
authorizer, we are--we receive requests from districts on a
regular basis to look at the charter school files, to evaluate
their programs of instruction, to look at the details of their
program to decide--to determine what it is that is attracting
parents to those schools.
A very specific example that we have seen most recently is
one of our homegrown charter management organizations, Great
Hearts, has implemented a liberal arts program at the junior
high and high school level, and most recently in elementary
schools, but in looking at providing a college prep curriculum
for all students.
And the result of that has been as they have moved into a
number of areas across the Phoenix area, the district schools
that are finding that their students, their parents are
attracted to that population are--they are creating their own
little college prep school as well.
Mr. Holt. And they needed a charter school to learn to do
Well, let me skip to Dr. Purvis then please.
Ms. Purvis. Thank you for the question.
Mr. Holt. Sorry there isn't more time.
Ms. Purvis. I have four instances that I think will get to
the idea of sharing best practices across charter and
The first is that our teachers actually participate in
shared professional development opportunities with--the Chicago
public school has system area development offices so there are
times that there are charter schools and charter school
teachers and traditional Chicago public school teachers in
professional development areas together.
Second is that we look to share information through public
sources, through some of our funders, the Gates Foundation, New
Schools Venture Fund, and the MacArthur Foundation. And then we
put those practices that we found effective on those websites
and are shared at those programs, and conferences that are
attended by traditional and charter school teachers.
We have had the privilege of being in a Teacher Incentive
Fund Grant in Chicago that actually the--only two charter
schools were part of. The rest were traditional Chicago public
And lastly this year, we are actually replicating a more
traditional public school in--that is--was developed in New
York called, Quest to Learn. And the MacArthur Foundation has
given us a grant to replicate that as a charter school in
And part of the grant's requirement is that we use it as a
lab that is opened to--primarily to traditional Chicago public
school teachers, not just charter school teachers in our use of
digital media in instruction.
Mr. Miron. My experience looking at a number of states is
that there is not often a lot of sharing, in part because there
is competition. And, you know, the notion that competitors are
going to share isn't always so easy.
But also there is a lot of--sometimes I have gone to
schools where they--you know, they are very concerned if
somebody is visiting one of the other schools from the other
side. They, you know, don't even park on the street because
they don't want to be seen by one of their colleagues.
So if there is communication, sometimes it is a little bit
under the radar if there is cooperation and so forth.
But when I look at the evidence that there isn't
necessarily a lot of innovation in the charter schools that
could be shared, what we see is a threshold often for
innovation that is something being unique.
And so if a school is bringing in--a charter school may
call something--Montessori education, you know, innovative. In
fact there is lots of sources around the world. We can find out
about Montessori education.
But it is seen as innovative because it isn't already in
the community, so some of the things that they are bringing in
and introducing as innovative aren't necessarily new ideas, but
just things new--that may be new to the community.
But one issue that we have about this with increasing
growth with education management organizations now operating
close to a third of the nation's charter schools, when we look
at the contracts for these private companies, they often state
that the work that the teachers do and the work of the charter
schools is proprietary in nature.
Even anything--the lesson plans that the teachers develop
are proprietary in nature. So even if the public charter school
board says, we want to share what teachers are developing, it
may not be the case that the private company is going to allow
that sharing because information, as the contract states, is
So that is a concern that we have with sharing of course
when we have that private involvement.
Mr. Holt. Thank you.
And for Ms. Beyer, the time is expired. But you did have a
chance to address this general question with Ms. Woolsey.
Chairman Hunter. Thank the gentleman.
It is my understanding that Mr. Miller has one additional
question for the witnesses.
I--in order to get him to the airport, instead of having a
second round, we are just going to have this last question and
then closing comments.
So, Mr. Miller is recognized----
Mr. Miller. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate
you doing this.
I--my question is and Dr. Miron, I--you can respond to
this. But you just touched upon it.
We can all argue back and forth about what state and
federal regulations are doing to charter schools. But what is
happening in terms of accountability and quality with the EMOs,
the administrators of these programs that are controlling or
supporting or providing services to an additional number--I
mean, an increasing number of charter schools?
Mr. Miron. The process of accountability is worse then now
with the private management. In part because the definition of
what is proprietary or not.
I would just give you an example. We have sent out a
sample--to a sample of EMO operator charter schools in the
nation, 424. We have sent out requests last September for a
copy of the contract between the public charter school board
and the EMO, the private management company.
And then in the spring after we got only a 2 percent
response rate, we got--sent out formal 4-year request. And now
we are getting up to about 20 to 20 percent response.
But the--it is really fascinating the responses from many
of the schools that they don't need to share this information
because they are private.
Or we get responses----
Mr. Miller. I thought these were--these are managing public
Mr. Miron. They are legally public schools. But these are
the range of responses we get----
Mr. Miller. So how does the school board or maybe Ms. Rowe
you want to comment.
How does the school board or an authorizer give away that
kind of authority?
Ms. Rowe. Thank you, Mr. Miller. I would have liked the
opportunity to address that question. And I think that speaks
to the quality of the authorizer.
Because certainly charter----
Mr. Miller. That speaks for the quality of the----
Ms. Rowe. But not----
Mr. Miller [continuing]. Public--the right of the public to
know if--you know, you would get this information--a theory if
you went down and looked at the contract between a local school
and a school board or the district.
Ms. Rowe. That is correct. And I believe it is the
responsibility of the authorizer to ensure that the schools
that it sponsors are following the law.
Mr. Miller. Mr. Miron, your testimony is that that--well,
you don't know yet. Because you haven't--you----
Mr. Miron. Well, one of the things--I mean--and not only is
it convoluted now, especially with many times the facilities,
the teaching force, other components of the school are
privately owned and operated.
So you still have a public board, but when we--like in
Michigan, most of the facilities and equipment, many of it--
most of it belongs to the private companies----
Mr. Miller. So you sort of contract it out.
Mr. Miron. They contract it out. The board contracts it
But one of the problems coming to your question on
accountability, not only is it difficult because it is gone
behind a private veil, but also because now the public--even if
the public charter school board that is contracted with the
management company is dependent on EMO to share information, to
So it is not like--it is kind of like, you know, we are
going to ask Coca Cola how their product is doing. And they are
going to tell us it is great.
Well, when the charter school board asks the management
company how are we doing? How do we know--I mean there--we have
a private interest there that has a contract to operate the
school. But they are the ones because they are operating the
school, that are also going to provide that information.
So it complicates the notion of accountability when we are
dependent on these private groups to report on the performance
of these--of the school----
Mr. Miller. How do you break through that, Ms. Rowe?
Ms. Rowe. When we look at the charter school and their
operations and their subject to open meeting law, we also in
our contracts have recently added language and a paragraph that
says our charter board members are officers, directors, or
members, or partners of that corporation have a duty of care in
the oversight of those schools.
They need to take the ownership and the decision-making
that they have the ability and the responsibility very
Mr. Miller. What are you telling me? I don't understand
what you are telling me.
Ms. Rowe. In looking at who the charter holder is, the
state or in our case the State Board for Charter Schools has a
contract with an entity.
And that entity has a responsibility to meet the
requirements of the law and their charter contract in providing
a quality academic program for its schools.
Part of that is disclosure of public records and sharing
information. And I am surprised that the level of the challenge
in receiving the information. We don't generally find that in
Mr. Miller. So they don't have your--your testimony would
be, they don't have the right to withhold the information that
Mr. Miron is attesting to.
And they can't have a contract that is inconsistent with
the language that you just suggested?
Ms. Rowe. I wouldn't believe so, no.
Mr. Miller. Okay.
Mr. Miron, any final comments before the light. You better
Mr. Miron. I am--I mean obviously I have concerns about
accountability part and its--and the dependency on these
Because as many of the school boards act in good faith, but
again when we have executive authority by a private group
operating a whole school including selection of, you know,
recruitment of students, hiring of staff, and so forth, it is
very difficult for that public board to have access to that
Because it has to be collected and reported by the
management company itself.
Mr. Miller. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Hunter. Absolutely.
I would like to thank again the witnesses for taking time
to testify before our subcommittee today.
And recognize Mr. Kildee for any closing remarks.
Mr. Kildee. I am--this has been a very good hearing.
I really appreciate it very much.
One thing I think we might want to explore in the future is
the--that propriety property element which towards the end
began to emerge more and more that it is hiding behind the
And maybe that is an area where the federal government in
its involvement in the development of the schools might want to
take an interest and see why we allow completely this
proprietary property element to proceed or take precedence over
And the private veil which I think gives me great concern.
I appreciate, Dr. Miron, your bringing that up.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Hunter. Thank the gentleman.
In closing, it seems like two things have come out of this.
One, like anything there is no silver bullet. Some charter
schools work great, some don't work great, right? And I guess
the key for us is to try to find out or for the states to try
to find out what works and what doesn't. And try to copycat
Number two like in California, I think it is interesting
the reason we had that charter schools--so the reason we have
charter schools in the first place in California is because
there is--the regular school system is broken.
So instead of fixing it at the root core, we had to--we
were kind of treating the symptoms, which is fine, because
charter schools work in those cases. But in the end, I guess
you have got to let parents choose where to go, what to do, and
what works for their kids.
And that is how education works. And that is how pretty
much life works.
If you can choose and you have a vested interest, you are
going to do better than those that don't have a choice and
don't have a--parents that don't have a vested interest.
So with that, there being no further business, the
subcommittee is adjourned.
[Additional submissions of Mr. Kildee follow:]
[The following report, ``Equal or Fair? A Study of Revenues
and Expenditures in American Charter Schools,'' may be accessed
at the following Internet address:]
[The following report, ``Profiles of For-Profit Education
Management Organizations, Twelfth Annual Report--2009-2010,''
may be accessed at the following Internet address:]
[The following report, ``What Makes KIPP Work? A Study of
Student Characteristics, Attrition, and School Finance,'' may
be accessed at the following Internet address:]
[The following report, ``Profiles of Nonprofit Education
Management Organizations,'' may be accessed at the following
[The statement of Ms. Hirono follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Mazie K. Hirono, a Representative in
Congress From the State of Hawaii
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I want to acknowledge the presence at this
hearing of two of my constituents from Hawaii Island here in D.C. They
are Megan Dehning, a teacher at Innovations Public Charter School, and
Greg Learned, a teacher at Kona Pacific Charter School.
Hawaii has 31 charter schools, including 24 in my district in rural
Oahu and the Neighbor Islands. Last week the Honolulu Star-Advertiser
ran a 3-part series on charter schools, and I'd like to enter these 8
articles and the paper's editorial into the record.
In Hawaii, charter schools serve nearly 9,000 students statewide.
While this is nearly a 50 percent increase in 3 years, charter schools
serve only 5% of public school students.
Charter school students on average perform about the same as the
state average in reading, but worse in math. A smaller percentage of
charter schools made AYP in 2010 than district public schools.
Charter schools face challenges accessing facilities and federal
and state funding streams. Nationally, charter schools receive only 78%
of traditional public schools' average per-pupil funding from federal,
state, and local sources. I recently signed a letter to the House
Appropriations Committee requesting $330 million in funding for the
Charter Schools Program in Fiscal Year 2012, an increase over President
Obama's budget request.
It is clear that many charter schools provide innovative approaches
to learning, including the 17 Native Hawaiian-focused charter schools.
The Native Hawaiian Charter School Alliance (Na Lei Na'au'ao) serves
over 1,500 students using traditional Hawaiian language and cultural
A 2004 study by Kamehameha Schools found that at Native Hawaiian-
focused charter schools, Native Hawaiians are 74 percent less likely to
be chronically absent, and have higher grade 10 reading and SAT scores.
While many charter schools are doing well, the state and federal
government have a civil rights obligation to hold all schools
accountable for closing achievement gaps and helping students learn.
Charter school oversight and governance is spread thinly across 31
separate local charter school boards, the Charter School Review Panel,
and the Charter School Administrative Office. The first two of these
are staffed by part-time volunteers who may not have the needed
expertise, training, or resources. State Auditor Marion Higa's audit of
the entire charter school system due this summer should shed light on
the challenges facing charter schools and how we can move forward to
ensure that they are performing well.
The state legislature recently passed S.B. 1174 by State Senate
Education Committee Chair Jill Tokuda. The bill would:
Strengthen the Charter School Review Panel's oversight and
ability to revoke existing charters' authorizations, subject to an
Require the 31 local charter school boards to post member
contact information, agendas, and minutes online; and
Create a legislative task force on charter school
accountability to clarify responsibilities of the existing state
Charter School Administrative Office; state Charter School Review
Panel; and 31 local charter school boards. The new task force could
recommend allowing additional chartering authority such as UH or
Kamehameha Schools. A report is due before the 2012 legislative
At the federal level, we can take similar steps to ensure
accountability so that all charter schools are educating our students
Thank you to today's witnesses for coming here from around the
country to share their expertise operating, authorizing, and evaluating
charter schools. I appreciate the opportunity to hear your testimony
and ask questions.
[Additional submissions of Ms. Hirono follow:]
Experiments in education reap widely varying results
By Susan Essoyan, Star Advertiser, May 22, 2011
As the number of students in Hawaii's charter schools grows, so has
concern about oversight of these diverse campuses that rely on public
money but are exempt from many state regulations.
Designed as laboratories for innovation in public education,
charter schools now educate 9,000 children across the state, a nearly
50 percent jump in the past three years. Many of the state's 31 charter
schools are in rural areas, tucked largely out of sight and out of
mind. Other than their devotees, few people know much about them. But
that might soon change.
The spotlight is shifting to these ``schools of choice'' that now
educate about 5 percent of Hawaii's public school children under
``charters,'' or contracts with the state. Sixteen years after Waialae
Elementary became Hawaii's first charter school, the state auditor is
conducting a performance audit of the charter school system, due out
``Given the kinds of problems we're starting to see, and the
questions that were coming up, now that the schools have been in
operation for a while, how accountable are they for their own
performance and for their students' performance?'' asked state Auditor
Marion Higa. ``With the increase in their enrollment, and the
increasing pressure the schools were exerting for facilities money, I
thought this might be a good time to take that up.''
Charters were created as a means of reform in public education,
with high hopes of developing new techniques to lift academic
performance where regular schools had failed. While some charters have
done so, charter schools as a whole appear to be doing no better than
traditional public schools with similar populations, and by some
measures are faring worse.
Legislators and members of the Charter School Review Panel are
sharpening their oversight. Rather than simply getting their charter,
starting this fall charter schools must go through reauthorization
every six years to ensure they are on track academically and
financially. And for the first time, each charter school was required
to submit an independent financial audit this year.
``Expectations for charter schools have changed over the past
decade,'' said Ruth Tschumy, chairwoman of the review panel, which was
formed in 2007 to take on oversight of charters from the Board of
Education. ``In the early years, charter schools were used to operating
in somewhat of a vacuum as they struggled to survive.
``Many charter schools are now 10 years old, and it's time for them
to shine as quality schools with innovative educational programs and
practices,'' she said. ``If there are a few schools where that isn't
happening, then it's up to all of us in the community to help them
achieve their potential.''
Trying to assess the overall performance of charter schools is
tricky. It's tough to generalize about campuses that vary so
dramatically--from a tiny Kauai schoolhouse that educates 37 students
in the Niihau dialect of Hawaiian to Waipahu-based Hawaii Technology
Academy, the largest, whose 1,000 students do much of their work
Still, as public schools they are subject to state and federal
testing and reporting requirements, which allow for a snapshot of their
academic performance and their student profile. According to the most
recent data, charter school students perform on par or slightly better
in reading than other public schools in Hawaii but do notably worse on
math. Overall, charters serve fewer pupils with language barriers and
other hurdles to learning.
On the 2010 Hawaii State Assessment, 68 percent of charter school
students and 67 percent of all public school students scored proficient
in reading, a virtual tie. In math, however, public school students as
a whole did better, with 49 percent proficient compared with 40 percent
of charter students.
A higher ratio of regular public schools also made ``adequate
yearly progress,'' the federal benchmark for success. The figures were
51 percent for all public schools, compared with just 39 percent for
charters last year. Graduation rates were the same for both sets of
schools, with 79 percent graduating on time.
Some charter schools have succeeded in rescuing students who had
stalled in regular public schools and were ready to give up. But as a
group, charters appear to have an easier population to educate. There
are more than twice as many children learning English in the overall
public school population, at 10 percent of the student body, than in
charter schools, where they make up just 4 percent. Regular public
schools also serve more special-education students than do charters, as
well as slightly more low-income students, according to state data.
A national assessment by the Center for Research on Education
Outcomes at Stanford University found that 17 percent of charter
schools reported academic gains significantly better than traditional
public schools over time, while 37 percent of charter schools did worse
than their traditional school counterparts. The rest showed no
significant difference. The study, released in 2009, covered more than
70 percent of the nation's students in charter schools, with controls
for student demographics, economic background and special education.
Charter school advocates say their performance is remarkable
considering the hurdles their campuses face, including a lack of money
for facilities, shrinking funding on a per-pupil basis, and difficulty
recruiting teachers reluctant to lose their seniority in the Department
of Education. As charter enrollment has shot up and the economy
contracted, state funding per pupil has slipped from a high of $8,596
in the 2007-08 school year to just $5,560 this school year.
``Charter schools do operate at a significant disadvantage because
we don't get support for facilities, in a place where leases, rents and
mortgages are the large part of your budget,'' said Lynn Finnegan,
executive director of the Hawaii Charter School Network. ``It could be
upwards of 30 percent of operating costs for a charter school to
operate. They are doing much more with a lot less.''
While average test scores and student demographics offer a big-
picture image of charter schools, they obscure the individual portraits
of each school, which vary widely.
``We are 31 unique schools,'' said Mark Christiano, executive
director of Kihei Charter School, the only charter on Maui. ``It wasn't
supposed to be a system. It was supposed to be independent local school
boards, doing the best they can to innovate. Sometimes it's working
really well and sometimes it's not.''
His campus, with 529 students in kindergarten through 12th grade,
has dramatically improved performance in math. Reading scores are high,
at 77 percent proficient, while math scores have jumped steadily each
year, reaching 50 percent proficient last year, up from 24 percent in
``We still have quite a way to go,'' Christiano said. ``We really
have focused on STEM education--science, technology, engineering and
math. It's sort of a math-all-day-long approach. We try hard to
integrate math into the science activities, having students use math in
a way that's hopefully motivating and exciting for them.''
Meanwhile, at Halau Ku Mana, a Hawaiian-focused charter school in
Makiki Valley with 66 students in grades 6 through 12, math scores
remained stuck near the bottom of the heap for the past few years. Just
9 percent of students were proficient in 2010, the same as three years
earlier. Its reading scores are much better, at 60 percent proficient.
Many of its students face challenges: It has the highest percentage of
special-education students of all the charters, and two-thirds of its
students are economically disadvantaged.
Executive Director Patti Cronin, who was hired last July, said the
school realized its math scores were ``unacceptably low'' and has moved
aggressively to boost performance this year. The staff began working
intensively with students one on one, offering math camps outside of
school. It uses a supplemental software program and emphasizes homework
and a positive attitude.
Two weeks ago the campus erupted in jubilation when results from
the latest round of online testing showed a huge jump, to 40 percent of
students proficient in math.
``It was a total effort from top to bottom,'' Cronin said, ``and we
just have to keep that momentum going.''
Over the past decade, charter schools in Hawaii have given parents
more choice in public schooling, and have developed some attractive new
approaches to education. The goal of the movement, advocates say, is to
nurture the successful models and help spread their techniques to the
``We want great schools for every kid in Hawaii,'' said Christiano,
Kihei Charter School's executive director. ``The question is how do we
push these great models and get them to work for all kids? We need our
good ones to happen more often.''
Institution founded on choice produces strong test scores
By Susan Essoyan, Star Advertiser, May 22, 2011
KAILUA-KONA--Teenagers sit at a picnic table as their math teacher
sketches out a navigation problem on a whiteboard propped near a
plumeria tree, with the rumble of surf as his soundtrack.
The spartan campus of West Hawaii Explorations Academy, a public
charter school next to Kona Airport, lives up to its motto, ``No Child
Left Indoors.'' The most substantial structure is a hollow-tile
concrete pavilion workshop. Students work mostly in open-air structures
with fabric roofs.
Small sharks swim in a reef pool, and clown fish, opihi and other
marine creatures inhabit various bubbling tanks scattered here and
there. A couple of sixth-grade girls bend and twist the blades of their
miniature windmill to see whether they can make it whirl faster,
crouching by a garden of herbs and bananas coaxed from the barren lava.
About 200 students in grades 6 through 12 trek to this campus daily
for the chance to take charge of their education, working on projects
they dream up themselves, learning as they pursue their own passions.
They travel from as far as South Point and Honokaa.
``They come from a 100-mile radius,'' said Curtis Muraoka, co-
director of the school, which began as an off-campus program of
Konawaena High School before becoming a charter in 2000. ``Obviously,
the demand for programs like this is there.''
The school is founded on bringing choice and control to young
people, he said. And it seems to be working. Test scores are among the
best of the state's high schools, with 84 percent proficient in reading
and 48 percent proficient in math. But now WHEA, as it is known, has to
pick up and move because of noise expected from a new runway and more
military flights at Kona Airport.
To stay alive, the school is launching a $10 million capital
campaign to build new facilities on a quieter site, also on the grounds
of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii. It has already signed a new
``It is a tremendous undertaking,'' said Muraoka, his sunglasses
pushed into his thick salt-and-pepper hair. ``We are hoping we can get
a little state support, federal support and philanthropy. We're
frugal--we're a good deal.''
He sees the $10 million price tag as a bargain compared with the
upward of $100 million that could be spent on a traditional high
school. The state has been reluctant to provide facilities funding for
charter schools, arguing that it doesn't have the money to duplicate
infrastructure. But legislators just approved a $1.5 million grant in
aid for the project.
``It was a win-win because we're improving state facilities,'' said
a grateful Muraoka. ``My view is they should build schools like ours
because it's a different way to build public education. Ultimately it
does save money if you look at making smaller, more frugal campuses
with less comprehensive infrastructure.''
Virtually everything on WHEA's campus was donated or built by
volunteers. Even the slabs of concrete in its gravel landscape are not
uniform, because they were built in bits and pieces with leftovers
donated by cement trucks finishing other jobs.
The state's first charter high school doesn't have the trappings of
most public high schools. There is no football team or marching band or
even a cafeteria or gym. Because the ground water is close to the
surface, students and staff rely on portable toilets. Along with
upgraded restrooms, plans for the new campus include a play court and a
food service area that can also serve as a teaching classroom for food
science and culinary arts.
Students say they are drawn by the small-school setting and the
hands-on learning at the school, where they immerse themselves in
subjects they care about. The academic standards they must meet are
worked into that framework.
``The thing I like about WHEA is it grows with its students. It's
not just a tunnel; it's something that moves and changes with you,''
said Kyra Boyl, 18. ``And I really like the fact that the teachers know
me as a person, not just one of 150 students that they see for 45
minutes every day.''
Shellese Guieb, the school's office manager, said WHEA has worked
beautifully for her son but would not fit her daughter, who thrives in
her large public school four miles away, where she is active in student
government, service clubs and various sports. ``I think if I brought
her here, she would just shrivel up,'' she said.
``My son, he is now motivated, interested and taking responsibility
for his learning, whereas before he was just kind of trudging through,
totally not interested in his schoolwork,'' Guieb said. ``He has done a
Muraoka said the campus is meant to offer something different, and
attracts a large portion of students for whom traditional school hasn't
worked out, as well as bright kids who want the challenge of more
independent study. He sees WHEA's approach, which has attracted
national interest, as a model that could be broadly applied.
``Every district should have programs like this,'' Muraoka said.
``It shouldn't just be in science. It should be in performing arts. It
should be in fine arts, in vocational technology. Every district should
have these programs, like a wagon wheel of spokes with different
Once-struggling campus makes educational U-turn
By Susan Essoyan, Star Advertiser, May 22, 2011
KUALAPUU, Molokai--A Molokai native with a magnetic smile and a
bold spirit, Principal Lydia Trinidad hasn't been afraid to lead her
alma mater, Kualapuu School, onto new terrain, with dramatic results.
``Lydia doesn't let the unexplored scare her--she's smart about
being daring,'' said parent Kalae Tangonan, an orange hibiscus tucked
in her hair. ``She's definitely innovative, always open to new ideas.''
The first big leap for this elementary school in the heart of
Molokai was to switch to charter status in the summer of 2004, an
effort to marshal the resources and flexibility needed to lift the
performance of its economically disadvantaged population. Since then it
has managed to steadily boost test scores, lengthen the school day by
an hour and enrich the curriculum with an array of electives including
daily PE. It even added a preschool.
``I love this school,'' said Tangonan, who has three children at
Kualapuu, her youngest in the preschool class. ``They give us the
ability to send our kids to Hawaiian immersion or English. That in
itself is a gift. I like the fact that we are a conversion charter so
we can chart our own course.''
Tangonan made her comments as she headed toward the cafeteria for a
recent after-school performance featuring hula, taiko, Chinese dance
and tinikling, the Filipino national dance. Performing arts as well as
Hawaiian studies are now a regular part of the school day at Kualapuu
School, where 90 percent of students are part-Hawaiian and 76 percent
qualify for subsidized lunch because of low incomes.
``Ho, you gotta come early for this,'' commented one beefy father,
queuing up behind the overflow crowd peering through the cafeteria
When it became a charter, Kualapuu was facing ``restructuring,''
the toughest federal sanction for falling short of academic targets.
Heavy focus on math and reading pushed up test scores to the point
where the campus managed to get back in ``good standing,'' the top
tier, three years after becoming a charter. Reading proficiency has
continued to rise since then, to 58 percent proficient last year, up
from 41 percent in 2007, while math proficiency nearly doubled to 60
percent. But ``good standing'' wasn't good enough for Trinidad and the
leadership team she has assembled, many of them strong women with local
Afraid that a fixation on math and reading were pushing out other
worthy subjects, she took a team to Boston in 2009 to explore the idea
of ``expanded learning time'' with the nonprofit organization MASS 20/
20. The Kualapuu community ultimately bought into it, despite some
initial reluctance from teachers and even parents, who worried it might
be too much for their kids.
``Even if you didn't want to do it--work longer hours--you knew it
was the right thing to do,'' said teacher Ryan Link, who went to Boston
to check it out. ``It was obvious. The data showed that it really
The school day now runs from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., an hour longer
than last year. Kualapuu's teachers are putting in 10 percent more time
on the job this year and receiving 10 percent more pay. They also get
more time to work together and plan.
Lunch was compressed to 30 minutes. The extra time goes toward more
science and social studies, dedicated writing time and 30 minutes of PE
daily, plus Hawaiian studies and performing arts. Electives are taught
by certified teachers to ensure there is content along with the fun.
``PE is a core subject,'' said Trinidad, who has to break her
stride on campus as small children reach out to hug her. ``The
statistics are very strong about health and wellness.''
Because the kids are engaged, the extra hour at the end of the day
goes by quickly. ``I think it's better with more minutes in that we can
learn more things,'' said sixth-grader Pono Kalipi. ``In performing
arts I like being stage manager. PE every day lets me lose some
Staff members even make home visits to encourage parental
participation. The school expects parents to follow up on homework
assignments, send children to school on time and communicate with
teachers. For a few parents that's too much to ask, said counselor
Geneva Castro Lichtenstein, and they pull out. But others come from all
over the island to attend Kualapuu.
Trinidad, at 47 about the same age as the school itself, said she
and her staff appreciate the freedom they have as a charter school to
try new things. ``The benefit is a change in mentality, to let's try
this, let's stretch the system to see if we can do this,'' she said.
She estimates the school spends about $10,000 to educate each child
each year, including bus service and utilities. Its state facility is
rent free. Financial support comes from the state and federal
governments, Kamehameha Schools and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs,
``Whatever funds we get from these large important organizations,
they are the difference, they are the tipping point,'' Trinidad said.
``We're only set to do the extended learning time for about three
years. I think it's important that we use these three years to build
expectations and to say this is the standard. This is the expectation.
This is what real education is.''
Former private school finds some success in
transition to public Waldorf education
By Susan Essoyan, Star Advertiser, May 23, 2011
KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii--Nine-year-old Joshua Barreras-Float reaches up
to show off his latest creation, a colorful crocheted cap that fits
snugly on his head.
``I was the first one to know how to crochet,'' he announced
proudly. ``You only had to do a special stitch and, going down, do a
regular stitch. It's fun, and it gives exercise on your fingers.''
For students at Kona Pacific Public Charter School, such handiwork
is a key part of the curriculum. It is the first public school in the
state to offer a Waldorf education, known for ``embracing the whole
child, heart, hands and mind.''
The trappings of modern, high-tech society are largely absent from
this elementary school, on a secluded hillside above Kealakekua in
South Kona. Instead, it has a fairy-tale feel to it, with brightly
painted wooden cottages scattered over the grassy knoll.
Once a private Waldorf school, it shut down in 2006 because not
enough students could afford to attend. It was resuscitated in 2008
with tax dollars as a public charter school, open to all, with no
tuition charge. Enrollment shot up from 79 students in its first year
to 157 this year, in kindergarten through sixth grade.
``The biggest difference in becoming a public school is the number
of children we can serve,'' said Ipo Cain, a coffee farmer who is
president of Kona Pacific's local school board. ``We've doubled the
number of families. It was too hard to sustain a private school in a
small agricultural community.''
The charter school's financials are solid enough that it just
received approval for a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Rural Development Program to expand its campus.
Based on the ideas of an Austrian philosopher, Waldorf education is
designed to match children's developmental stages, stoke imagination
and curiosity, and help them explore all their talents, even ones they
didn't know they had, like crocheting.
``One of the primary things I hope our children come away with is
the joy of learning so the rest of their life, they will be really
inspired and curious to seek out knowledge,'' said Usha Kotner, who
left a career as a lawyer to direct the charter school. ``The capacity
to learn is always there. It is just whether they want to or not.''
There are no textbooks in the classrooms. Instead, the children
make their own, with guidance from their teachers. The younger ones
work with beeswax crayons, rather than the usual petroleum-based ones,
in keeping with the school's commitment to using natural products as
much as possible. The third-graders are the school's bakers, learning
math with recipes that call for them to convert ingredients like ``18
teaspoons'' to tablespoons and bake at 350 degrees for ``1,500
Kona Pacific is considered a high-poverty school, with 41 percent
of students receiving subsidized lunch. Meals feature plenty of locally
grown produce. The garden and composting operation are so effective
that 150 students and 25 staff members generate just one can of garbage
``There's a lot of similarities with Hawaiian traditional culture
and Waldorf: teaching through stories, through doing, through
respect,'' said teacher Katie Fransen. ``That's why it's a really
Still, the shift to pubic school standards has not been totally
smooth. Waldorf schools don't start formal academics until first grade,
and their students might lag on state tests in the early years. Kona
Pacific's scores have been below average. And Waldorf traditionally
doesn't introduce typing until middle school, which posed a problem
this spring when the school had to administer the Hawaii State
Assessment, now entirely online. It had to borrow computers, and some
students had never used a mouse before.
``We knew that testing was part of the bargain in becoming a public
school, but not online testing,'' Kotner said. ``The kids get so
stressed out. It's antithetical to what we're trying to do, which is
set up a really nurturing environment.''
State's fastest-growing charter maintains individual attention
for each of its students
By Susan Essoyan, Star Advertiser, May 23, 2011
The line began forming before dawn at a drab, mixed-use building
overlooking Farrington Highway in Waipahu as parents vied for a chance
to sign up their children for a slot at Hawaii Technology Academy.
Just a small white sign tips off passers-by to the location of the
fastest-growing charter school in the state, on the second floor above
a kayak store and a shredded-foam operation.
``One family came at midnight, and by 5 a.m. we had 51 people
waiting outside,'' said Jeff Piontek, an energetic New Yorker who heads
the school, Hawaii's largest charter.''
Launched in 2008, the public charter school has quadrupled its
enrollment over two years, with 1,000 students at last count. On March
1 it opened up 250 more slots for this fall, triggering that line of
parents. The school can grow so quickly despite its limited space--
10,000 square feet--because its students work mostly at home. They come
to the learning center on average twice a week for face-to-face
classes, with additional time for electives.
``It's one size fits one; it's not one size fits all,'' said
Piontek, formerly the state science specialist for Hawaii's public
schools. ``If you're a fourth-grader and don't know fractions, we can
teach you. If you don't know how to conjugate a verb, we teach you.
Every child has a customized learning plan.''
Students undergo a base-line assessment before they start school.
Teachers review their performance every Monday and adjust each
student's agenda for the coming week. The school uses a standardized
online curriculum purchased from K12 Inc. Success depends on two
factors: an engaged parent and a motivated child.
``Your parent or guardian is actually a teacher; they're
responsible,'' said middle school teacher Tiffany Wynn. ``It's not
sitting your child in front of a computer and saying, `Here you go,
good luck!' ''
Hawaii Tech's students score well, with 85 percent proficient in
reading and 45 percent in math last year. But the school's close
connection with K12 Inc. has raised a red flag with the state auditor's
office, which is examining Hawaii's charter school system. The for-
profit firm gets 41 percent of the school's allotment of funds from the
state. Under its contract, it also pays the principal. That means
Piontek is a private employee, not a state employee like other public
``That is a huge issue with a lot of people,'' said Piontek, who
makes $115,000 a year. ``They are afraid the curriculum company is
running a public school. I would much rather be a school employee, and
so would the local school board.''
The board has been trying to renegotiate its K12 contract, which
was signed before Piontek was hired and runs until 2014.
HTA enrolls students from South Point on the Big Island to the
North Shore of Kauai, some of them competitive surfers or performing
artists who need a flexible schedule. The school's individualized
approach has struck a chord, especially with military families and
home-schoolers. Piontek pulls up some profile data with a few quick
strokes on his laptop: 47 percent of students come from public schools;
31 percent are military dependents; 20 percent were home-schooled; 12
percent came from private schools; 2 percent from other charter
``I could fill the whole school with military, but we want it to be
a local school,'' Piontek said. ``Our plan caps it at a third.''
Despite the building's bleak exterior, cheerful posters hand-
lettered by students decorate the central hallway, inviting them to
join the environmental club or attend a PTSA meeting. An art teacher
enlightens her pupils on the concept of proportion at one end of the
hall, while biology students dissect rats in its science lab.
``I really like this school because it's challenging,'' said Joelle
Lee, a soft-spoken seventh-grader with a flair for drawing. ``You can
work at your own pace. If you get it down in most schools, you have to
wait for everyone else. This one, you learn it once and you get ahead
and go on to the next thing.''
Close ties color boards' decisions
By Susan Essoyan, Star Advertiser, May 24, 2011
Some of Hawaii's charter school boards are so closely entwined with
their school's leadership that the relationships could limit their
ability to exercise independent oversight, a critical component to
Each volunteer board is responsible for governing the school,
hiring the principal, setting policy and ensuring financial and
academic viability, but a few might simply let the principal call the
Some recent cases that have raised concern:
Official returns to job after serving jail term--Board members of
Kula Aupuni Niihau a Kahelelani Aloha, a tiny bilingual school in
Kekaha, Kauai, are related to the school's administrator and defer to
her in fiscal matters, according to a recent independent financial
``During our audit, we noted very minimal fiscal oversight by the
Board of Directors and no Finance Committee,'' auditors concluded.
``The fiscal operations and control are left to the Principal and the
Accountant. The Local School Board currently does not have a member
well versed in fiscal controls or financial statements.''
Administrator Hedy Sullivan said that she and the board work
closely together, and ``we're all related because we're all from
Niihau,'' but she has no close relatives on the board. In response to
the auditor's concerns, the board is seeking a new member who has an
accounting background to help exert fiscal oversight.
In 2005 the board made headlines when it kept Sullivan on the job
as head of the school even after she had pleaded guilty to two counts
of second-degree assault for tying up her 11-year-old son and beating
him with a bat. Police found the boy with his hands tied behind his
back, a black eye, bruises all over his body and rope marks around his
Sullivan lost custody of the child, whom she had adopted. She was
later sentenced to a year in prison for the crime, and her husband
filled in for her as administrator. Upon her release in 2006, she went
back to her position at the school, and completed five years of
probation last June.
Sullivan said she makes sure any family enrolling a child is aware
of her criminal background. She added that the board consulted with the
school community before unanimously voting to retain her. ``I'm not
making any excuses for what I did,'' Sullivan said.
State education officials said they were powerless to intervene at
the time because the local board was the ``autonomous governing body''
of the school. But the head of the Charter School Review Panel said she
thinks it might be handled differently today.
``In this particular case, the Charter School Review Panel was not
in existence, but had it been, I believe it might have seen the board's
action as a possible safety issue for the school's children and taken
some action,'' said Ruth Tschumy, panel chairwoman.
Hoe family has teaching, board roles at Hakipuu--Hakipuu Learning
Center in Kaneohe is a public school, but it is also a family venture,
founded by Charlene and Calvin Hoe and their three sons in 2001. Today,
Kala Hoe is chairman of the local school board, while his mother,
Charlene, is a key administrator.
Kala and his brother Kawai teach at Hakipuu along with a niece who
is an educational assistant. Another brother, Liko, serves on the
board, and Calvin is a full-time volunteer on the campus, which has 67
A bill to prohibit a relative of the head of a charter school or an
employee of that school from serving as chairman of its local school
board was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee
earlier this year, with support from Kamehameha Schools, Hookakoo
Corp., the Charter School Administrative Office and the Charter School
Review Panel. But it did not get a hearing in the Judiciary and Labor
Committee, chaired by Sen. Clayton Hee, (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) and died.
Ipo Cain, head of the local school board at a Hawaii island charter
school, said having relatives oversee each other's use of state school
funds is inappropriate. ``They would have to recuse themselves too
often to be effective leaders,'' Cain said. ``It has potential for
conflict, and so you have to be careful. Why not just avoid it?''
But Charlene Hoe, who at one time was director of the office of
strategic planning for Kamehameha Schools, said fostering a sense of
ohana is part of the school's mission. Her family members are qualified
for their positions, and it is not a question of nepotism, she said.
``To me that's not the issue; the issue is getting good people on
your board,'' Hoe said. ``We have one of the most active boards. They
stay at the policy level.''
Hawaii has no law specifically addressing nepotism, but the fair-
treatment law prohibits state employees from giving themselves or
anyone else unwarranted benefits or preferential treatment. The
conflict-of-interest law says state employees cannot take discretionary
state action that affects their own financial interests or those of
their spouse or dependent child.
Thompson investigated on nepotism, fund use--Myron B. Thompson
Academy, an online school in Kakaako, has been under scrutiny since
December after former staff members complained publicly about nepotism
and favor- itism at that school. The principal's sister runs the
elementary school while holding down a full-time job as a flight
The principal's three nephews are also on the payroll. One was the
athletic director until it became public that the school has had no
sports teams for two years. His title was recently changed to ``student
support assistant.'' Critics claimed family members were held to
different standards as far as attendance and teaching qualifications.
An independent financial audit also raised questions about a
``donation'' of $175,000 of the school's state funds to an affiliated
nonprofit, noting there was no indication that the board had discussed
or approved the unusual transaction. Until December the principal took
minutes for the board's quarterly meetings, some conducted via
conference call. Her notes were brief and often failed to indicate who
attended or details of discussions and decisions.
The Charter School Review Panel began investigating the situation,
concerned that the school might not have followed fair hiring practices
or rules that forbid state employees for working for private entities
on state time. Last month it referred the matter to the Ethics
Commission and the attorney general, saying it lacked adequate
investigative tools such as subpoena power.
Legislation seeks to shed light on operations and spending
By Susan Essoyan, Star Advertiser, May 24, 2011
The state Legislature took small steps this session to enhance
oversight and public disclosure for charter schools, and lawmakers plan
to work with the charter community on big-picture changes for the
``There's been so much flexibility given to our charter schools, we
had to take a half-step back,'' said Sen. Jill Tokuda, majority whip
and chairwoman of the Education Committee. ``Yes, charter schools were
meant to have the freedom to explore different ways of teaching and
learning, but at the same time we have to make sure they are using
public funds properly.''
``We have great things going on in our charter schools, but like
any other system we can always improve,'' she added.
Charter schools are public schools that offer a free education but
report to their own local school boards rather than the state Board of
Education. The main piece of legislation that passed this session, SB
1174, would help shed light on who is serving on those 31 boards and
what they are doing by requiring online disclosure.
Legislators--not to mention the public--have sometimes had trouble
getting such data from the Charter School Administrative Office because
the schools didn't keep it up to date.
``That is a major concern,'' Tokuda said. ``That's like saying
we're really not sure who's on the Board of Education.''
The bill requires agendas, minutes of meetings, names and contacts
for local school board members to all be posted on a timely basis on
the website of the charter school office.
In response to concern that a few charter schools have made a habit
of ``hiring the entire family,'' Tokuda said, the bill also requires
local school boards to develop policies ``consistent with ethical
standards of conduct.''
Looking ahead, the bill creates a governance and accountability
task force, something that the charter officials sought. The task force
will identify oversight and monitoring responsibilities for the panel,
the charter school administrative office and the local school boards,
and develop a process for enforcement. Governance for charter schools
had been developed piecemeal, and the law is ambiguous as to the roles
of the various entities.
Charter schools were created to do things differently, to try new
ways to educate students, free of regulations that can hamper
creativity. They are supposed to offer a nimble approach, rather than
the bureaucracy that can bog down a regular public school. Some
charters object to what they see as ``micromanaging'' by the review
``The local school board by law is the `autonomous governing body'
for the charter schools,'' said John Thatcher, principal of Connections
Public Charter School in Hilo. ``If you've got another body that's
trying to impose their rules and regulations, that makes life difficult
and really goes against the spirit of why charter schools were
The charter school office has churned through five executive
directors since it was formed in 2004, and a search is under way for a
new one. Part of the problem is its sometimes conflicting roles:
advocating for and supporting charter schools while also doling out
funds and holding them to reporting and other requirements.
The Charter School Review Panel, too, has struggled to keep up with
its workload. It is made up of 12 volunteers, who attend frequent
meetings that can interfere with paying jobs. They must monitor 31
charters, conduct special evaluations, review regular reports from each
school and assess all new applicants for charters.
``Most panel members have full-time jobs,'' said Ruth Tschumy,
panel chairwoman. ``The work of the panel is unsustainable as we get
more schools. I don't think the panel members can keep functioning the
way we have been.''
Although it isn't mentioned in the bill, the task force on
governance could consider whether it makes sense to establish another
chartering authority, such as the University of Hawaii, to lighten the
Ironically, charter schools are in some ways victims of their own
success. As more charters open, they compete with each other for scarce
state dollars. Alvin Parker, who headed the Charter School Review Panel
when it approved Hawaii's three newest startup schools in 2008, said
some charter leaders objected because it meant less money for their
``I got a lot of flak for that,'' said Parker, a principal whose
own charter school stood to lose money because of the vote. ``It would
have been real easy for me to deny the expansion of charter schools,
but that wouldn't have been ethical.''
Other would-be charters are waiting in the wings, vying for more
than 40 open slots for conversions and startups. The panel has been
wary of approving any application without a solid financial plan and a
high-quality curriculum that offers something different from what's
already available. One new applicant was turned down this month, and
two others are scheduled for a vote on Thursday.
The Legislature just approved $5,867 in per-pupil funds for the
coming school year, with $228 per child for facilities. The forecast
for the following year calls for a smaller per-pupil amount as
enrollment is expected to grow.
Charter schools had hoped to get needs-based facility funding, but
instead the legislation calls for the charter office to develop a
formula for such requests. The state has said it cannot afford to pay
for two parallel sets of school infrastructure, one for regular schools
and one for charters, especially since some are quite close to existing
``When the charter school law was first passed, part of the deal
was they would not get facilities,'' said Rep. Roy Takumi, House
Education chairman. ``They realized that would be the deal breaker. At
the time, the charter community thought there would be private-public
partnerships, philanthropists. It didn't take very long for the charter
schools to come and say, `We need facilities, and it's not fair that
the regular schools have it and we don't.' ''
Takumi noted that the charter system is evolving and so are its
needs, and there is a growing recognition that some schools need help
with facilities infrastructure.
``I don't think it's anybody's intention to shortchange charter
school kids,'' said Curtis Muraoka, co-director of West Hawaii
Explorations Academy in Kona. ``It does take an act of will to examine
things and say, `Now we're going to be fair.' ''
With stable teaching staff and financial aid,
Waianae school is model for student success
By Susan Essoyan, Star Advertiser, May 24, 2011
Moana Medeiros was taken aback when she and other eager teachers
went to check out the site of a new charter school in Waianae and
discovered it was to be housed in a former chicken coop.
``It had a dilapidated corrugated roof with no walls, just a bare
cement foundation,'' Medeiros recalled. ``We looked at each other and
said, what did we get ourselves into? Just as we were about to leave,
along comes Mr. Parker, saying, `Don't leave, let me tell you all about
Alvin Parker, principal of Ka Waihona o ka Naauao, proved
persuasive. Today Medeiros is elementary vice principal for the school,
which quickly outgrew its humble origins and is now quartered at a
meticulously kept traditional public school campus in Nanakuli.
Its student body has mushroomed from 68 in 2002 when it opened to
571 in kindergarten through eighth grade. The vast majority of its
students are of Hawaiian descent and so are their teachers, largely
recruited from the local community.
Teacher turnover has long been an issue at public schools on the
Waianae Coast, but not at Ka Waihona. All but two of its 41 teachers
have been on staff for more than five years, and most have master's
``The big reason people said the quality of education was not being
met on the Waianae Coast is that novice teachers would come, put in a
couple years and leave,'' said Parker, whose master's degree project
was on how to build a sustainable school in the area. ``We've been able
to overcome that.''
The school consciously chooses teachers from the region because
they are more likely to stay and the students readily relate to them.
Ka Waihona also gives its teachers and students a rare level of
support: every classroom has an educational assistant as well as a
teacher, and class size averages just 22 students.
``A lot of those factors are essential to helping these students
who come from these socioeconomic backgrounds have a fighting chance to
compete,'' said sixth-grade teacher Richard ``Kado'' Nahoopii, who grew
up in Waianae and says he went to college only because a devoted high
school teacher put up the money for his first semester.
Ka Waihona's staffing level is possible because of funding the
charter school receives from Kamehameha Schools. The educational trust
also provides a steady supply of staff. Twenty members of Ka Waihona's
faculty are Kamehameha Schools graduates, including Parker and his
daughter, Keolani Alejado. A licensed teacher with a master's in
education, Alejado teaches reading to struggling students and also runs
the free afterschool tutoring program, where mentors from Nanakuli High
work with 175 Ka Waihona students.
The school is on firm financial footing, having recently signed a
long-term lease with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for the
oceanfront property, previously home to Nanaikapono Elementary.
Parker's wife, Renette, is the business manager and registrar, hired
with approval of the local school board after private sector jobs in
accounting and human resources. A recent independent financial audit
found no deficiencies in internal control.
The newest member of the faculty is math resource teacher Dan
Kitashima, a veteran educator recruited from Pearl Highlands
Intermediate School in 2008. With his encouragement, the school adopted
Singapore Math in the fall of 2009, and math proficiency jumped from 27
percent of students to 37 percent over the course of that school year,
helping the school make ``adequate yearly progress.'' Fifty-eight
percent of students are proficient in reading. More than half the
children are economically disadvantaged.
Singapore Math, based on the curriculum that has helped propel
students in that island nation to the top of international tests, shows
students the concrete and pictorial before going abstract, and teaches
number ``bonding'' techniques that last a lifetime.
``It not only teaches how the math works but why it works,'' said
Kitashima, who says he was ready to retire but coming to Ka Waihona has
revitalized him. ``And because it's so visual, it's great for all
different kinds of students. The joy, the change in attitude that the
kids have experienced, is the greatest.''
[Whereupon, at 2:17 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]