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January 19, 1995 Testimony to: The Honorable Arlen Specter, Members of the Committee, Staff a n d Guests, Thank you for the opportunity to tell the story of one o f many successful charter schools i n the nation. Your interest in our work is sincerely appreciated a n d we hope it will be one that is long lived. Since others present today are much better qualified to give the national picture, my remarks will attempt to illustrate the Minnesota charter experience through its implementation at City Academy. The written testimony, I respectfully submit, contains the common goals a n d requirements o f each Minnesota charter school a n d the specific goals a n d a description o f City Academy as one example of the implementation of those goals a n d requirements. I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize the unique character o f each o f t h e Charter Schools in Minnesota. A testimony to the Minnesota legislation has been t h e development of 13 very unique education programs which have been responsive to the needs of the communities i n which they live, derive the program needs a n d reach the students. City Academy is one of Minnesota charter schools b u t representative primarily in the way the legislative mandates are met. An authoritative feature of Minnesota Charter Legislation is the ability to create unique and community sensitive education programs within a state educational concept. The verbal testimony I would like to present today deals with the concerns prior to the implementation of legislation and the reality as we have experienced it at City Academy a n d i n Minnesota a n d the possible role of the federal government. Concern:

Charter Schools will be an elitist movement, a "back door" to a voucher system.

While I will argue that o u r students are the "cream" because they have risen to the top a n d against remarkable odds, I believe that this concern was aimed at privileged individuals excluding moderate and low income individuals. The City Academy expeiience has been that those attracted to the school have been primarily low income a n d individuals who meet at least 7 of 14 factors which would place them i n a n "at-risk" category. Concern:

Charter Schools are a replication of what already exists i n the public education system. There are remarkable programs available throughout the public education systems within this country. To date, the innovations within existing public systems are n o t enough to meet the increasing expectations of public education. Twenty-five years ago there was a tolerable drop-out level, today's high school student is expected to earn a diploma, as a minimum. Educational option programs, (open enrollment, Post-Secondaiy Enrollment Options, Area Learning Centers, Adult Diploma Programs) of which charter legislation is one choice, are a n effort to increase a student's chances for success, not to undermine the overall effort of public education.


Due to the legislatively required teacher dominated board, charter schools in Minnesota have the ability to be responsible in a way that even the most innovative program lacks the equal in accountability a n d authority. Concern:

Charter Schools lack the appropriate level of accountability.

City Academy is accountable for curriculum, finance, health and safety requirements to the Board o f Directors o f City Academy, City of St. Paul, the Minnesota Department o f Education, St. Paul School District # 6 2 5 and Northern States Power Company. Any one of the aforementioned entities has the authority to suspend a n d / o r close operations with a thirty (30) day notice.- This has been an opportunity for charter schools to be ever vigilant i n the area of program review. Another unexpected level of review for charter schools has been the scrutiny of the media a n d policy institutes. Charter schools as a n e w education reform will have the added review o f the education policy institutes, media a n d education associations. Concern: Charter Schools will use sub-standard instruction o r re-imburse staff a t a sub-standard rate. Minnesota Charter Schools are required to employ licensed teachers, a reasonable a n d achievable request. To date, City Academy teachers have all experienced a n increase i n salary, benefit, and professional development compensation. Concern:

Charter Schools will decrease student access to programs.

In fact, the Minnesota experience has been to increase the education opportunities t o students. The Bluffview program n o w offers, a once private, education opportunity t o the community at-Iarge. Forest Lake School District chose to adopt a charter proposal as a district program. District 625 cooperates with City Academy to enhance programming for high lisk students. Federal Considerations: In Minnesota a major blockade to approval is the financial impact o n the residential district. This may account for the majority of Minnesota charter schools focus on difficult to teach students. A review of the purpose of educational reform is in order. Is Charter legislation a n attempt to create programs a n d methods which will reach greater numbers more effectively? Is this a question which is applied to each program? Are districts i n a financial position to judge needed innovation o r are they threatened by financial loss n o matter what the academic and student learning improvement gain might be? Is a federal insurance for innovation role appropriate?


In Conclusion: Repeatedly the public demands of education include: accountability proficiency accessibility responsibility In my limited a n d humble opinion, Charter Legislation, at its best, allows for all of the above. It enables the practitioner, the student, the parent a n d the community to model all of these demands i n a cooperative manner. Charter schools are not "the" answer for national educational success. "The Answer" is not available in a democracy. Charter legislation furthers the definition of democracy by providing an expanded definition o f educational success under the umbrella of democracy. Written Testimony: The inherent strengths of the Minnesota legislation that all existing Minnesota schools share are: Purpose

improve student learning increase learning opportunities for pupils encourage the use of different a n d innovative teacliing methods; and create n e w professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the site.

Authority

The sponsoring o r resident district shall have n o authority, control, power o r administrative responsibilities over the charter school.

Faculty Recruitment and Selection

The classroom teachers shall be Minnesota licensed teachers

Management and Administration

The Board of charter schools shall be composed of a majority of teachers and will have parents, community members a n d staff membership

Advisory

A secondary group to augment the Board activities, (budget, development a n d accounting)

Outcome Based Program

Charter schools shall develop outcome based learner programs


Financial

Charter schools shall meet the same financial auditing requii'ements applicable to all school distiicts under Minnesota statutes. Charter schools will be audited on an annual basis by a private auditor. Charter schools will contract for the necessary audits a n d the results will be available to the public upon request.

Public Status

Charter schools will be nonsectarian in all programs, admission policies, employment practices a n d any other operations. Charter schools will not affiliate with any non-public sectarian school o r a religious program with respect to its programs, admission policies, employment o r other operations.

Fees

Charter schools shall not charge tuition o r fees to the students enrolled except as permitted by Minn. Statute 124.248, Subd. 3, relating to special education, a n d Minn. Stat. 120.71 et.seq., relating to fees.

Health and Safety

Charter Schools shall meet the health a n d safety requii'ements of Minnesota school distiicts as required by Minn. Stat 123.70 a n d other related laws a n d regulations through contract(s) with licensed facilities a n d providers. Charter Schools will provide appropriate and necessaiy health and safety training to staff members a n d students to insure a safe learning environment.

Transportation

Transportation for charter school students will be provided pursuant to Minn. Stat. 120.064 through the sponsoring distiict o r other licensed providers as necessaiy.

Other Mandates

Charter Schools will develop policies for a n d train staff, a n d students as appropriate, o n the legal requirements applicable to Charter Schools including, but not limited to, non-discrimination, student discipline, pupil fees a n d other State requirements. Charter Schools will contract with legal counsel or other providers for policy development, review a n d training.

Admission

Vacancies will be selected by lot. Charter schools may establish criteria for admission.

liability

Charter schools assume liability with respect to all activities related to the charter school, and as such, h a s obtained appropriate liability insurance as required by statute.


CITY ACADEMY City Academy, t h e nation's first c h a r t e r school, is l o c a t e d o n St. Paul's East side i n the W i l d e r Recreation Center. T h e Academy w a s c r e a t e d i n c o o p e r a t i o n w i t h t h e City O f St. Paul, N o r t h e r n States Power C o m p a n y a n d w i t h t h e sponsorship o f St. Paul District # 6 2 5 a n d t h e M i n n e s o t a D e p a r t m e n t o f Education. City Academy is M i n n e s o t a I n d ep en d en t School District # 4 0 0 0 a n d a n o n - p r o f i t M i n n e s o t a Co r p o r a t i o n . T h e r e a s o n f o r establishing a n e w Academy w a s d u e to the g r o w i n g n e e d f o r a c a d e m i c p r o g r a m m i n g a i m e d at r e t u r n i n g alienated y o u n g adults lo p r o d u c t i v e a n d responsible roles w i t h i n the community. THE SCHOOL C i t y Academy is located i n the W i l d e r Recreation Center o n St. Paul's n e a r east side. T h e s c h o o l o p e r a t e s d u r i n g t h e n o n - p r o g r a m t i m e f o r the c e n t e r a n d cooperates w i t h t h e Center to c r e a t e m e a n i n g f u l a n d p r o d u c t i v e c o m b i n e d p r o g r a m m i n g . City Academy p r o v i d e s a p r e - s c h o o l p r o g r a m f o r eastside families staffed b y City Academy student volunteers. O n a w e e k l y b a s i s City Academy students w o r k w i t h t h e Senior Citizens w h o m e e t i n t h e center. C u r r e n t l y t h e s t u d e n t s a r e c r e a t i n g m u r a l s f o r t h e community. City Academy students h e l p m a i n t a i n t h e b u i l d i n g b e f o r e a n d a f t e r p r o g r a m hours. City A c a d e m y h a s as a m a i n g o a l c r e a t i n g positive connections b e t w e e n students a n d t h e c o m m u n i t y a n d e n c o u r a g i n g life-long l e a r n i n g skills. T h e East Side w a s c h o s e n b e c a u s e o f t h e expressed a n d p r o v e n need. A c c o r d i n g t o t h e 1 9 9 0 c e n s u s figures t h e immediate n e i g h b o r h o o d has a 40% d r o p - o u t (school a n d employment) r a t e f o r t e e n age youth. T h e building, a s a r e c r e a t i o n center, provides a w e l c o m i n g environment. T h e c e n t e r is a b e g i n n i n g n o t a n e n d to learning. W e use t h e site a n d m o v e i n t o t h e c o m m u n i t y t o e x p a n d opportunities. THE STUDENT A City Academy student has, i n t h e past, experienced; a c a d e m i c failure, poverty, homelessness, a c a d e m i c a n d / o r social exclusion, c h e m i c a l dependency, violent o r d e l i n q u e n t b e h a v i o r , t r u a n c y , p a r e n t h o o d , physical o r s e x u a l abuse. Every student w h o enrolls i n City Academy agrees t o b e c o m e p a r t o f t h e City Academy c o m m u n i t y that includes respect f o r t h e individuals a n d t h e c o m m u n i t y as a wh o l e . Students a g r e e t h at respect f o r others, the s c h o o l a n d t h e c o m m u n i t y is a necessary f o u n d a t i o n f o r success a n d a r e committed to w o r k together to achieve that end. T h e S t u d e n t Committee w a s f o r m e d t o a d d r ess t h e needs o f City Academy a s a community. Students a r e e l e c t e d to serve o n t h e committee a n d serve as a r e s o u r c e f o r students i n n e e d o f s u p p o r t , a c a d e m i c o r social. Student Committee m e m b e r s h a v e served a s a Speakers Bureau w i t h i n t h e c o m m u n i t y , s o u g h t jobs, advised o n c u r r i c u l u m a n d p l a n n e d events. At a l l times t h e focus is o n c r e a t i n g a n e n v i r o n m e n t w h e r e students l e a r n to b e responsible a n d a c c o u n t a b l e f o r t h e i r o w n b e h a v i o r a n d w o r k t o w a r d s b e i n g p r o d u c t i v e members o f t h e c o m m u n i t y a t large. C i t y Academy students a r e p r i m a r i l y 15-21 years o f age. T h e e t h n i c b a c k g r o u n d o f the s t u d e n t s includes: African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian-American a n d E u r o p e a n - A m e r i c a n w i t h t h e m a j o r i t y o f t h e students representing Minnesota's m i n o r i t y e t h n i c g r o u p s . T h e v a r i e t y of e t h n i c b a c k g r o u n d s p r o v i d e s r i c h c u l t u r a l b a c k g r o u n d f o r t h e learning environment. T h e m a j o r i t y o f t h e students live at, o r b e l o w poverty level a n d m o s t receive assistance. Each s t u d e n t m a k e s a c o m m i t m e n t to success, p e r s o n a l a n d community. Learning p l a n s a r e r e g u l a r l y r e v i e w e d to insure communication a n d support f o r personal a n d academic goal achievement.


ACADEMICS T h e focus o f t h e c u r r i c u l u m is "Learning f o r Life." Preparing f o r a n e v e r - c h a n g i n g w o r l d w h e r e a varie t y o f skills a r e required. T h e c u r r i c u l u m includes: Math Science Language Arts Social Studies Fine Arts Music Health Fitness Vocational P r e p a r a t i o n Communication W h e n e v e r possible City Academy has developed p a r t n e r s h i p s w i t h i n the c o m m u n i t y to e x p a n d l e a r n i n g e x p e r i e n c e s f o r the students including: N o r t h e r n Clay N o r t h e r n States P o w e r MADD HABITAT FOR HUMANITY A m a t e u r Sports Commission St. Paul Parks a n d Recreation St. Paul Police D e p a r t m e n t Guthrie Stepping Stone Science M u s e u m Hazeltine CLUES Citizens Council YWCA BURNET REALTY ESNDC

a r t classes vocational assessment a n d career planning j o b opportunities a n d m en t o r sh i p s clerical e x p e r i e n c e construction skills recreation l e a d e r t r a i n i n g child care program recreation a i d e t r a i n i n g public art mentor theater act i n g classes a n d w o r k s h o p s ch o i ce p r o g r a m s self awareness conflict r eso l u t i o n t r a i n i n g swimming a n d t r a i n i n g senior r e - h a b east side p r o p e r t y c l e a n u p

THE COMMUNITY City A c a d e m y wa s c r e a t e d to positively r e - c o n n e c t students w i t h t h e i r community. It is t h e belief o f t h o s e involved t h a t t h e school itself m u s t exemplify t h e v a l u e s o f community, responsibility, acco u n t a b i l i t y a n d positive contributions. Enrollment is l i m i t e d to 4 0 students a t a n y g i v e n time. At every o p p o r t u n i t y l e a r n i n g i n the c o m m u n i t y is m a d e possible. Establishing life-long l e a r n i n g skills a n d o p p o r t u n i t i e s is a n o n - g o i n g task f o r all involved w i t h City Academy.


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FINANCES City Academy is a public, M i n n e s o t a n o n - p r o f i t corporation. T h e r e a r e n o fees f o r a n y activity s p o n s o r e d b y City Academy. T h e m a i n source o f r e v e n u e is t h e State o f M i n n e s o t a s t u d e n t f o u n d a t i o n aid. I n addition, g r a n t s a n d s u p p o r t f r o m N o r t h e r n States P o w e r C o m p a n y a n d t h e City o f St. Paul m a k e City Academy a reality. In o r d e r to p r o v i d e the m u c h n e e d e d a f t e r - h o u r s , c o m m u n i t y o u t r e a c h a n d special needs p r o g r a m s City Academy pursues a d d i t i o n a l funds. T h e c u r r e n t a n n u a l operating b u d g e t f o r City Academy is $ 1 9 7 , 0 0 0 w i t h a p p r o x i m a t e l y 85% d er i v ed f r o m M i n n e s o t a Foundation Aid. Less t h a n 4% o f t h e total b u d g e t is d e d i c a t e d to a d m i n i s t r a t i v e costs. Stenmark, Inc. is t h e fiscal a g e n t f o r City Academy.

STAFF City A c a d e m y instructors a r e licensed M i n n e s o t a teachers. T h e g o a l a t t h e A c a d e m y is p e r s o n a l d i s t i n c t i o n f o r e a c h student a n d a l o w (5:1) student:teacher r a t i o is m a i n t a i n e d t o i n s u r e t h a t commitment. MODEL SCHOOL PROGRAM A l t h o u g h City Academy i n St. Paul is still i n its i n f a n t stages, i t c o u l d very w e l l p r o v e t o b e t h e s c h o o l m o d e l f o r the future. Here is a p r o g r a m that attracts a n d embraces all s t u d e n t s w h o s e l e a r n i n g i n t r a d i t i o n a l school settings has failed them. A n o t h e r i n t e g r a l c o m p o n e n t o f t h e City Academy c u r r i c u l u m is addressing t h e social a n d e m o t i o n a l n e e d s o f t h e students. W h a t w a s p a r t i c u l a r l y interesting a b o u t t h e students f r o m City A c a d e m y w a s t h a t it wa s obvious that emotional h e a l i n g w as p a r t o f the c u r r i c u l u m . They w e r e a b l e to t a l k a b o u t their p a s t school experiences i n a w a y that signified t h at s c h o o l s t a f f h a d assisted t h e m i n r e - f r a m i n g those experiences i n a m o r e positive m a n n e r . D e b o r a h A. S h i p p Clinical Research P a p e r May 199S 1992-1993 City A c a d e m y is a y e a r r o u n d p r o g r a m . I n j u n e , 1993, City Academy w a s p r o u d to p r e s e n t 1 7 y o u n g a d u l t s w i t h their diplomas, 15 o f these students h a d c o n f i r m e d p l a n s f o r p o s t - s e c o n d a r y e d u c a t i o n o p p o r t u n i t i e s i n c l u d i n g ; Vocational College, Private College a n d State Universities. 1993-94 I n j u n e , 1 9 9 4 , City Academy w a s p r o u d to p r e s e n t 21 young adults w i t h t h e i r d i p l o m a s , 2 0 of these s t u d e n t s h a v e c o n f i r m e d p l a n s f o r p o s t - s e c o n d a r y e d u c a t i o n opportunities. F o u r s t a r t e d t h e i r c o u r s e w o r k this s u m m e r , 16 a r e s c h e d u l e d f o r fall a n d t h e 2 1 s t is i n t h e f i n a l i n t e r v i e w i n g p r o c e s s f o r f u l l - t i m e e m p l o y m e n t w i t h NSP. In t h e fall City Academy, i n c o o p e r a t i o n w i t h t h e YWCA, w i l l o p e r a t e a 12 s t u d e n t c l assr o o m f o r students w h o a r e parents. Licensed c h i l d c a r e w i l l b e a v a i l a b l e o n site.


BENEFITS OF BEING A CHARTER SCHOOL As stated b y t h e members o f t h e Minnesota Charter School Network(Dec. 1 9 9 4 ) *Child centered "Flexibility "Commitment to learners a n d the school "Easy access to t h e school, curriculum a n d t h e learning process f o r parents a n d t h e community "Multi-aged classrooms "Control o f class size a n d learner:teacher ratio "Open Environment "Able t o respond quickly "Control a n d flexibility w i t h budget a n d resources to meet the n e e d s o f learners a n d t h e p r o g r a m objectives "Local control fo.r choosing staff "Heavy focus o n personal responsiblility a n d relationships "Learners more involved w i t h a n d i n community "Non-heirarchical structure "Sense o f extended family "More accountable- p a r e n t involvment significantly increased "Teachers sense o f ownership increased "Lower costs "No referendums Student Benefits: "Child centered "Broader based experiences "Greater involvement w i t h community "Blending o f vocational a n d academic "Students love to attend school "Feeling o f ownership "Students a r e valued, d o n o t get lost i n t h e system "Students take m o r e responsibility- for learning, skills, discipline "Greater sense o f self confidence a n d self esteem "Appreciation o f integrated a n d life-based learning "Goal based


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