Page 1

A RI-CAN Issue Brief


Putting Achievement First Gap-Closing Charter Schools as a Lever for Statewide Change

This report was published in June 2011 by RI-CAN: The Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now. To order copies of this report, please contact RI-CAN at info@ri-can.org RI-CAN: The Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now www.ri-can.org Design & Layout house9design.ca


Table of Contents

Introduction

4

1 Wanted: Transformational School Change 

5

2 The Role of High-Quality Public Charter Schools

5

3 Charter Schools, the Funding Formula and Rhode Island Mayoral Academies 

11

4 Charter Schools and Rhode Island’s Race to the Top Plan

12

5 Achievement First: Proven Success at Closing Gaps 

13

6 Collaboration and Statewide Impact 

16

7 Seizing the Opportunity 

17


Introduction The Ocean State has made great strides in just the past few years toward providing improved educational opportunities for every student. From our new funding formula to our Race to the Top win, state and local education leaders have made a strong commitment to closing achievement gaps and begun taking critical steps to make this vision a reality. Yet, despite this progress, student performance in Rhode Island remains unacceptably low. Our achievement gaps are some of the worst in the nation and touch every community in our state. It is clear that there is a tremendous amount of work to do and we cannot afford to leave any option off the table in the effort to jumpstart statewide transformation. Supporting the creation and growth of high-performing charter schools is a critical lever to do just that. Here are the facts: • Evidence shows that high-performing charter schools can play a vital role in catalyzing statewide reform efforts by proving that achievement gaps can be closed and by providing a real-life example of how it is done. • In 2008, Rhode Island passed legislation creating the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies (RIMA) to enable Rhode Island mayors to bring the most successful high-performing public charter schools in the nation into our state. These schools were provided with increased flexibility in exchange for accountability for results. • This year, RIMA is working to bring Achievement First to Rhode Island. Achievement First, one of the highest-performing charter networks in the country, has demonstrated success in closing the achievement gap in Connecticut and New York by dramatically increasing the academic achievement levels of the most underserved students. To truly serve Rhode Island students most in need, the Board of Regents and the Rhode Island Department of Education must follow through on their commitment to recruit proven educational models such as the one proposed by RIMA and Achievement First and support the opening of other gap-closing schools in both suburban and urban areas throughout the state.

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

4


1

Wanted: Transformational School Change Amid the progress and promising signs for continued improvement, including recent overall gains on the statewide assessment, we still have a long way to go. Rhode Island ranks 40th in the country in K–12 achievement, earning us a “D” grade in a recent Education Counts report of overall educational quality.1 Despite some of the highest education spending in the nation, our students perform significantly below students in neighboring states such as Connecticut and Massachusetts (see Figure 1). Our state does an especially poor job of educating students from minority and low-income backgrounds. Among eighth grade Latino students, Rhode Island scores lowest in the nation in both math and reading.2 In reading and math, our Latino students score lower, on average, than Latino students in the large metropolitan centers of Chicago, Boston, and New York City (see Figure 2). Achievement gaps between white and African-American students, and between economically disadvantaged students and their wealthier peers, are substantial as well. Furthermore, the achievement gap prevalent throughout Rhode Island is not only a concern in our urban districts such as Providence and Newport. In fact, the largest achievement gaps in the state are in suburban areas (see Figure 3). Across the state, 45 percent of our 58,000 low-income students attend non-urban schools. And although economically disadvantaged students outside of urban schools perform above their urban peers, nowhere in the state do more than half of these students pass state tests. The bottom line? Closing the achievement gap is not just a problem in our urban schools. Across the state, in all schools, too many students are significantly behind. For students from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds, the outlook is especially grim. In order to thrive, Rhode Island needs strong schools that can achieve dramatically better results for children of all backgrounds in every region of the state.

1 Education Week, Quality Counts 2008, pp. 42–44. 2 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Available: http://nces.ed.gov/ nationsreportcard/

2

The Role of High-Quality Public Charter Schools Given the large and persistent achievement gaps across the state, we cannot afford to leave any tool for transforming our public education system on the sidelines. Throughout the nation, the evidence clearly demonstrates that high-performing charter schools can play an integral

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

5


FIGURE 1 Average Scale Scores on NAEP, 4th Grade, 2009

score

Source National Assessment of Educational Progress. Available: http://nces.ed.gov/ nationsreportcard/

state

Reading

Math

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

6


Source National Assessment of Educational Progress. Available: http://nces.ed.gov/ nationsreportcard/

score

FIGURE 2 Average NAEP Scale Score Among Latino Students in Eighth Grade Math, by State

state

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

7


FIGURE 3 Students Scoring Proficient on State Tests in Math, 2009

Source Rhode Island Department of Education: Frequently Requested Data, “NECAP Fall 2009 Results Report Disaggregated� Online. Available: http://www.ride.ri.gov/ Applications/fred.aspx

Percentage of students

note Urban districts include Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence, and Woonsocket; urban ring districts include Cranston, East Providence, Johnston, Newport, North Providence, Warwick, and West Warwick; all other Rhode Island districts are considered suburban districts.

location

Economically Disadvantaged Non-Economically Disadvantaged

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

8


part in motivating statewide reform efforts by proving that achievement gaps can be closed and showing how this can be done. Public charter schools are tuition-free public schools. They do not increase a state’s education costs because they are funded based on the number of students enrolled, otherwise known as per-pupil funding. They are run by independent local governing boards, which are free to be more innovative but held accountable for improving student achievement and for meeting all state and federal education standards. To that end, a growing number of charter school networks have begun to show that dramatic results are possible to achieve at scale. Charter networks such as the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), Uncommon Schools, Aspire Public Schools, YES Prep and Achievement First operate many of the nation’s most successful charter schools in local communities, and together serve nearly 150,000 students throughout the country, more students than the entire K–12 Rhode Island public school system.3 In Rhode Island, our existing public charter schools continue to create new and better options for kids across the state. On 2010 state tests of student achievement, charter school students scored higher than students in the traditional district schools they likely would have attended in both reading and math. In reading, 67 percent scored proficient in charter schools compared to 56 percent in the districts where charter schools are located; in math, 49 percent compared to 40 percent (see Figure 4).4 Not only do charter school students on the whole perform higher on statewide assessments in Rhode Island, charter schools themselves can help initiate meaningful conversations and create innovative partnerships within a district to raise student achievement overall. Across the country, successful charter schools and networks often inspire innovation and transformation in the districts and states where they are located. Highly successful charter school networks in particular, like KIPP and Achievement First, serve a powerful role in the development of pioneering instructional practices, academic tools, and approaches to teacher preparation and support. Further, the majority of these organizations keep a special focus on college readiness and success, rather than just proficiency on state assessments. By pushing the envelope, charter schools can model innovative practices to serve students and increase achievement in ways that traditional schools can also adopt. Unfortunately, demand for charter schools in Rhode Island is growing faster than they are being added. In 2010, an estimated 3,600 students were on charter school waiting lists—more than the 3,500 students already enrolled.5 At the same time, until recently, Rhode Island’s laws have locked many of the best charter school networks out of our state.

3 Lake, R., Dusseault, B., Bowen, M., Demeritt, A., & Hill, P. (June 2010). The National Study of Charter Management Organization (CMO) Effectiveness: Report on Interim Findings. Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education. Available: http://www.crpe.org/cs/ crpe/download/csr_files/pub _ncsrp_cmo_jun10_2.pdf 4 Rhode Island Department of Education (2010). “Rhode Island’s NECAP Math, Reading and Writing Results for Grades 3–8 and 11: October 2010 Test Administration.” Available: http://www.ride.ri.gov/ assessment/DOCS/NECAP/ Reports_Results/10.2010/Fall_2010 _RI_NECAP_Results.pdf 5 National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. Student Overview: 2009–2010 Rhode Island. Retrieved from http://www.publiccharters.org/ dashboard/students/page/overview/ state/RI/year/2010

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

9


FIGURE 4 Performance in Rhode Island Charter Schools vs. Statewide & Home District Averages, 2010

Percentage of students

Source Rhode Island Department of Education (2010). “Rhode Island’s NECAP Math, Reading and Writing Results for Grades 3–8 and 11: October 2010 Test Administration.”

location

Reading

Math

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

10


3

Charter Schools, the Funding Formula and Rhode Island Mayoral Academies In the past three years, after more than a decade of high-performing charter school operators like KIPP and Achievement First passing Rhode Island by because of its restrictive funding system and restrictive charter law, we secured two major breakthroughs. The first breakthrough happened in 2008 when a mayor-led coalition representing over two-thirds of the state’s population partnered with legislative leaders to revise the state’s charter law to allow for a new type of charter school. The Mayoral Academies law eliminated the most restrictive aspects of Rhode Island’s charter school law, including provisions governing collective bargaining, educator hiring, and compensation. It also provided a more supportive environment for the nation’s best charter school operators to open schools that produce transformative results for students. In January 2009, this coalition of mayors came together to form RIMA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a network of new, highperforming mayoral academies. While the mayoral academies legislation enabled the opening of high-performing charter schools throughout the state, RIMA has been the driving force behind recruitment and support for new charter operators, actively working to bring proven networks to some of the neediest areas of the state. Since its founding in early 2008, RIMA has already achieved remarkable success. In 2009, RIMA successfully launched the first mayoral academy in the Blackstone Valley, known as Blackstone Valley Prep. In 2012, Blackstone Valley Prep will serve over 500 students in elementary and middle school. The second breakthrough occurred in 2010 when Rhode Island legislators finally passed a school funding formula, after having been the only state in the nation without one. Previously, district funding was not tied to enrollment and districts could apply for extra funding even if they were not among the state’s neediest. Charter schools were treated separately and unequally by this system. The new formula ensures that district and charter school funding be based on student need, and funds “follow the child” to the public school each family chooses. This model is often called “fair student funding.” This funding equity ensures that districts with more low-income students get the extra resources they need to educate their students and allows charter schools, including Mayoral Academies, to grow in accordance with student need and without extra cost to taxpayers.

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

11


4

Charter Schools and Rhode Island’s Race to the Top Plan In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education introduced Race to the Top as a $4.3 billion federal grant competition for states with the best proposals to improve their education systems. Rhode Island was one of 12 states selected as a Race to the Top winner and was awarded $75 million to be spent over four years, from 2010–2014. We came from behind on the basis of a strong application and important legislative reforms to beat out states such as New Jersey and Arizona by less than 20 points out of 500 total. As part of its comprehensive reform agenda and Race to the Top plan, RIDE committed to increasing the number of high-quality charter schools that can help eliminate the state’s persistent achievement gaps. To ensure that Rhode Island has more gap-closing charter school options across the state, RIDE pledged to focus in particular on recruiting highperforming national charter schools with a track record of outstanding student achievement. Specifically, in Section F of the Race to the Top application, Rhode Island earned 52 points by committing to ensure successful conditions for high-performing charter schools and other innovative schools.6 Furthermore, RIDE submitted Achievement First’s Letter of Intent to open a K–12 network of schools enrolling students from Cranston and Providence as evidence of Rhode Island’s commitment to attract high-performing charter schools.7 To support this growth, the General Assembly also raised the cap on the number of public charter schools allowed in Rhode Island, a key component of the state’s Race to the Top application. By raising the limit from 20 to 35, Rhode Island will have greater capacity to accommodate the estimated 3600 children on charter school waiting lists. Without these legislative changes and the strong and specific support for bringing high-performing charter schools into the state, Rhode Island would have lost out in the Race to the Top competition to close out competitors like New Jersey, which finished just 13 points behind. Since Race to the Top was an all-or-nothing competition, losing those points for our charter reforms would have lost us the entire $75 million. Of course, having won and received the first payment on this $75 million—the largest federal grant ever awarded to Rhode Island—we must now live up to the commitments made in the application. Bringing high-performing charter school operators into our state as part of a statewide expansion of charter schools is a critical step in following through on the promises we made.8

6 Rhode Island Race to the Top Panel Review by Applicant (2010). Available: http://www2.ed.gov/ programs/racetothetop/phase2 -applications/score-sheets/rhode -island.pdf 7 Rhode Island Race to the Top Application (2010). Available: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/ racetothetop/phase2-applications/ rhode-island.pdf 8 Rhode Island Race to the Top Application (2010). Available: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/ racetothetop/phase2-applications/ rhode-island.pdf

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

12


5

Achievement First: Proven Success at Closing Gaps The Achievement First network started with the founding of a Connecticut middle school in 1998 that aimed to prove that with strong leadership, teachers and school environment, students from historically disadvantaged groups could outperform students from the most advantaged communities in the state. Seeking to bring this gap-closing model to new families and new communities, the teacher founders created a nonprofit charter management organization that they named Achievement First. Twelve years and 19 schools later, Achievement First continues to produce groundbreaking results—so much so that in 2007, Achievement First’s Amistad Academy was highlighted by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationwide model for closing the achievement gap. In 2008, an Achievement First school in New York City performed in the top one percent of all district schools, ranking fourth among nearly 1,100 K–8 schools in the city. And in June 2010, Achievement First graduated its first senior class, with 100 percent of its students accepted into four-year colleges or universities.9 In Connecticut, schools in the Achievement First network continue to have a significant and substantial impact on the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and their wealthier peers. By the time Connecticut students graduate from an Achievement First school, they have closed a substantial portion of the state’s achievement gap. Specifically, at Amistad Academy middle school, the achievement gap in reading between economically disadvantaged incoming classes of fifth graders and their non-disadvantaged peers statewide is nearly 50 points, similar to the achievement gap in other Connecticut schools. However, by the eighth grade, Amistad Academy cuts the gap by twothirds, to only 19 percentage points. Meanwhile, in other Connecticut schools, the achievement gap persists between fifth and eighth grade (see Figure 5). Amistad Academy has achieved even more impressive results in math. By the time students reach eighth grade, the achievement gap is eliminated entirely. These students, all of whom qualify for the federal free lunch program, actually outperform non-disadvantaged students across Connecticut. In other Connecticut schools, the eighth grade achievement gap in math remains nearly unchanged over the middle school years (see Figure 6). Similar results can be found across this network of gap-closing charter schools. Achievement First’s Elm City College Prep, a middle school in New Haven, has nearly eliminated achievement gaps in math by the time students reach eighth grade, and reduced the gaps in reading by 16 percentage points. While only 70 percent of economically disadvantaged students in Connecticut schools score proficient on state tests

9 Achievement First 2010 Annual Report. Available: http://www .achievementfirst.org/schools/ network-overview/

Putting Achievement First

13

RI-can


FIGURE 5 Achievement Gap in Reading between Students Eligible for Free Lunch and Non-Eligible students, 2009–2010

Scale Score Points

Source This figure reports the difference between the average scale score among students eligible for free lunch in Achievement First schools and the average scale score among non-eligible students statewide. Connecticut Department of Education: CEDaR. “CAPT Sub-Group Report, 2009–2010.” Available: http://sdeportal. ct.gov/Cedar/WEB/ct_report/ CAPTLandingDT.aspx

level

Statewide Achievement Gap Amistad Academy Achievement Gap Difference Between Scale Score

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

14


FIGURE 6 Achievement Gap in Math between Students Eligible for Free Lunch and Non-Eligible students, 2009–2010

Scale Score Points

Source This figure reports the difference between the average scale score among students eligible for free lunch in Achievement First schools and the average scale score among non-eligible students statewide. Connecticut Department of Education: CEDaR. “CAPT SubGroup Report, 2009–2010.”

level

Statewide Achievement Gap Amistad Academy Achievement Gap Difference Between Scale Score

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

15


in math, every Achievement First school outperforms that average by 10 percentage points or more.10 In fact, in 2010 Elm City College Prep had the highest performing African-American elementary students in the state and Amistad Academy had the highest performing African-American middle school students in the state.11

6

Collaboration and Statewide Impact Like many high-achieving charter management organizations with a mission to close the achievement gap, Achievement First has also shown an eagerness to actively partner with the surrounding community to support system-wide transformation and student growth. In Hartford and New Haven, Achievement First operates a principal training program in partnership with the local school districts. Achievement First and district leaders jointly identify top teachers to take part in school-based residencies, splitting their time equally between Achievement First and traditional district schools. The goal is to ensure that the next generation of school leaders in these communities brings the best of both environments to the principalship. The organization has also pioneered the development of an interim assessment program designed to inform instruction, student interventions and professional development, which led to the adoption of a similar system by the New Haven district. Achievement First Schools have also benefitted from tremendous community support and involvement in each of the areas where they have opened. In New Haven, Mayor John DeStefano serves on Amistad Academy’s board, helping to guide the school’s policies and ensure the quality of its results. The schools have also brought transformational change to several districts where they are located, including helping to drive breakthrough new teacher contracts in New Haven and revitalize community investment and student achievement in Hartford. Each year, schools in the Achievement First network host hundreds of visitors, including educators, politicians, philanthropists, community leaders and other citizens who are eager to take elements of the Achievement First model back to their local schools. This commitment to using the schools as a proven ground for reforms that can be spread across districts and across states is a core part of the Achievement First model and will continue with the opening of a Rhode Island network of public charter schools. Indeed, Dr. Benjamin Skaught, the principal of Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford, Connecticut, testified to Achievement First’s positive impact on his school and the West Hartford Community:

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

10 Connecticut Department of Education: CEDaR. “CAPT SubGroup Report, 2009–2010.” 11 ConnCAN 2010 Top Ten Rankings. Available: http://www .conncan.org/sites/default/files/ ConnCAN%20Top%2010%20 Lists%20_2010.pdf

16


‌ Assuring that successful programs like Achievement First continue to exist in difficult times provides a model and an inspiration to other public school programs looking for ways to improve their own performance. I doubt there is a single school in Connecticut that is sitting idly by unaffected by the embarrassment of an achievement gap. There may be some who choose to explain it away. But there are many who could benefit by learning from those who have real students in real educational settings with real results. Our job as educators is to look for answers wherever they can be found. At Sedgwick we have found some answers by looking at the work being done by the Amistad Academy.

7

Seizing the Opportunity Rhode Island has embarked on an ambitious reform agenda and has committed to changes that hold tremendous promise for improving the quality of education for all students. To capitalize on opportunities we now have because of these recent advancements, the Board of Regents and RIDE must follow through on their commitments to identify and support the opening of gap-closing public charter schools as part of its $75 million Race to the Top plan. Achievement First is poised to offer hundreds of our students the same types of opportunities that their peers have experienced in neighboring states. Just as importantly, these nationally recognized charter schools will set in motion a statewide effort to bring new innovations and new approaches to schools across our state. The Achievement First charter application currently in front of the Board of Regents would not have been possible without the breakthrough made by the legislature in the past three years, including the creation of Rhode Island Mayoral Academies, the passage of a fair funding formula, and lifting the charter cap from 20 to 35 schools. Voting yes on this application will provide a critical jumpstart to a long-term effort to close Rhode Island’s enormous achievement gap. By contrast, a no vote could discourage other high-performing charter networks from even considering applying to come to Rhode Island, putting the goals laid out in our Race to the Top federal grant of $75 million at risk. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to pass up. Moreover, it is an opportunity hundreds of Rhode Island kids deserve.

Putting Achievement First

RI-can

17


About RI-CAN Rhode Island’s achievement gap—the persistent and significant disparity between the academic achievement of low-income and minority children and their white, middle-class peers—is the most urgent social and economic problem facing our state. We have one of the country’s largest achievement gaps between rich and poor kids, and each and every one of us is paying the price for our failing public schools. But Rhode Island, and the entire nation, was built on the promise of universal education. Public schools are the cornerstone of our democracy. Our future is inextricably linked to the education of our children—all of them. RI-CAN is building a new movement of concerned citizens advocating to fundamentally reform our public schools through smart public policies. We will not rest until every Rhode Island child, regardless of race, ethnicity, or class, has access to a great public school. www.RI-CAN.org

Putting Achievement First  

Rhode Island cannot afford to leave any option off the table in an effort to jumpstart statewide transformation. And our latest research sho...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you