Posts

Key Messaging Strategies for Charter Schools: Insights from Diverse Charter Schools Coalition 2024

By: Jeremy Divinity

For the last recap of the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition 2024 Annual Convening, this blog focuses on key takeaways from an informative session led by the National Alliance for Public Charters and City Fund titled “Using the Words that Help Us Win.” In this session, the National Alliance and City Fund offered invaluable research-backed insights into crafting messages that build public support for charter schools!

Understanding the Power of Words

At the heart of the session was the recognition that words have the power to provoke action and shape perceptions. By carefully choosing our language, we can effectively communicate the core identity of charter schools and inspire support for our work. For example, simple shifts from passive to active language like “vote” to “be a voter” or “volunteer” to “be a volunteer” can evoke a sense of ownership and empowerment, encouraging your community to take meaningful action in support of charter schools.

Addressing Misconceptions

Despite strong support for the concept of “choice,” there remains a lack of awareness and misconceptions surrounding charter schools. However, through strategic communication strategies, there is an opportunity to dispel myths and highlight the unique benefits of charter education. By emphasizing key messages such as individualized attention, grade-level achievement, and close relationships, we can showcase the positive impact of charter schools on student success.

Building Support

An important theme that emerged from the session was the need to move away from messaging that criticizes traditional public schools. Criticizing traditional public schools or blaming educators for educational challenges is counterproductive and divisive. Instead, the presenters recommended framing charter schools as allies in the broader public education ecosystem. Highlighting the ways in which charter schools complement and enrich the educational landscape, while maintaining a positive and constructive tone, builds support among all stakeholders.

Effective Messaging Strategies

Crafting effective messages is essential for building support and dispelling misconceptions about charter schools. The session presenters shared valuable insights into key strategies for communicating the value of charter education to diverse audiences.Effective messaging strategies for charter schools emphasize their accessibility, individualized approach to learning, collaborative partnerships, and positive contributions to the public education system. For example, one of the most important messages to convey is that charter schools are free, public institutions that are accessible to all students, regardless of background or socioeconomic status.

Another messaging strategyproven to be successful is to highlight individualized attention as charter schools are known for their ability to provide personalized learning experiences tailored to the needs of each student. This message resonates with parents and caregivers who are seeking educational options that prioritize their child’s unique learning style and needs.

While waitlists and lotteries are necessary in the charter school enrollment process, mentioning them when not completely necessary can inadvertently create a sense of exclusivity or competition. Instead, focus on the accessibility and inclusivity of charter schools, emphasizing that they are open to all students and families seeking high-quality education options.

Lastly, rather than framing charter schools as alternatives to failing public schools, emphasize their role as complements that offer additional choices and opportunities within the public education system. Positioning charter schools as valuable contributors to the educational landscape is an effective messaging strategy to build public and community support.

In summary, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts ofcrafting effective messages that resonate with diverse audiences:

Do:

  • Emphasize that charter schools are free, public, and open to all.
  • Highlight the individualized attention and personalized learning environment offered by charter schools.
  • Focus on collaboration and partnership within the public education system.

Don’t:

  • Discuss waitlists and lotteries (outside of communicating key facts and dates to families), as too much focus on this can create a sense of exclusivity.
  • Frame charter schools as an alternative to failing public schools.
  • Engage in rhetoric that criticizes traditional public schools or blames educators.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the session underscored the importance of strategic communication in advancing the mission of charter schools. By conveying these messages with clarity and positivity, we can build support and advocate for the continued growth and success of the school choice movement.

Empoweirng Equity in Education

Empowering Equity: Insights from Dr. Pedro Noguera at Diverse Charter Schools Coalition 2024 Annual Convening

By: Jeremy Divinity

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition 2024 Annual Convening in Los Angeles, of which we are honored to serve as a sponsor. The theme of the conference, “Building Community for School Integration,” initiated thoughtful discussions regarding the importance of equity in education, which was highlighted in the thought-provoking keynote address titled “Excellence Through Equity” by the distinguished professor Dr. Pedro Noguera. As a leading voice in education equity, Dr. Noguera shared invaluable insights on the importance of equity in education and how charter schools can uniquely address equity issues.

This blog post is a reflection on the impactful and profound keynote address by Dr. Noguera.

Understanding Equity in Education: What It Is and What It Is Not

Dr. Noguera began by exploring the fundamental concept of equity in education. He emphasized that equity is not just a buzzword; it is a commitment to providing every student with the support and opportunities they need to succeed. Equity means recognizing and addressing the social, economic, and academic needs of all students, especially those facing the greatest challenges due to race and class disparities. Importantly, equity also recognizes the diverse learning styles and paces of students, fostering a commitment to developing the talents of all learners.

Contrary to misconceptions, equity is not about lowering standards or making excuses. It’s about dismantling barriers and ensuring that every student, regardless of background, has access to a high-quality education. Dr. Noguera urged us as educators to embrace a holistic, empowering approach to education.

The Unique Role of Charter Schools in Advancing Equity

One of the key themes Dr. Noguera highlighted was the potential of charter schools to lead the way in advancing equity. Charter schools have the flexibility to provide individualized support and learning experiences tailored to the needs of students. This includes promoting student agency, empowerment, and prioritizing the holistic development of every child.

Moreover, fostering partnerships within the community was also highlighted as integral component to promoting equity. By leveraging external resources and engaging with local stakeholders, charter schools can create inclusive, supportive environments that increase student success.

Promoting Equity: Strategies in Action

Dr. Noguera challenged us to move beyond rhetoric and take tangible steps toward equity in education. This begins with acknowledging the intersectionality of race and class and concentrating efforts on students with the greatest needs. Additionally, to make meaningful progress, schools must clarify their equity goals while avoiding the trap of reducing equity to a mere slogan.

Throughout his keynote, Dr. Noguera outlined practical strategies for promoting equity. He stressed the importance of engaging with students directly to understand their needs and experiences. Additionally, he emphasized the critical role of educators in building relationships, cultivating student agency, fostering deeper learning opportunities, and building both technical and adaptive capacities.

Conclusion & Key Takeaways

Dr. Pedro Noguera’s keynote address served as a powerful call to action for all of us in the charter school world be committed to building a more just and equitable education system. As I reflect on Dr. Noguera’s powerful message, several key takeaways resonate deeply that I would like to share as a closing summary:

  • Equity in education is about removing barriers and providing every student with the support they need to succeed.
  • Charter schools have a unique opportunity to innovate and lead the way in promoting equity through individualized support, student empowerment, and community partnerships.
  • Promoting equity requires a holistic approach that addresses students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.
  • Educators must prioritize building relationships, cultivating student agency, and fostering a sense of belonging within their schools.

In conclusion, Dr. Noguera’s address is a call for charter school leaders, educators, and advocates to continue to work together, learn from one another, and strive towards a future where every child has the opportunity to thrive.

Charter Leader Spotlight Series: Gayle Nadler, Executive Director, Multicultural Learning Center

April 28, 2022

Last month, the Multicultural Learning Center received the California Charter Schools Association’s (CCSA) Hart Vision Award for Charter School of the Year (Southern California). The Hart Vision Awards, established in 1995, are named in honor of Gary K. Hart, the former California State Senator and former California Secretary of Education. The prestigious Hart Vision Awards are given annually to individuals and organizations with outstanding records of leadership and excellence in furthering California’s charter public school movement. The award recognizes​​ the work and achievements of exceptional charter public schools, leaders, and advocates.

We’re proud to work with MLC as a longtime client and admire their steadfast commitment to students and families. As a part of our Charter Leader Spotlight Series, we interviewed Gayle Nadler, the co-founder and Executive Director of MLC, to learn more about MLC, how it feels to receive such a prestigious award, and why developing global citizens is such a critical part of the school’s mission and vision!

 

EdTec: How does it feel to be the winner of the CCSA Hart Vision Award  for Charter School of the Year (Southern California)?

Gayle: It’s an honor to receive an award in Gary Hart’s name. I heard him speak at the CCSA conference many years ago and was inspired by him, the movement he started, and his brave work to get charter schools on the map in California back in 1992. He passed away in January this year, so it’s even a little more heartfelt to receive the award in his name.

I was very excited that receiving the award had to do with not only our growth academically but also our innovative dual immersion program along with our emphasis on developing global competencies in our students.

To be honest, the timing was really incredible, coming out of the two years that we’ve just experienced. To be recognized when we have felt so vulnerable shows the impact of the hard work and determination of our community. It really comes down to who you are as an organization and your values, your team, and your community especially in the toughest of times.

It’s MLC’s time to share what we’re doing, and the outcomes we’re achieving. We’re willing to share all the work that we do so that other schools and students can benefit from what we’ve learned. It’s been 20 years of innovation, creation, development, and making mistakes and fixing them. There’s a lot that we can share with developing charter schools and other organizations.

 

EdTec: Have you ever been approached by other charters for advice?

Gayle: We’re frequently working with other schools on different levels. We’re approached by a lot of developing dual language schools. These schools usually want to hear about how we teach in two languages, what curriculum we use, and where we find bilingual teachers. We’ve also been approached about different things that we do in terms of organizational culture, special programs, instruction, planning, development, and strategy.

MLC is not in this movement for solely our own benefit. We want our school to do well and be successful for the community we serve, but we’re in this movement to improve education for all students, families, and educators in California.

 

EdTec: What has been the most rewarding part of this 21-year journey for you?

Gayle: The thing that always makes me smile most, is our alumni. It’s most rewarding to hear from the alumni in terms of what they’re doing with their lives, how they furthered their education, and the impact MLC has had on who they have become as global, bilingual citizens.

 

EdTec: What has been your most valuable lesson learned over the past 21 years?

Gayle: I say this to new charter leaders all the time, the most valuable lesson you can learn as a charter leader is this: there will always be obstacles – that is the job! Don’t hope or wait for the day there will be smooth sailing because it won’t come! The job is riding the waves and sticking to your vision and mission and the reason you opened in the first place. There’s always going to be challenges in front of you and because your vision and mission is so powerful, you have what it takes to overcome them.

 

EdTec: What is it like working with your mom?

Gayle: For the first eleven years, my mother was the Executive Director and I worked under her as the Program Director. She retired in 2012, so for the last 10 years, I’ve been running the show, although she is on the board and she volunteers in the classrooms. Without her knowledge and powerful ways of making things happen, I don’t know that we would have opened. She got us going, so that I could take the reins one day and take it to the next level.

Honestly, the work is so hard and so demanding, especially in those first 10 years of running a charter school  that you don’t even have time to think about anything else! We definitely had to create boundaries and have very clear delineations – “Okay, am I talking to you as your employee or as your daughter?” So, there was a lot of that in the beginning. We were excited to build something together. It really came from our experiences as mother and daughter when I was in public school. The fact that we took this really deep experience from my childhood, and her experience as my mother, and turned it into something that would fulfill us and the community, is a very powerful thing.

 

EdTec: As a charter school leader, you need a strong support system in place. What kind of support has been key to your success?

Gayle: On the ground, it is having an operational and instructional team that is completely committed to the school, to the vision, to the purpose. You need instructional leadership that is extremely talented and focused on outcomes for students, social, emotional, and academic.  And the operations team must have wide knowledge and experience with facilities, finance, and human resources.

Beyond your staff team, you need partners like EdTec!  Having a strong, trusting relationship with our back-office provider has been essential because it’s such a fluid relationship. Our relationship with EdTec has been essential in overcoming some of those hurdles that we face on the back end of things, so that the school can operate and have all these outstanding outcomes for kids.

Other community partners and the LA philanthropic community play a critical role. And of course, our parents – they know their students best, they are true partners in their education.

It’s also important to allow an opportunity for all folks, whether they’re administrators, teachers, teaching assistants, after school tutors, custodial staff, to have a voice in the organizational operations, policies, procedures. Your supporting community should have a strong voice and a seat at the table where they can express themselves, where they can share ideas, give feedback, make suggestions, and make decisions. The key to having a strong school organization is a collaborative approach in the truest sense. This requires a lot of listening and a lot of empathy on the part of leaders. It takes a lot to create that in an organization, but that’s a key element in our success.

 

EdTec: Why is developing global citizens is so important to you?

Gayle: It’s very important for young people to know how to navigate and live in a world with diverse thinking, diverse backgrounds, diverse cultures and language. For young people to be successful in a diverse world, they must be raised in an environment where they not only are taught to be respectful to people who are different, but to live and breathe and share space each day with people who come from diverse backgrounds. The experience at MLC enables young people to think more critically when they’re adults and to look at all sides of a story, to see different perspectives and points of view. Our students can also speak in more than one language which creates greater compassion and understanding. It’s also about having the confidence and the commitment to create change when it’s necessary. Those are the skills that we’re building when we talk about global citizens.

 

EdTec: What is your vision for the future? What is something you hope to accomplish in the next few years?

Gayle: Right now, we’re working on recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. I see us bouncing back and getting back into the groove of what we do. Then it’s about what can we do to take us to the next level because we never stop growing. I’d like to see us become more involved in creating change and spreading the word about some of our successful initiatives to influence others and perhaps policy.

I also want to bring in more partners, to engage more folks in the community and perhaps document our work. One of the benefits of being a charter is you’re this little incubator of innovation. But you’re so busy doing it, that you don’t really have time to sit down and document all the wonderful things you’ve done or put it into a guidebook.  It would be great to document some of the things that we’ve done so that it can be more easily shared, studied, or developed to influence equitable access to high quality education for all students.

Thank you to Gayle, and congratulations to the MLC community!

CCSA produced a special video series featuring the exemplary charter school leaders who received the 2022 Hart Vision Award. You can view the MLC video here.

The Multicultural Learning Center (MLC) is a K-8 public charter school in Los Angeles founded in 2001 by mother and daughter team Toby Bornstein and Gayle Nadler with the vision to “bring together a diverse community of learners where cultural and individual differences are the building blocks of academic, social, and intrapersonal success.” MLC achieves this vision through the school-wide implementation of a dual immersion program (Spanish/English) and a focus on global and social-emotional competencies.

Tune into Education Strategy with EdTec’s Partner, Friday

EdTec’s Jeremy Divinity, a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership for Social Justice at Loyola Marymount University, was joined by Friday’s Annie Crangle and Dr. Jeffrey Hunt to discuss the power of strategic planning during a crisis in a recent podcast episode titled, “From Crisis Management to Strategic Planning“.

During the podcast episode, Annie and Dr. Hunt talk insights from FORWARD, a recent strategic planning cohort designed to support charter school leaders in developing solid reopening plans grounded in a long-term strategic vision. As partners, EdTec’s experts participated in the cohort by providing school leaders with additional expertise in operations, finance, and student data analytics. In addition, in the podcast episode, Annie and Dr. Hunt emphasize how incorporating student voice from an equity lens through their equity tool, Highlight, positively impacts school planning.

Tune into the episode now by listening below!   

Disclaimer: This podcast is not sponsored by any outside organizations and was recorded as part of a project for a program of study.

Do you need guidance generating a new strategic plan in today’s rapidly changing environment? Don’t worry, as Friday is launching more cohorts this fall!  Sign up here to stay informed. 

Setting Up Your Data Systems for Successful Performance Analysis

June 2021

By: Annice Weinstein 

This school year has brought a new set of challenges and requirements to charter schools regarding student performance and data analysis. Schools opting to administer local assessments instead of, or in addition to, state tests will still need to disaggregate and report results by student group. This raises the question for charters: Are my testing systems set up to report the results that I need?

Student IDs Are Key

Any student data your school collects can be easily disaggregated by student group if the data includes either the students’ local SIS IDs or their SSIDs. Similarly, you can track growth over time if the results from multiple administrations are linked to the same student IDs. This requires you to be consistent in the set-up of your testing systems. If you are tracking student performance locally, make sure you include the student ID in your data tracking sheets.

If you are using a testing system that requires a roster upload (examples: NWEA, i-Ready, Renaissance Star), it is important to:

  • Decide whether to use the local SIS ID or the SSID as the primary ID and BE CONSISTENT. Use the same student ID for each administration of the test.
  • Stick to a defined process for creating rosters in the testing system, preferably through uploads and not manual entry.
  • If there is the need to manually enter students, make sure to use the selected student ID.

A breakdown in this process will make it very difficult to disaggregate student performance by student group and may result in missing growth data for your school, because the testing system cannot connect the results from two separate administrations to the same set of students.

How can EdTec Help?

EdTec’s data or assessment team can help you determine the best method to maintain consistent IDs in your testing systems. This may involve setting up custom exports from your SIS, having EdTec manage the export/import process at regular intervals, or exploring if Clever is a good integration option for your school.  Each option has its limitations, and it’s important to make a well-informed decision based on your needs.

EdTec can also provide custom data analyses of your assessment results. This includes breakdowns by student groups as well as an analysis of longitudinal progress, if the test was given over multiple administrations. Some examples of assessments EdTec has analyzed are NWEA MAP, i-Ready, Renaissance Star, and the SBAC Interim Comprehensive Assessments (ICAs).

EdTec helps charters prepare their student outcome data for state and authorizer requirements, in addition to stakeholder engagement.

EdTec also offers affordable licenses to Otus, a data, assessment, and learning management system. Maintaining student performance data in a system like Otus allows your staff, students, and parents to see student growth over time across multiple measures. It also provides a single repository for all performance data that can be disaggregated by student group and used for longitudinal analysis.

Using an assessment and learning management system such as Otus can help to streamline the data collection and reporting process.

Using an assessment and learning management system such as Otus can help to streamline the data collection and reporting process.


For further questions, please contact us at assessment@edtec.com.

Otus logo and images are the property of Otus, LLC and reproduced with permission.d engaging for all students. For example, they hosted a cooking activity where students could participate either in-person or online.

Leading in a Crisis: Spotlight Our School Partners During School Reopening

April 28, 2021

As school reopening continues to be a main topic of conversation and debate across communities nationwide, school leaders face the challenges of determining when students will return and what a typical school day will look like. Re-opening hasn’t been uniform across the country, and the guidelines and strategies vary by state (EducationWeek). Some states have implemented thresholds that must be met for in-person learning to resume, while others have left the re-opening decisions to local school districts.

EdTec supports charter schools across seven states. Although re-opening looks different everywhere, there is a common theme amongst our school partners of continuing learning in a safe, fun, and engaging way for all students. Read on for a few highlights of all the great work happening in classrooms across the country.

California

Before re-opening, schools in California must first meet critical thresholds in health metrics. The California Department of Education launched the California Safe Schools for All Hub to consolidate key resources and provide support and guidance for reopening. continues to update reopening guidance. For parents and students who are not comfortable returning to the classroom for in-person instruction, distance learning is still an option. Check out how our school partners are adapting:

Heartwood Charter School – Schools tours are back! Heartwood Charter School is now offering limited in-person on-campus school tours for prospective families.

The Academies – The Academies Charter Management Organization has welcomed students back on campus and is prioritizing safety and learning in the classroom.

Sunrise Middle School – Sunrise Middle School is now offering their after-school program for 5th and 6th graders with fun activities such as gardening, cooking, art, and sports!

Para Los Niños – Virtual events are still bound to draw a much larger crowd and are more accessible for families, so Para Los Niños plans to host a big virtual party to celebrate the accomplishments and perseverance shown over this incredibly difficult year!

High Tech LA – A picture is worth a thousand words! The seniors at High Tech LA were welcomed back to campus for their senior portraits. They also received their senior sweatshirts and swag.

Grimmway Academy – The Grimmway Academy students celebrated their return with fun activities as a part of their EGG-stravaganza!

Everest Value – The staff at Everest Value School are excited to see students in the classroom again as they transition from distance learning to a hybrid model in the upcoming weeks.

East Bay Innovation – The students at East Bay Innovation came back to campus a little taller and with new haircuts! The administration at East Bay Innovation welcomed students with fun, collaborative, in-person activities.

Aspire – Aspire is providing critical support by offering in-person instruction for their most vulnerable students.

Georgia

The Georgia Department of Education, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health, has developed guidance to support districts and communities in determining their plans and strategies for reopening schools. Georgia’s Path to Recovery for K-12 Schools provides considerations, recommendations, and best practices for reopening, and is designed to help districts prioritize the health and safety of students and teachers. This guidance is not mandated, or state required. Local school districts have the authority and flexibility to meet their individual needs and be responsive to their communities. See how our school partner in Georgia is tackling re-opening:

Ethos Classical – Our school partner, Ethos Classical Charter School, is currently operating with their scholars onsite or on a virtual basis based on family choice.

Louisiana

Individual school districts can decide when to re-open for in-person learning, although the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted minimum health and safety standards for reopening. The Louisiana Department of Education put together a resource guide that includes health guidelines, best practices for reopening, templates, and a reopening checklist.

Élan Academy – Teachers are essential workers! The teachers are more appreciated than ever for their hard work throughout the pandemic. They have shown up for their scholars and are being vaccinated for a safe return to the classroom.

Nevada

In February, Governor Sisolak signed an emergency directive to ensure all students had safe and equitable access to in-person learning, whether full- or part time. The Nevada Department of Education also requires schools to develop distance learning plans.

Nevada Rise – Effective April 5, Nevada Rise began operating with a hybrid model, offering both in-person and online instruction. School leadership prepared a helpful FAQ sheet for parents to help families prepare for the transition. Staff was excited to welcome students back to campus with signs and balloon!

New Mexico

The New Mexico Public Education Department’s Reentry Guidance provides requirements, recommendations, and best practices for reopening. Local district and charter school leaders have the authority to decide to keep schools closed. Discover how our school partners are re-opening:

Solare Collegiate – With scholars back on-campus, Solare Collegiate is prioritizing safety and learning in the classroom while making learning fun and engaging for all students. For example, they hosted a cooking activity where students could participate either in-person or online.

Altura Prep – Altura Prep is taking advantage of being back in person as an opportunity to live up to their core values and give back to the community!

New York

In New York, all K-12 schools can remain open for in-person learning as long as the in-school positivity rate is lower than 9%. The decisions to open or close schools are made by local school district officials. The New York State Department of Education has published extensive school reopening resources to help guide schools as they plan for a return, including requirements and best practices. See how our school partners in New York are embracing re-opening:

Creo College Prep – The teachers at Creo College Prep are introducing mindfulness into the classroom through yoga practices!

Valence College Prep – The show must go on! Although in-person learning has resumed, Valence College Prep continues to offer a balance of in-person and virtual events. The students kept the performing arts alive from a distance by hosting a virtual musical performance.

Brooklyn RISE – Brooklyn RISE is bringing the school spirit back to campus! What better way to celebrate the return to in-person learning than a spring spirit week.

Tennessee

In Tennessee, school districts can decide whether to open school buildings based on guidance from the Tennessee Department of Education to assess the risk if it is safe to re-open. Our school partners in Tennessee have embraced a mix of in-person and hybrid instruction:

Grizzlies Prep – The students at Grizzlies Prep are back in the classroom, with school administrators emphasizing safety and learning.

Memphis Merit – Who doesn’t love a friendly competition? To celebrate being back on-campus, Memphis Merit hosted a Teachers vs. Scholars basketball game!

Rocketship – Rocketship has also resumed in-person learning, with their schools in Tennessee fully transitioned back into the classroom.

STRIVE Collegiate – STRIVE Collegiate is now embracing a hybrid model in which a percentage of students will remain virtual, and another percentage will return in person. They are also offering an in-person physical education program to give their students a physical outlet to excel in life.

Susie King Taylor Community School – The first-grade class at Susie King Taylor Charter School kicked off the spring with a fun science and engineering project that asked, Can your Peep float on your boat?


As some form of normalcy returns to our school communities, re-opening strategies must follow applicable guidelines to ensure a safe and successful learning experience for all students. How is your school handling reopening? What has been the biggest challenge? Is there something that worked well for your school community that you would like to share with other schools? Let us know in the comments!

Facts about Charter Schools

Watch Your Language! How We Can Use Our Words to Reinforce Facts About Charter Schools.

By Melanie Horton, Senior Marketing Manager

August 8, 2019

With so many myths out there about charter schools, it’s important that we as advocates use language that encourages the spread of accurate information about our schools. This is just as important when communicating with others in our own school communities, from parents to teachers to local leaders, so that we continue to cement the very concepts that drew us to charter schools in the first place.

Charter schools are public schools. We often hear people – inside and outside the movement – referring to local district schools as “public schools” and our schools as “charter schools”. Since charter schools are public schools, we should not reserve the label of “public” for district schools, and we should instead refer to district schools as just that – district schools. Both charter schools and district schools fall under the umbrella of public schools. You may also want to consider referring to charter schools as “public charter schools” to further drive home the message.

Open Enrollment. One myth that exists about charter schools is that we’re allowed to “cherry pick” our students by administering admissions exams. Let’s make sure we always use the term “Open Enrollment” and not “Admissions”, as some may associate “admissions” with the private school or college admissions process, which involves determination based on academic record and other factors.

When open enrollment rolls around, we need to collect prospective students’ personal information so that we may enter them into a lottery for the available spaces at the school, and we do this by asking their families to fill out paperwork.  Instead of referring to this paperwork as an application, which implies a selection process (or at the very last, a formal review and determination by a greater authority), let’s aim to use another term such as “form”. While it’s true that the form must be reviewed to ensure compliance with a charter school’s lottery guidelines, we do not want to imply that students are being evaluated or judged in any way. This might seem like a small detail, but the words we use can have powerful implications that either support or detract from the truth about charter schools.

To reinforce that all students are eligible for enrollment in charter schools so long as they meet the requirements outlined in the lottery guidelines approved by the schools’ authorizer, we can post these guidelines at the school and remind stakeholders that students are randomly selected during the lottery.

Accountability. We often hear from critics that charter schools aren’t accountable and don’t have to abide by the same rules as district schools; that charters can “do whatever they want”. While charter schools have some regulatory freedoms relative to district schools, which allow charter schools to meet the unique needs of their communities, we accept this flexibility in exchange for increased accountability for student and operational results. New charter schools are required to submit a robust charter application that outlines the school’s proposed educational program, governance structure, budget, and additional details specific to each authorizer, and must renew their application every few years in order to continue existing (how often depends on the authorizer).

Renewing a charter school involves submitting a charter renewal application in which the school must show tangible progress toward the goals laid out in the original petition.  Schools may be denied renewal for poor academic performance or financial mismanagement, so this is serious business.

Let the members of your community know how charter schools are held fully accountable in a multitude of areas throughout the year as well as how they are required to prove – every few years – whether they’ve earned the privilege of continuing to serve their students and families. We can communicate our accountability by keeping our stakeholders in the loop when we’re going through the renewal process or fulfilling another local compliance requirement. This can be as simple as briefly sharing these milestones and achievements in the employee and parent newsletters and at board meetings.

Let’s remind the people of our communities – across the spectrum of advocates, critics, and the uninformed – that charter schools are about choice, accountability, and innovation.

What other positive language suggestions do you have for charter school advocates? We’d love to hear from you and build out our recommendations. Leave us a note in the comments section!

CALPADS Update for CA Charter Schools

By Gerald Cockrell, Data and Categorical Program Specialist

September 19, 2018

For California charter schools, it can be hard to stay on top of all the changes to CALPADS. Use the list below as an easy checklist to make sure your school isn’t forgetting anything this year. Check out our previous CALPADS post to see our list of the most important CALPADS reports to prepare for Fall 1.

Important Changes to CALPADS for the 18/19 School Year

  • There are new CALPADS submission certification deadlines for ‘18-‘19 and they are much earlier than previous years. Please plan accordingly, especially for the Fall 1 submission which now ends around Thanksgiving instead of the end of January.
    • Fall 1 Certification Deadline: 11/21/18
    • Fall 1 Amendment Window Deadline: 12/7/18
    • Fall 2 Certification Deadline: 2/1/19 (No Amendment Window)
    • EOY 1 – EOY 3 Certification Deadline: 8/17/19 (No Amendment Window)
  • In addition to the shorter submission windows CALPADS also has a significant outage planned for 9/21-10/01 to make major system changes. Please plan accordingly. It’s also important to get any SSID’s or other information from CALPADS you may need for assessment or ELPAC testing.
  • New students with a non-English primary language must have an ‘18-‘19 enrollment record and a “TBD” SELA record in CALPADS in order for them to show up in TOMS and be tested with the Initial ELPAC.
  • This update is not new, but it is important enough to warrant an annual reminder: all National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Free and Reduced Price Meal (FRPM) applications for the year MUST BE RECEIVED BY 10/31/18 for the student eligibility to count towards your official FRPM or LCFF Unduplicated counts.

To help you prepare for Fall 1 and make sure your charter school’s data is accurate for funding and accountability, check out our previous CALPADS post about the most important CALPADS reports.

We Need Proof: Capture & Demonstrate Student Performance across a Data Spectrum

by Annice Weinstein, Senior Manager, Assessment Data and Analysis 

May 23, 2018

With so much going on at your charter school on a day-to-day basis, it can be difficult to remember what data your staff needs to track throughout the year. This data is necessary to stay on top of accountability requirements and be able to demonstrate student performance to your stakeholders, as well as for your LCAP, charter renewal, WASC, and grants. This article takes a step-by-step approach to help you evaluate your data needs and establish processes for collecting that data.

Start with your Charter

When your school’s founding team wrote the charter, they laid the foundation for what the school aims to accomplish, student performance goals, and how it plans to measure its progress over the duration of the charter period. Because your LCAP is an annual reflection of the school’s performance and plan for improvement, aligning the goals and measurable pupil outcomes in your LCAP to your charter is critical. This will also save you time when you renew your charter, as aligning the two documents is a requirement for renewal.

As a next step, you’ll need to track progress towards the measurable outcomes you set in your LCAP. For example, if one of your student performance goals is that all students enrolled at your school since ninth grade will graduate and be accepted to college, then you need to have processes in place to track progress towards graduation requirements and college acceptance rates. To accomplish this, you could assign a member of your data team to collaborate with the school’s guidance counselors and college counselors to determine the best way to gather this information. If one of your metrics for academic achievement is that all students enrolled at your school since kindergarten will be reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade, then you need to have processes in place to track reading levels for a cohort of students over time.

Data Integrity

You won’t be able to evaluate your progress and student performance toward LCAP goals and tell your school’s story without consistent, reliable data. What’s more, your CALPADS data will be used to calculate the CA School Dashboard state indicators, so it’s extremely important that it’s complete and accurate. Review all CALPADS certification reports carefully. Take the time to download all student-level state test results from TOMS, CELDT, ELPAC, and testing systems to a safe place at your school. The data may not always be available to download when you need it; for example, TOMS only houses two historical years of data.

For all local test data, make sure to include student IDs so you can calculate longitudinal progress. Include proficiency levels where applicable to make it easy to determine the percentage of students on grade level or meeting the standard. Make sure the team in charge of data at your school is aware of the important role they play in compliance requirements and storytelling, and work with them to establish standard processes for tracking and reporting all data. You’ll want to make sure that everyone involved in these processes is kept informed of critical updates and timelines.

Use Data to Tell Your Story

CA School Dashboard Indicators

When it comes time to tell your story, it’s important to present the school’s performance in a clear, honest, effective way. In addition to the good news, you’ll also need to communicate dips in performance and indications of achievement gaps. You can use your Dashboard indicators to identify achievement gaps by identifying any student groups performing two or more levels below the school’s overall performance. You should also be prepared to explain how you are using data to assist in improving performance or closing the achievement gap.

Your Dashboard indicators are also useful for identifying and highlighting progress in student performance, such as an improvement in the test performance of English Learners. Whenever possible, try to identify specific programs or lack of programs that can be tied to progress or setbacks; this will weave a thorough story and set the stage for you to provide related recommendations about the best way to allocate resources going forward.

Local Metrics

You can also use local metrics to highlight your school’s performance. If you’ve had success in a particular area, you’ll want to make sure to share this with your stakeholders. Here are a few examples of metrics that might make sense for your school to track and report:

  • College Application, Acceptance, or College-Going Rate
  • AP Course Enrollment or AP Pass Rate
  • GPA
  • Participation in Programs (extracurricular activities, arts & science programs, leadership)
  • SAT/ACT Scores
  • Fundraising Success
  • Community Service Hours
  • Re-Enrollment Rate or Waitlist Count (to indicate satisfaction with or interest in your school)
  • Results of Parent/Student Surveys

Performance Analysis

There are two main ways to demonstrate student performance when telling your school’s story: longitudinal progress and comparison view. The longitudinal view compares performance for the same set of students over time. The comparison view shows school-wide performance by grade level or subgroup compared to demographically similar, resident, or district schools. When comparing performance, be sure to select comparison schools based on specific criteria such as similar demographics or geographic proximity. In the end, it all goes back to data integrity, as both views depend on access to complete, accurate data.

Summary

The most effective way to prepare to demonstrate student performance at your school is to outline a data collection strategy and plan. Make sure the relevant staff are on the same page regarding your school’s goals and implementation of those goals, so you are capturing the information you need to tell a powerful story. Schedule time throughout the school year to review progress on the measures established in your LCAP, accurately maintain your CALPADS data, and thoroughly understand your Dashboard. All of this will prepare you to explain both the progress and struggles reflected in your data.

Find out more about EdTec’s Student Performance Services.

Tax Season Is Coming…Get the 411 on 1099s!

By Jacqui Runholt, AP & Business Process Specialist

November 29, 2017

You may not be a tax expert, but if you work with vendors that provide services to your charter school, you’ll need to know the basics about 1099s. A 1099 Form is used to report income from self-employment earnings, as well as interest, dividends, and other earnings, and you’ll need to submit these forms to eligible vendors and to the IRS. We’ve put together a few tips to keep in mind leading up to tax season:

  • Any vendor that is paid to provide services to your school could be eligible to pay taxes on 1099 income. As a best practice, get in the habit of requesting W-9’s from all your vendors when you start working with them, so you have the information you need to issue 1099s when the time comes.
  • Start reviewing your vendor list now so you’re not scrambling to meet the January 31 deadline!
  • If your charter school leases its facilities, the rent expenses may be reported on a 1099 Form.
  • If you’re not sure if you need to submit a 1099 for a certain vendor, just go ahead and submit it. The IRS will know whether a vendor is eligible. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

The due date for submitting 1099s to vendors and to the IRS is January 31st, but don’t wait until then. If you’re done at the beginning of January, submit! Corrections can be made through the end of March.