Why Charter Schools?


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A presentation to the school board of Ashland, WI on 5/18/09.

Published in: Education
  • Hi Su - thanks for viewing/commenting. I met Jim Lee at the WI Charter School Conference this year and had a really interesting conversation with him about project-based ed management software that some of the schools he works with are using.

    As for a technology/innovation school - I'm not out to try to start one. (I may not try to start any - really depends on the level of agreement that can be cultivated.) I think the first step might be a charter school study group that can look at the process and some of the things other districts have done before deciding what model or models would fit here.

    My own inclinations as a mom tend toward a project-based learning/place-based curriculum school, like the kind described in the book that Peg Smith gave her board members: The Big Picture, by Dennis Littky.

    Look forward to meeting you in person!

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  • Hi Stephanie - thanks for reading. To answer, I think a charter school would have to define a size - a space it could operate in, and a number of students it expected to serve - and then those slots would be available on a first-come/first-serve basis to in-district students first. If more students applied than a school had slots for, by state law you have to hold a lottery to see who gets in.

    At the conference I went to the DPI was very clear: open enrollment applies to a district; not to a particular school within a district. So students from outside the district could open enroll, but with no guarantees of getting a slot at a charter (unless the district decides to offer those guarantees, which is an option.).

    One of the frustrating things about the enrollment law is that there is no exception to the lottery rule for children of charter school founders. It's possible in WI (and has happened to other parents) to spend years volunteering to set up a charter, only to find that your kid's name isn't pulled out of the lottery so you go on a waiting list.. Heartbreaking to imagine. I think the lottery laws need some exceptions!
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  • Why Charter Schools?

    1. 1. Why Charter Schools? A presentation to the School Board of Ashland, Wisconsin.
    2. 2. <ul><li>I thank </li></ul><ul><li>the School District of Ashland </li></ul><ul><li>for sending me </li></ul><ul><li>to the </li></ul><ul><li>2009 Wisconsin Charter School Conference. </li></ul>
    3. 3. <ul><li>Curtis Johnson, co-author of Disrupting Class , was the keynote speaker. </li></ul>
    4. 4. <ul><li>Here’s what I learned. </li></ul>
    5. 5. <ul><li>Charter schools are public schools. </li></ul>
    6. 6. <ul><li>Charter School: A public school that </li></ul><ul><li>in accordance with state statute is exempt from significant state or local rules; </li></ul><ul><li>is created by a developer as a public school; </li></ul><ul><li>provides a program of elementary or secondary education; </li></ul><ul><li>is nonsectarian; </li></ul><ul><li>does not charge tuition. </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    7. 7. <ul><li>President Obama is directing major new federal aid for the development of local charter schools. </li></ul>
    8. 8. <ul><li>Today Wisconsin has 221 charter schools. </li></ul><ul><li>The DPI plans to add 130 new charter schools in the next five years. </li></ul><ul><li>t </li></ul>
    9. 9. <ul><li>Why? </li></ul>
    10. 10. <ul><li>Curtis Johnson and his coauthors answer that question with another question. </li></ul>
    11. 11. <ul><li>What do </li></ul><ul><li>RCA vacuum tube radios circa 1954 </li></ul><ul><li>and network television circa 1980 </li></ul><ul><li>have in common with traditional public education? </li></ul><ul><li>t </li></ul>
    12. 12. <ul><li>They were about to lose their market dominance thanks to a disruptive innovation. </li></ul>
    13. 13. <ul><li>Let’s look at RCA. </li></ul>
    14. 14. <ul><li>In 1947, scientists at Bell Laboratories invented the transistor. </li></ul><ul><li>Transistors couldn’t handle the power that tabletop radios and floor-standing TVs required. </li></ul><ul><li>Radio/TV giant RCA spent more than $1 billion in today’s dollars trying to use transistors in their products. </li></ul><ul><li>t </li></ul>
    15. 15. <ul><li>They were unsuccessful. </li></ul>
    16. 16. <ul><li>Meanwhile, a new company figured out that the low power consumption of the transistor could be an advantage. </li></ul><ul><li>They created the first commercial product to use the transistor: a small hearing aid. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1955, the same company introduced the first battery powered portable transistor radio. </li></ul><ul><li>t </li></ul>
    17. 17. <ul><li>The company’s name was Sony. </li></ul>
    18. 18. <ul><li>By the late 1960’s, Sony and other companies had improved transistor technology to the point where it could successfully compete with vacuum tube technology on quality and price. </li></ul>
    19. 19. <ul><li>Transistor technology successfully disrupted the market. </li></ul><ul><li>RCA has never fully recovered. </li></ul><ul><li>t </li></ul>
    20. 20. <ul><li>All disruptions share a pattern. </li></ul>
    21. 21. <ul><li>At first, the disrupting innovation </li></ul><ul><li>isn’t very good. </li></ul>
    22. 23. <ul><li>But people keep working on the innovation </li></ul><ul><li>and it gets better. </li></ul>
    23. 25. <ul><li>and then suddenly everyone is using it </li></ul>
    24. 26. <ul><li>and the world changes. </li></ul>
    25. 27. <ul><li>This is happening right now in K12. </li></ul>
    26. 28. <ul><li>In the fall of 2000, nationally there were 45,000 enrollments in online courses. </li></ul><ul><li>In the fall of 2007, there were 1,000,000. </li></ul><ul><li>t </li></ul>
    27. 29. <ul><li>At this rate of growth, 50% of high school courses will be delivered online by 2019. </li></ul>
    28. 30. <ul><li>That’s ten years from now. </li></ul>
    29. 31. <ul><li>What would you do if you were at RCA in 1947? </li></ul>
    30. 32. <ul><li>Let’s look at TV. </li></ul>
    31. 33. <ul><li>Thirty years ago, there were three TV stations. </li></ul><ul><li>Twenty years ago, most of us had cable, and lots of stations. </li></ul><ul><li>t </li></ul>
    32. 34. <ul><li>Today, you can start your own station on YouTube. </li></ul><ul><li>For free. </li></ul><ul><li>Using your phone. </li></ul><ul><li>t </li></ul>
    33. 35. <ul><li>Disruptive innovations </li></ul><ul><li>are giving individuals and small groups </li></ul><ul><li>unprecedented power </li></ul><ul><li>to choose and create </li></ul><ul><li>the products they want. </li></ul>
    34. 36. <ul><li>Including schools. </li></ul>
    35. 37. <ul><li>Disruptive innovations </li></ul>
    36. 38. <ul><li>can </li></ul>
    37. 39. <ul><li>flip the market </li></ul>
    38. 40. <ul><li>and put traditional K12 out of business. </li></ul>
    39. 41. <ul><li>Charters, like the first portable radios, solve problems that the market isn’t currently solving. </li></ul><ul><li>Problems like this: </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    40. 42. <ul><li>“I want a different kind of education </li></ul><ul><li>for my child, but our family can’t afford </li></ul><ul><li>a private school.” </li></ul>
    41. 43. <ul><li>“Our son needs a lot of structure and support. We’d like to be able to call his teacher at night for help with his homework.” </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    42. 44. <ul><li>“ Nuestra familia habla español, y nos importa que nuestros hijos dominen el español tanto como el inglés.” </li></ul>(“Our family speaks Spanish, and it’s important to us that our children are fluent in Spanish as well as English.”) f
    43. 45. <ul><li>“I want my kid to be ready for the future. There’s just not enough technology education available in our local school.” </li></ul>
    44. 46. <ul><li>“My daughter learns best when she’s working with others to solve real problems. </li></ul><ul><li>I wish she could go to a project-based learning school that focuses on things happening here in our own community.” </li></ul>
    45. 47. <ul><li>“We want to educate our children at home. What we want is a flexible online curriculum and a teacher we can call for help when we need it.” </li></ul>
    46. 48. <ul><li>There’s a charter school for that. </li></ul><ul><li>For example: </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    47. 49. KIPP Stand Academy teachers are available by cell phone every evening.
    48. 50. At Nuestro Mundo Community School, native Spanish and English speakers learn dual-language proficiency.
    49. 51. Mellen Technology Charter School students develop e-portfolios in one of five technology strands: medical, business, graphic arts, pre-engineering and music composition/performance.
    50. 52. Northwoods Community Elementary School students use project based learning to explore and do work in their rural community.
    51. 53. Working one-on-one with a teacher, Wisconsin Virtual Academy students learn anywhere an Internet connection can be found.
    52. 54. The realization driving change today is that one size doesn’t have to fit all. Different kids and different families have different needs. Using the tool of separation, we can create smaller learning communities that are still part of our shared public school system.
    53. 55. <ul><li>Why Separate? </li></ul><ul><li>To create an autonomous laboratory for innovation </li></ul><ul><li>That operates independently of its sponsoring organization </li></ul><ul><li>While remaining accountable for results </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    54. 56. <ul><li>For example: </li></ul>
    55. 57. <ul><li>IBM is one of the only tech companies with a continuous history dating back to the 19 th century. </li></ul>
    56. 58. <ul><li>Twenty years ago, it almost died. </li></ul>
    57. 59. <ul><li>Back then, IBM was the leader in mainframe technology. </li></ul><ul><li>Microprocessors, the disruptive innovation that replaced mainframes, made computers smaller and more personalized. </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    58. 60. <ul><li>IBM recognized that microprocessors can’t be crammed into mainframes. </li></ul><ul><li>They responded by separating. </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    59. 61. <ul><li>They rented a warehouse in Florida and sent a bunch of their top developers to work there. </li></ul>
    60. 62. <ul><li>They told their developers “Forget everything we ever told you about building computers.” </li></ul>
    61. 63. <ul><li>They said “Under no circumstances are you to read any memos from corporate headquarters.” </li></ul>
    62. 64. <ul><li>“In fact, don’t even return calls from corporate headquarters.” </li></ul>
    63. 65. <ul><li>“Just focus on making a personal computer powered by a microprocessor.” </li></ul>
    64. 66. <ul><li>In 1992, IBM brought the first ThinkPad to market. </li></ul>
    65. 67. <ul><li>IBM survived the microprocessor disruption. </li></ul>
    66. 68. <ul><li>Other examples of success through separation: </li></ul>
    67. 69. <ul><li>The Manhattan Project </li></ul><ul><li>(The autonomy and isolation of the Manhattan Project’s working unit allowed for unprecedentedly rapid innovation.) </li></ul>
    68. 70. <ul><li>The Toyota Prius </li></ul><ul><li>(Toyota pulled empowered, heavyweight engineers from every department and put them together in a separate location to develop a car unlike any other they’d made before.) </li></ul>
    69. 71. <ul><li>The Target Corporation </li></ul><ul><li>(Dayton-Hudson foresaw the impending decline of the department store and spun off an independent working unit to develop Target stores. </li></ul><ul><li> Target is now responsible for the overwhelming majority of Dayton-Hudson’s profits.) </li></ul>
    70. 72. <ul><li>Charter schools are tools of separation. </li></ul><ul><li>Charters bypass the organizational culture so real innovation can happen. </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    71. 73. <ul><li>That’s why the feds are insisting that charter schools must be operated by separate 501(c)(3)s with their own boards of directors. </li></ul>
    72. 74. <ul><li>Let me anticipate another question. </li></ul>
    73. 75. <ul><li>If separation is so important, why don’t you just go start a private school? Why should a school district get involved with charters that want to separate from us? </li></ul>
    74. 76. <ul><li>One answer is based in economic self-interest. </li></ul>
    75. 77. <ul><li>Any student in our district counts toward our “headcount.” </li></ul><ul><li>The bigger the headcount, the more money we get through the state equalization of aid formula. </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    76. 78. <ul><li>Charter schools are public schools, and charter students are included in a district’s headcount. </li></ul>
    77. 79. <ul><li>That’s money that stays here in our district </li></ul>
    78. 80. <ul><li>instead of going somewhere else. </li></ul><ul><li>Like McFarland. </li></ul>f
    79. 81. <ul><li>If you’re wondering if the School District of Ashland is really in competition with McFarland for students, I can tell you that </li></ul>
    80. 82. <ul><li>they’re competing for mine. </li></ul><ul><li>They sent our family a beautiful mailing, addressed to our four year old. We don’t know how they got our names. </li></ul><ul><li>How many other people got it? </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    81. 83. <ul><li>How many responded? </li></ul>
    82. 84. <ul><li>So charter can help us keep our headcount dollars here. </li></ul><ul><li>That’s big. </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    83. 85. <ul><li>But that’s not all. </li></ul>
    84. 86. <ul><li>Charters can help us educate all our kids </li></ul>
    85. 87. <ul><li>even though all our kids learn differently. </li></ul>
    86. 88. <ul><li>Charter schools are a place where innovations can develop </li></ul>
    87. 90. <ul><li>Grow </li></ul>
    88. 92. <ul><li>and get ready to fly. </li></ul>
    89. 94. <ul><li>Then, we can take what we’ve learned in our separate space </li></ul>
    90. 96. <ul><li>And bring it back </li></ul>
    91. 98. <ul><li>So all our children can benefit from it. </li></ul>
    92. 100. <ul><li>We can take what we’ve learned </li></ul>
    93. 101. <ul><li>and use it to transform our schools </li></ul>
    94. 102. <ul><li>into the schools our kids need now. </li></ul>
    95. 103. <ul><li>Soon, a group of interested people </li></ul>
    96. 104. <ul><li>starting with Vice Principal Paul Gilbertson </li></ul><ul><li>Principal Chris Graff </li></ul><ul><li>And me (Wendy Kloiber, mom of Xan Eades) </li></ul><ul><li>f </li></ul>
    97. 105. <ul><li>will be starting discussions about potential charter schools in the Ashland district. </li></ul>
    98. 106. <ul><li>We’d like your blessing. </li></ul>
    99. 107. <ul><li>Thank you. </li></ul><ul><li>Join the conversation at </li></ul><ul><li>www.learningashland.com </li></ul><ul><li>www.twitter.com/learningashland </li></ul>