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[winter 2017 edition]

SETTING the STANDARD INNOVATION | CHOICE | EXCELLENCE Investing in our educators and school leaders by providing tuition assistance towards CMU’s highly rated education programs.

(989) 774-2100 | Award

feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.


ppreciation, gratitude, thankfulness, words and feelings we too often associate only with the holiday prompted by the tradition of Pilgrims making their way in a new land. Yet, as we begin yet another new calendar year, half way through the school year, I find myself feeling thankful. Global terrorism, unbelievable acts of violence, including violence in and around too many of our schools, racial tensions, home foreclosures, political tension, extreme poverty in our own cities. Too many people are hurting in our lives today. Still, I remain thankful.


Thankful; [THaNGkfel]

On top of the uncertainty in our world is the magnified and growing academic pressure to achieve in spite of what students are faced with. Schools are confused by ever changing expectations, testing changes; standards and curriculum are constantly modified. Funding pressure, expense increases continue to handicap school efforts to meet new needs. Then too the politics of education have gotten ugly, attacks on charters, lots of mis-information and negative bickering all of which distract from the real challenges all schools face, meeting the needs of all students in our fractured society. I, still, remain thankful. Michigan specific surveying tells us that professionals in Michigan public schools are “demoralized.” A majority of Americans believe we will find alien life before we figure out how to provide all kids with a great education. Layered on top of all this is violence, violence around our schools, trauma in our schools, impacting our kids, impacting our teaching professionals. Yes, I am thankful. As individuals this is not what we expected, not what we desire. We didn’t want nor did we support the decline of our society, the failures of our economy or educational system. Yet these realities have triggered an assault on our ideals for the future of our children. How can we be thankful? The true measure of a people’s strength is how they rise to master that moment when the trial arrives. Just when we think we have reached our capacity to meet a challenge we are reminded that our capacity may be limitless. That’s why we think of the Pilgrims, of George Washington, and Lincoln and other remarkable people, when we think of our country and being thankful. So many remarkable people who faced the challenges in their time and found the capacity to be thankful in spite of their circumstances. Like me, I am thankful. I am thankful for educational heros, teachers, school leaders, education experts who all day, everyday put everything on the line for their students. Yes the classrooms of our schools are crowded with heroes on a mission for kids. They are our teachers, our parents and our friends. Yes, this coming year the halls of our schools are crowded with heroes. Heroes who will do what is hard. Heroes who will achieve what is great. As president at MAPSA it is an honor to advocate for you. It is a privilege to promote what you accomplish. And yes I am thankful, thankful for you and all that you invest in the students in your care. May you find peace, joy and thankfulness this year.




Cover Story

page 16


Keeping Parents Engaged

By Kyle Smitley

Meet the Bank Working with Charters

12 By Buddy Moorehouse

Beating the Odds: Charter School Students

24 By Patrick Cooney

Cultural Awareness & Knowing Yourself

27 By Angela Rodriguez & Susan Sturock


Letter from the President


Letters to the Editor


Chalk Talk


Cover Story

Thank you

Charters Work for Their Vision Creating Parent-Centric Culture The Impact of Childhood Trauma on Students

Our mission is to support charter schools in improving educational outcomes for Michigan’s children by advancing quality education through choice and innovation.



MEET THE TEAM vp of operations and strategy accounting coordinator parent & community outreach coordinator director of marketing and program design director of research and grants membership coordinator office assistant vp of communications president director of membership services director of instructional systems design vp of government and legal affairs administrator

angi beland angie boldrey amy bytof becky carlton julie durham candace embry karen kundrat buddy moorehouse dan quisenberry heather risner leah theriault alicia urbain sara vanderbilt

MAPSA BOARD member treasurer secretary member member member chair member vice chair-elect member

ralph bland - new paradigm for education john cleary - the thompson educational foundation don cooper - national charter schools institute mohamad issa - global educational excellence jennifer jarosz- charlton heston academy greg mcneilly - windquest group david seitz - apple computer, inc. tiffany taylor - teach for america buzz thomas - thomas consulting group tim wood - gvsu charter schools office

AD INDEX Center for Charter Schools CMU Saunders Winter McNeil, PLLC Choice School Associates Imagine Learning CMU Online Degrees CS Partners Innovators In Education Blog Detroit Institute for Children Flagstar Bank

Inside Front Cover pg. 9 pg. 9 pg. 10 pg. 10 pg. 10 pg. 15 pg. 23 pg. 23

National Charter Schools Institute General Agency & EMC Insurance Thrun Law Firm, P.C. Francis Young International Grand Valley State University Charter Day at the Capitol College Board Innovators In Education Symposium

pg. 23 pg. 26 pg. 27 pg. 27 pg. 27 pg. 30 Inside Back Cover Back Cover


he charter school movement has indeed impacted all schools in Michigan and has successfully contributed to the success of all schools. Charter schools were founded on the premise that innovation and research-based practices can have a positive impact in the classroom and directly on student learning and academic achievement. Charter school leaders and teachers have been willing to question the status quo and seek alternative ways to engage students in learning. The failure comes with our system of assigning kids to specific schools, not allowing parents the choice of a school and the lack of accountability for student success within those schools. Charter school leaders and teachers step out and take the time to figure out what is missing in a


pportunity. When the founders of our country drafted their vision for a new nation, the desire for greater opportunity was at the root of their actions. For thousands of Michigan children, charter schools have provided just that. Dan Quisenbury and MAPSA have contributed vision and leadership in this important endeavor, and we are proud to partner with them. At PrepNet Schools, we believe that all students deserve the opportunity to go to college and that designing schools to support and assure this outcome is an issue of social justice. I’d like to invite you to visit one of our five Michigan high schools so you can see for yourself what this looks like. At Grand River Preparatory High School this fall, for example, 131 seniors recently gathered after school for our “application mania” event. The excitement in the air was punctuated by a young woman who proudly announced to her teachers and classmates that she has already applied to seven schools and been accepted at three! Here, before the end of October, already half of the students have applied and been accepted into a four-year

student’s education; they budget and dedicate resources to address the educational needs of students and work tirelessly to fill the achievement gap. They are not willing to sit by and allow students to fail in the most important time of their lives - their K-12 education.


Charters Work Hard to Fulfill Their Vision Dr. Elizabeth Ruff Principal Jefferson International Academy

college, earning the right to augment their school uniform with “College Accepted” tee shirts. Last year at PrepNet’s five high schools, 100% of the 297 graduates were accepted into a four-year college, and 99% successfully completed at least two Advanced Placement courses. They also earned over 11.1 million dollars in college scholarships. Because of their achievements, all three of the eligible PrepNet schools (Grand River Prep, Wellspring Prep, and Arbor Prep) were recognized by the Washington Post as three of the top ten most challenging high schools in Michigan. Our students are making the most of their opportunity. Thank you to MAPSA and the many supporters of Michigan’s charter schools who have created this unique opportunity for children. Dave Angerer Director of Educational Services PrepNet




Create a ParentCentric Culture of Learning


hen school choice was born in Michigan back in 1994, it was embraced with passion, hope and commitment. The idea of empowering parents to choose their child’s educational path presented a new opportunity to improve family engagement. This idea has grown over the years. Now, 25% of families utilize school choice with 10% choosing charter schools. With the significant demand for school choice and their intended outcomes, the most important improvement needed in student achievement, has not yet been fully realized. Some of the proclaimed challenges to reaching the outcomes might surprise most outside of education: Parent engagement. Attendance. Student Attrition. As the choice movement moves into the next 20 years and strives to achieve beyond the original vision, it may be necessary to start looking at the responsibility of overcoming these challenges differently. It may be necessary to flip our education model upside down and look to see how schools can support parents rather than how parents can support schools. Education as we know it in Michigan has been forever changed by the economic hardships hitting Michigan. As a result, the family dynamic has also changed, presenting an opportunity for charter schools to truly answer the call of innovation and servant leadership and embrace the responsibility of creating a parent-centric culture of learning that is responsive to the

community served. What does a parent-centric culture of learning look like? School cultures are mindful and responsive to the external stressors that families are facing. Reasonable expectations are established for parent engagement, with heavy consideration to the fact that choosing a school is the beginning and end of parent engagement for a lot of families. A school culture must relieve stress for the parent. Assistance to reducing that stress may include drop-off and pick-up times aligned with traditional work schedules, implementation of a tutoring program to assist with homework or programs that fulfill a critical need for families such as meal plans, laundry facilities and computer access. Schools could even create programs that go beyond basic needs to include parent education. Create processes with the parent in mind. Be it enrollment, conferences, or discipline strategies, parent-centric schools must build processes by walking in the shoes of a parent. Consider what it may be like to be a parent that receives a call in the middle of the day requesting pick-up of a child because policy demands it. Or, consider the timing available for parents to speak with staff and ensure there are options convenient for the average workday. Consider the process of enrollment and the challenges that may face a parent, such as literacy, work schedules, etc.

Develop your school calendar with the parent in mind. The development of a parent-centric school calendar considers the impact it has on a family. Could two half-day options become one full-day option, providing childcare for the day? Are there options for volunteer opportunities outside of the traditional school day to allow parents to engage at a convenient time for them? Consider how the school can partner with community organizations to create a year-round calendar of learning that creates consistency for a family. Whatever the answers are that make most sense for your school, the take-away is that as leaders in choice and innovation, charter schools have a responsibility to overcome the proclaimed challenges by embracing them, innovating around them and creating parent-centric cultures of learning that achieve significant outcomes.

Believe in the to



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The Key to Parent Engagement: Meeting Them Where They’re At Kyle Smitley Founder Detroit Achievement Academy & Detroit Prep


hen Detroit Achievement Academy opened in 2013, in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, we knew that parent engagement was going to be a challenge. We also knew that it was going to be the key to our students’ success. We weren’t going to be able to help children reach their full potential unless we had participation and buy-in from their families. The most important factor in parent engagement is communication. You can’t engage a parent in their child’s education until you’re able to contact them effectively. The key to communicating with parents is meeting them where they’re at. You can’t just send out an email or a newsletter and assume that everyone is reading it. You have to meet the families, find out about them, and learn what best works for them. Most of our families prefer to communicate through texts, so that’s how we communicate with those families. We use a program that will send them regular text updates on what’s going on. We have other families that prefer email, so that’s how we communicate with them. We have others that are on Facebook several times a day, so we have separate private Facebook groups set up for each class and disseminate necessary information with them that way. The key to parent engagement is this: Rather than asking them to conform to what you’re doing, you have to conform to what’s best for them. Every time we get a new enrollee, we set up a meeting with the family. Sometimes, our teachers will even go to a student’s house

if that is what it takes. We have to make sure that everybody is on the same page with the child’s education. After finding out that student’s situation, we then have to determine how best to communicate with the family. Once we have that in place, the next step is to make sure the families feel welcome and that they know we value their input. The best thing we can do is to get them to be a partner in their child’s education, and that can’t happen until they feel welcome and valued. We’ll invite them in to spend the day in their child’s class so that they can experience their child’s education first-hand. It’s amazing the buy-in you get once a parent feels welcome and valued in their child’s classroom. They’ll feel open to communicate with you, and you’ll feel more open to communicate with them. Every family is different and every child’s situation is different. Inside the classroom, you have to meet the student where they’re at, and outside the classroom, you have to meet the family where they’re at. That’s why our teachers and staff do a lot of outreach before school even starts. We aren’t just establishing a relationship with the student – we’re establishing a relationship with the parents and with the family. Once that happens, we can make sure we all have the same mindset when it comes to the child’s education. We’re all partners in the child’s education, and we have to establish that right from the start. Kyle Smitley is the founder and executive director of Detroit Achievement Academy and Detroit Prep, two charter elementary schools located in the City of Detroit.



Community Bank Helps Community

Charter School Tell us about the history of OSB Community Bank. It’s always been difficult for charter schools – particularly newer ones – to find banks and lending institutions willing to do business with them. And when they can, the terms are often outrageously lopsided against the school. That trend was broken, though, when Light of the World Academy – a firstyear charter school in Pinckney – was able to find a lending partner in OSB Community Bank, a small bank based in Onsted. Even though the school was new as a charter, the bank loaned it money for its facility and operating expenses. Why was OSB Community Bank willing to do business with a charter school – when so many other banks won’t? We sat down with OSB Community Bank President Rick Northrup for the answers.

OSB Community Bank started in 1907 as Onsted State Bank. It prospered and did very well and eventually moved to Brooklyn, where it changed its name to OSB Community Bank. OSB has a great history of serving its customers, and helping them prosper and succeed. Currently the bank is in an expansion mode. We’re raising capital to expand into Washtenaw County. We operate three branches in Onsted, Brooklyn and the hamlet of Clark Lake, and we just opened a new office in Ann Arbor that will eventually be a full branch. We’re a small bank. A community bank is something that’s generally thought of as $500 million in assets or less. We’re a little less than $100 million, so we’re on the small end of community banks. How do you define what a community bank is? We define a community bank as one that takes on community risk, and does so with local decision-making. It can thereby be effective for the shareholders

and the customers. A lot of banks that call themselves community banks don’t actually take on the community risks and they don’t actually have local decisionmaking, and we do. We think it’s important for people who borrow money from us to have a direct relationship with the people who make the decisions regarding their loans and decisions. In general, why do you consider charter schools an attractive option for your bank, as a lending partner? We think the entrepreneurial nature of charter schools is important because it helps drive enrollment, and we have to make sure a school’s enrollment is strong before we can partner with it. The nature of charter schools makes them an attractive option for families looking for something different than their local school district. Our mission is to deploy the shareholders’ capital in a profitable way, and anytime that there’s an industry that’s growing, thriving and developing – no matter what industry it might be – that’s of interest to us.

In a lot of ways, there are parallels between charter schools and the tech industry. They’re both relatively new, they’re both growing, and you need to take the time to understand them. And in both industries, there are a lot of dreamers. We need to find the dreamers who are also able to execute. How did you become involved with Light of the World Academy? I was aware of the school because I live out in that area, and I received an email from a friend and colleague whose kids went to the school. He said that they could use some help on the financing side, and he asked if we would talk to them. We began to learn about the school and its mission, and we learned about its conversion from a private school to a charter, how it had been a successful private school for 13 years before it became a charter school. We thought there was an opportunity for us to help. We were aware of some of the financing opportunities they were looking at, and we thought we could do better.

What steps did you take to evaluate the school? We came out and visited the school, met with the board and the school leadership team. We studied their Montessori educational approach, which was very important to us. One of the things we look at in the boring bank world is that we like to look at the most discrete part of the business to see if it makes sense on an economic level, so we looked at it from the classroom level. Can this school generate a surplus at the classroom level building in the fixed costs? Our analysis showed that it could. So, once you’re comfortable on the classroom level that the school could generate a surplus, then it’s scalable. Were you aware how difficult it’s traditionally been for charter schools to find a good lending partner? I was, because we knew that you don’t see many banks working with charter schools. There are risks within it, particularly when you’re talking about loaning money for a facility. In the banker parlance, you have a special-purpose facility. You have a school

building, and when banks loan money, they think about if that building or facility comes back onto the bank’s books, how easily can we get our money out of it? That’s one reason banks have a hard time in general working with charter schools. It can actually be a better situation in some cases if the school is located in a facility that can be used for another purpose – like an old store, for instance. The other factor is that it’s a school, and there are factors that are going to impact enrollment. If the educational quality of the school starts to decline, then enrollment is going to decline. So from the bank’s perspective, you really have to be confident in the school leadership team, their qualifications and the educational quality of the school. Why was OSB Community Bank willing to work with a charter school when so many other banks and lending institutions weren’t? It’s a specialty area. You need to take the time to do your homework. Most larger banks haven’t built a specialty unit around

Rick Northrup - President, OSB Community Bank 13

charter schools, so they don’t do business with them. You might find one lending officer at a larger bank who gets it and is willing to take a look at a charter school, but then the credit office or another person in the chain says, “I don’t have the time to learn about this.” So there are some barriers there. If another charter school came to you, what are some of the factors you’d look at? First of all, what is their operating history? How long have they been a school? What are their enrollment trends looking like? What are their educational outcomes like? We would also look at the background and experience levels of the people operating the school. We’d also look at the history of how well the families are involved in the school, because that would send a signal to us. If there were buildings that needed to be financed, we’d look at those factors. We would look at the

other educational alternatives in the area, so if the charter school wasn’t successful in that building, would another school be able to come in and operate a school there – either another charter school or a private school. We would look at who the school’s authorizer is, and what their history is. That’s also going to be very important to us. Not every deal is going to be a deal that we can do, but we’re willing to look at all the factors surrounding a school.

For more information on OSB Community Bank, visit or call 517-592-1060.

InnovatED Blog Trauma-Informed Schools This is the second blog post in a series that will uncover the social-emotional support systems needed in schools to support students who are exposed to trauma and stress. All schools and teachers have worked with children who have experienced trauma. The first step for any school or teacher to become trauma-informed is to understand who experiences trauma in your building and why, and how it impacts learning. Visit for more. Childhood trauma and stress resides in every classroom and in every school. We live in a complex and arduous society where adults and children alike face chronic stress and demand. Children who live in poverty are at higher risks for exposure to trauma particularly, although kids from all backgrounds can face grief or abuse in their lifetime. Understanding the impact life experiences can have on children is important and how stress and trauma impact brain development and childhood behaviors can be key to unraveling the ball of learning. Child brain development and physiological impacts vary for each child. As an educator, it can be helpful to better understand the varying differences and impacts to continue to shape our mind and reactions to students in the classroom. We might not know each child’s story or experience, but by first educating ourselves in the impacts and behaviors, we may be more open-minded and less quick to judge and react to “bad behaviors.” Every child is born with a unique disposition. From the moment a baby

is born, there is unique temperament the child enters this world with. That temperament increases throughout their lifetime, but provides a neurological makeup that can be affected by trauma and stress. Both nature and nurture impact brain development. Almost every significant child development stage can be impacted both by nature and nurture. Although each child is born with a temperament and disposition, which alone will impact their learning ability, equally, their experiences and exposure to stress can impact them too. Traumatic memories are stored differently in the brain. Often these graphic images and sensations can be triggered throughout a child’s lifetime by various sounds and visuals and can be overwhelming to re-experience. Stress response systems are exposed to developmental delays. When a child is under constant stress of flight or fight mode, it can damage their body’s stress system. As the child grows older, they may seem to “overreact” in normal stressful situations because this was CHARTER CONNECT - WINTER 2017

damaged earlier. Trauma impacts the nervous systems in children. Without mental stimulation, children who live in consistent trauma can experience varying degrees of physiological impacts, including chronic sickness and aches and pains. The recovery process is unique to each child and situation. It is important to note what is particularly important for children recovering from a traumatic experience is the number of caring and consistent adults in their lives and educators definitely count toward that! Whatever you may call it; poverty, trauma, stress, suffering, neediness, anxiety; the reality is that now more than ever our children are asked to perform better and get over it quicker. Education and schools can be a safe haven for many students, but as we continue to meet their needs it is important to provide perspective of what needs we are meeting without providing sympathy or an excuse as to why some kids can’t achieve, but to give them the tools necessary to achieve which often times is patience and love.



d o o h d l i : Ch a m u a r T Impact onnd

Thedents aing Stu Learn


Julie Durham Director of Research & Data Initiatives MAPSA


chools in Michigan are working hard. Charter schools in Michigan are working really hard. They are consistently serving students with high rates of poverty in urban settings. They are enrolling students who aren’t performing at other schools and walk into the building already behind their classmates before they even take a seat. They receive less funding, on average, per student than traditional schools. And they are constantly defending their right to exist as an education option for students. But we also know that charter schools are making a lot of headway. They are cementing interim assessments as a key component of their curriculum. They are taking advantage of the freedoms in their charter to innovatively teach students by implementing things like longer school days and year round calendars. Charter schools are purposely choosing to work in the hardest neighborhoods and teach the hardest to serve students. Charters are implementing innovative curriculums and school structures, and hiring and developing new teachers. They are applying tried and true, research-supported programming to help manage student behavior and increase

student-teacher relationships. So many schools are working so hard and doing all the right things. Strong teachers, solid programming, positive behavioral programs. Still they aren’t getting the results in student achievement that they want or expect. What is going on? Why are some schools struggling to make progress despite their best efforts? In May 2016 the American Academy of Pediatrics declared poverty as one of the biggest health issues facing American children: “Child poverty also influences genomic function and brain development by exposure to toxic stress, a condition characterized by ‘excessive or prolonged activation of the physiologic stress response systems in the absence of the buffering protection afforded by stable, responsive relationships.’ Children living in poverty are at increased risk of difficulties with self-regulation and executive function, such as inattention,

“Michigan charters are more than twice as likely to serve minority populations than traditional schools” CHARTER CONNECT - WINTER 2017

impulsivity, defiance, and poor peer relationships. Poverty can make parenting difficult, especially in the context of concerns about inadequate food, energy, transportation, and housing.” Additionally: “Demographics have a profound influence on the likelihood that a family or community will experience poverty or low income. For example, African American, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native children are 3 times more likely to live in poverty than are white and Asian children.” No two American cities better demonstrate the toll that ingrained poverty can have on a community than Flint and Detroit, where almost 30% of Michigan’s charter schools are located. Each city has seen large-scale population declines, a concentration of poverty, and a breakdown in the provision of basic services. Each city has seen the emergence of state-appointed governance models, limiting the influence of democratically elected leaders. Detroit citizens have experienced massive utility shut offs, and many Flint families can’t drink the water piped into their homes. Schools in both Detroit and Flint continue to perform at rates well below the state and national averages, and both continue to outpace cities around the nation in violent crime and murder rates, according to the 2015 FBI crime-rate statistics.

According to the Kids Count Report published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, more than 60% of children in Detroit receive food assistance. Two-thirds of children in Detroit have parents who lack secure employment. Seventy-one percent of children in the city live in single parent households. A full 84% of children in the city live in areas designated as high poverty, compared to 17% statewide; and 34% of children live in extreme poverty in Detroit, three times the state rate. Almost 50% of adults in the city are considered functionally illiterate. The Census’ American Community Survey reports that the children in Flint fair similarly. Fifty-four percent of the city’s population is African American. More than 60% of families survive on less than $35,000 a year, in part due to over 80,000 jobs lost in the auto-manufacturing sector. Almost two-thirds of Flint residents spend more than 35% of their income on housing. Over 70% of households in Flint with children under 18 are headed by a single parent. Approximately 35% of adults in Flint read at the 1st grade level. It is no surprise then that students in Detroit and Flint are more likely to live in unsafe neighborhoods, be exposed to violence, and have unstable and transient living arrangements. Students are more likely to experience food insecurity, be abused, or witness abuse. Researchers have estimated that between 70-100% of students residing in poor, inner-city schools have been exposed to trauma or adverse childhood experiences. The problem might be concentrated in poor, urban areas, but it doesn’t exist there exclusively. It is estimated that over 60% of all students are exposed to adverse childhood experiences. So while poverty is certainly a big factor in trauma and stress exposure, the

every day lives of all students can negatively influence their social emotional development. Furthermore, research has gone as far as suggesting consistent exposure to this type of poverty is a strong predictor of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), (Valentina, Spatz & Sally, 2013). Teachers of students experiencing trauma, prolonged stress or PTSD can expect to see adverse student reactions in the classroom manifesting in the form of reactivity and impulsiveness, aggression, defiance, withdrawal and perfectionism according to the Massachusetts Advocates for Children, 2005. It is little wonder, then, that we see lower academic results and higher rates of discipline among students who are exposed to trauma and stress. Every day hundreds of thousands of Michigan students wake up, get dressed, and make their way through the doors of schools all over the state carrying overloaded backpacks. In their backpacks they have books, pencils, water bottles, folders. They have also packed hunger, violence (committed against them and by them), poverty and homelessness. Verbal, physical, sexual and emotional abuse zipped up in the front pocket. Substance abuse, divorce, and death in the inside pocket. Their bag is heavy, weighing down their stride, making forward progress slow. Sometimes, the weight of their bag is so immense that it halts any and all movement. If the student is walking through the doors of a charter school in Michigan, their bag is likely to be heavier than others. They are more likely to be poor, be a minority, and move schools more often. Michigan charters are more than twice as likely to serve minority populations than traditional schools. Over 70% of charter students in Michigan fall below the poverty line,



compared to only 43% statewide. In fact, many charter schools in Michigan have made it their mission to serve these specific students; despite the hurdles, challenges and baggage that comes with that decision. With this commitment comes challenges. As school leaders and teachers, you are aware of the issues and challenges that your students face. You might not always know specifics; students are rarely forthcoming with the dreadful details of what is in their backpacks and on their minds. But as the adults who spend the most waking hours with them, you feel the effects on their behavior, their emotions and their grades. Many schools have begun to address what they think is the problem by implementing a plethora of supporting programming in their schools. Existing classroom management programs tend to support the development of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), where the focus is modeling and rewarding positive behavior ( Michigan’s Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative (MIBLSI) has successfully supported schools in the development of integrated PBIS models and yielded positive impact but has also noted that implementation of PBIS is not sufficient in reducing disproportionate disciplinary practices and outcomes for minority students. So, what is a school to do? Your school’s responsibilities have already shifted from providing basic academics to providing breakfast, tutoring, after school programs, financial aid assistance for high school students. Preparing students for high stakes assessments, teaching foreign languages and computers, psychology and creative writing. Managing student prescriptions, remembering allergies, keeping track of who is allowed to pick up students. All this is happening in the highstakes environment of standardized assessments and accountability. How can a school be responsible for yet another outcomes with their students? Surely, this all sounds daunting. And it is. But it is also incredibly important. Schools have long been trying to address the adverse affects that trauma has on a student, often times without really understanding the context. Programs aimed at cultural awareness, relationship building, and classroom management lack a true comprehension of how extensively trauma impacts a student’s social, emotional, and neurological development. And they often lack any introspection required on the teachers’ part. As a result we have seen the development and implementation of many programs that have minimal or even negative impacts on students. Positive behavioral interventions and supports have shown some positive impacts, but have no effect on the disciplinary occurrences of minority students. Cultural 20

competency and awareness training is often focused on being aware of your students, with little attention on being aware of yourself. Or maybe the training talks about how to incorporate materials, posters and visuals from different cultures and ethnicities in your classroom. Real, honest discussions on bias and its impact are rare. Zero-tolerance policies have increased the number of students in the school-to-prison pipeline, instead of discouraging bad behaviors. Students of color continue to be disciplined at harsher rates for lesser infractions than their white counterparts. So what can your school do? How can you get started in addressing this complex, societal issue? What can you do today? You can begin by creating a culture of introspection. MAPSA has spent time gathering member feedback and has identified three key areas that we feel are important for working in schools where there is a prevalence of trauma: cultural competency, knowledge of trauma, and school staff self-care.

First, teachers and leaders need to understand the backgrounds of their students and how their own backgrounds influence their behaviors. Everyone has bias, it is a natural protective instinct to be able to make quick judgments impact your safety. But bias can also inadvertently impact how you treat someone. What do you really think is the cause of your students’ bad behavior or missed homework? What do you assume about their home life? Their parents? Their parents’ education levels or working status? Are you more accepting of similar behaviors from one student than another? Do you assume that some students are “fine” because they have married parents or are middle class? How much do you pay attention to your own biases? Are you aware of them and how they impact your decisions? Are you open to exploring them and correcting for them? Secondly, teachers and school leaders must be aware of what trauma is and how it manifests itself. What can cause trauma? How can one occurrence cause a traumatic response in one

“teachers and leaders need to understand the backgrounds of their students and how their own backgrounds influence their behaviors” CHARTER CONNECT - WINTER 2017


student, while another student copes well? What does trauma look like in the classroom? What behaviors are a result of longterm exposure to stress and trauma? How might students exposed to trauma react different to authority figures or other students? Do all traumatic responses look the same? How does trauma impact learning? Impulse control? Trust of others? How are teachers supposed to know if a student has experienced trauma? What do they do with that information? How should you interact differently with students who are exposed to trauma? How might a teacher’s own trauma impact their work in the classroom? How can you relate to someone with trauma if you have never experienced it yourself?

to develop strong relationships with their students? Are teachers encouraged to share their own experiences with students? Are you crazy about your kids? Do you welcome the opportunity to embrace the most struggling children?

Finally, teachers and school leaders must take care of themselves. Working with students is challenging. Working with challenging students is even harder. Caring comes at a cost. The more in tune a teacher or leader is to what is happening in the individual lives of their students, the more likely they are to shoulder that burden. In fact, counselors actually have a name for it: compassion fatigue. If you don’t address compassion fatigue, chances are you will likely suffer from something you are much more familiar with: burnout. How do you take care of yourself? What do you do in your downtime? Does downtime sound like a foreign concept? Are you feeling like you are constantly sick? Having trouble sleeping or eating? Do you have a confidant that you can talk through student issues with? Does your school support the mental health of their teachers? Do teachers have access to positive, supportive networks to debrief and recharge?

Be Curious: Each person at your school has a story. As a school leader or teacher, it is your job to learn the stories of each of your students, to be curious about who they are. Do you ever wonder why one of your students comes to class really happy, but by the end of the day they are acting up? Ask them. Maybe you will find that they love the stability of school and the warmth of the classroom. Ask a parent how they doing, and look them in the eye when you do it. When they say “fine” but the lines around their eyes suggest otherwise, ask again: “No, how are you really doing?” Being genuinely curious and interested in others, whether they are parents, teachers or students, creates the foundation for solid relationships and communication.

What else can you do? The Four C’s: Crazy, Courageous, Curious and Compassionate Be Crazy: At MAPSA’s recent Innovators in Education Fall Symposium, Philadelphia principal Salome Thomas-EL challenged attendees to sit with this concept: “Every child deserves at least one person who is crazy about them.” When a child is exposed to trauma, often times the trauma is caused or simultaneously experienced by the parent or caregiver. Teachers and school leaders might be one of only a few adults available to be crazy about them. Even if their home life is stable, every child should feel the solid connection and support of at least one adult at their school. What structures are in place at your school to encourage teachers


Be Courageous: It takes courage to examine your own behavior and how it might be impacting your school. Ask yourself critical questions. Are you still fully committed to the profession? Are you burnt out? Are your biases getting in the way? Answering these questions honestly takes courage. If you don’t like the answers, doing something about it takes even more courage. You deserve your courage. Your students deserve your courage.

Be Compassionate: Each of us has at least one student in your class who is experiencing the adverse effects of trauma. Most of you have more than one student. Remember, over 60% of people have at least one adverse childhood experience. Think about that for a minute. In the context of a 20-student classroom, around 12 students will have witnessed domestic violence in their home, have a parent with a substance abuse problem or been sexually abused. What about your classroom, your language, your school’s structure makes them feel safe? What about your behavior lets students know that they can trust you? How do you show your students that you are committed to them achieving academic and emotional success? So we challenge you. We challenge you to be vulnerable, open, and empathetic. We challenge you to look beyond the easy explanation for student behavior. We challenge you to support your teachers and each other in embracing the unique, and sometimes painful, experiences of your students. We challenge you to take time for yourselves, to digest the gravity of your responsibilities, and to recharge your battery, refill your cup. We challenge you to continue the good fight, in face of these obstacles, and because of them.

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BEAT THE ODDS Patrick Cooney Policy Associate Michigan Future, Inc.


hese days, it seems that nearly every high school serving lowincome students can boast of a 100% college acceptance rate. Indeed, it’s a very low bar to clear. Because community colleges and some four-year schools are open-enrollment, achieving a 100% college acceptance rate simply means that you’re able to get everyone to fill out an application. From that point on is when the real work begins. In the summer after high school graduation, researchers estimate that between 10-40% of students experience “summer melt,” and fail to follow through on their college plans – a phenomenon most prevalent amongst low-income students. Just 62% of high school graduates from the lowest income quartile enter a


college of any type after high school. And of the low-income students that do make it to college, just 26% will have a bachelor’s degree six years later. Backing these numbers out, this means that only 16% of low-income high school graduates end up with a bachelor’s degree. Beating the odds But there are examples of charter schools that are beating the odds: schools serving a high proportion of low-income, minority, and first-generation students, whose graduates are earning college degrees at two and three times the national average. At YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, Texas, 41% of graduates go on to earn a four-year degree; 34% of alumni from the Noble Network of High Schools in Chicago earn a bachelor’s degree; and the KIPP schools, though historically only a network of elementary and middle-

schools (though they now have 26 high schools across the country), have a 44% bachelors attainment rate for all of the students that graduated from one of their middle schools. All serve a student population in which the vast majority of students are low-income, minority, and first-generation college-goers. So what are these schools doing differently? How are they able to attain the results they do? Most of these schools earned early praise for high test scores, following some variant of the “No Excuses” model of structured discipline, data-driven instruction, extended learning, and frequent-testing. But all soon discovered that when the goal is college graduation, a good test score isn’t nearly enough. Indeed, to get to where these schools have, and to get to where they want to go, it seems test scores are only a small part of the equation.

College Matching and Alumni Support A 2009 book called Crossing the Finish Line made headlines as the authoritative study on college success. Three researchers (including the former Presidents of Princeton University and Macalester College) used an enormous data set of students from across the US, that followed them from 9th grade through to college graduation, to figure out what students graduate from which colleges and why. One of the central findings from the book was that where you enroll in college matters – a lot. Specifically, students who undermatched, who went to a less selective college when they could have gotten admitted to a more selective college, were far less likely to graduate than those that attended a match college or an overmatch college. More selective institutions have far more resources to devote to student success, are filled with more motivated, higher achieving peers, and have far higher graduation rates than less selective colleges. All of the networks that are achieving extraordinary college completion rates have taken these findings to heart, placing a relentless focus on college matching. Students at these schools don’t just apply to any college, but apply to a few really selective “reach” schools, a few “match” schools that fit their academic profile, and a few “safety” schools where they’re all but guaranteed admission. Students and counselors evaluate schools on their historical six-year minority graduation rates, and the amount of need-based aid they typically award low-income students. And students apply to a mix of institutions, from in-state public institutions to small, private liberal arts colleges across the country where low-income students have found success. To run this type of program, all of the schools put significant resources into college counseling, allowing each student to receive the one-on-one support needed to get them to a match college. YES Prep boasts a student-college counselor ratio of 40 to 1, compared to the national average of 471 to 1.

And the support doesn’t stop at high school graduation. All of these networks also have alumni support programs, in which an advisor works with a cohort of students to ensure they avoid summer melt, get socially and academically integrated on campus, connect to oncampus supports, and navigate the academic, social, and financial hurdles they’ll meet in college. Noncognitive Skills and GPA So where one goes to college matters a great deal. But what about the characteristics of the students themselves? What are the student-level indicators that predict college-graduation, regardless of where they attend? While the nationwide college-readiness conversation seems to revolve around achieving a “college-ready” score on the SAT or ACT, Crossing the Finish Line found that it was a student’s high school GPA that was a far more powerful predictor of their eventual college success. And while conventional wisdom suggests that GPA is too subjective to mean anything, this finding stood regardless of the high school the student attended. “Good” high school or “bad” high school, a high GPA is predictive of college success. GPA is thought to be predictive because while it measures content mastery in part, it also largely measures this broad composition of academic habits and non-cognitive skills – things like conscientiousness, self-advocacy, and the ability to persist through challenges – that really matter for success, both in high school and in college.

“ was a student’s high school GPA that was a far more powerful predictor of their eventual college success” CHARTER CONNECT - WINTER 2017

And the high-achieving networks have internalized this finding as well. KIPP schools, guided by the work of University of Pennsylvania psychologists Martin Seligman and Angela Duckworth, have developed a framework of 8 non-cognitive skills – things like optimism and grit – that they believe lie behind academic and personal success, and want to develop in their students. And at YES Prep, they’ve developed a 9-12 curriculum of nonacademic skills built around the work of William Sedlacek at the University of Maryland – including things like “the ability to navigate the system” and “positive-self concept” – to try and build the skills and mindsets needed for college success that aren’t captured in a test score. Confirming the findings The importance of the “non-cognitive” skills that lie behind GPA and the graduation rates of the colleges students attend have also been confirmed time and again by the high-performing networks themselves. In conversations with Noble schools, they’ve told us that a student’s high school GPA from Noble is almost perfectly correlated with their college persistence, and that their students graduate at almost exactly the same rate as the historical minority graduation rate of the college they attend. And at North Lawndale College Prep, another highperforming network in Chicago, they told us that they focus almost exclusively on GPA and college matching, and find that over three-quarters of their students who both graduate from high school with over a 3.0 GPA, and attend a college with an over 50% 6-year minority graduation rate, end up with a four-year degree. More work to be done A final common characteristic that these high-achieving networks share is the standard that they set for themselves. While already getting above-average results, they’re all still far from where they want to be. And it’s the commitment to their loftier goals that has forced them to evaluate, and


make changes to, their educational models. When just a third of KIPP’s much heralded first class of 8th graders had earned a college degree 10 years later, KIPP leaders sought out national experts to help them build the noncognitive skills that would encourage college success. When YES Prep saw their grad rates dip from 50% to 34%, they wrote a public report, “College Initiatives Redefined,” in which they acknowledge that a rigorous academic program and college matriculation aren’t enough – they needed to also help their students build non-academic skills and redouble their efforts in college matching and alumni support. And while the Noble Network gets lauded for high ACT scores, a focus on GPA and college matching drives much of their work. In our work with Detroit high schools, we tried to learn as much as we could from these networks, as they’re showing what’s possible for low-income students. A rigorous academic program is of course a large part of the equation, but if our goal is college completion, we need to equip them with the skills they’ll need for college success, make sure they get to the right place, and then support them once they’re there. Michigan Future Schools was an initiative led by Michigan Future, Inc., to create and support small, college-prep high schools so that thousands of additional Detroit students are prepared to enroll and succeed in college. The first class of graduates from an MFS high school entered college in the fall of 2014.



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The Value of Knowing Me Angela Rodriguez Principal Susan Sturock National Literacy & Curriculum Consultant Shabazz Academy


his is the beginning of my first full year as principal at Shabazz Academy. I took this position at mid-year, and so the opening of the 2016-2017 school year was my first opportunity to formally set the tone of the learning atmosphere for the building. Of great importance to me as a principal, was to be published and transparent with what we knew to be the very basic conditions of a successful teaching and learning environment for Shabazz students and to assure that all members of our team understood and were onboard with these non-negotiable conditions. Our challenge was how to share this information. After many August conversations over lunch and in between other meetings, we created The Shabazz Way. This is a simple tutorial Power Point that crystallizes the culture of teaching and learning at our small urban school, populated with beautiful, capable students from neighborhoods where there is most frequently a great deal of love but not a great deal of money.

The value of culture competence. Since Shabazz Academy has mostly African-American students, the quick assumption would be to define our culture by our racial make-up. This, however, would overlook the most powerful, yet silent, component of our culture. Our largest common, cultural denominator is poverty. Successful educators in environments such as ours are experts at confronting the poverty mindset and aggressively supporting student success (Rawlinson, 2011). We are acutely aware that a classroom filled with very bright, capable 5-year-olds that have had few or no academic opportunities at home is going to look very different than any classroom for which our undergraduate teacher education might have prepared us. We also know how learning gaps can present themselves in our upper grades. Disruption, aggression, lethargy, and anger are not qualities we accept in our classrooms, but we know the role that poverty plays in creating these emotions. Understanding this connection helps us react and proceed with compassion as one human to another rather than seeing a challenging student as merely a transgressor of the sacred learning space. Despite the toll that poverty is taking on our families and students, our cultural competence allows us to hold on to the gift of expectation for every student. We see and feel the love and hope coming from so many of our

students and their families. In fact, we are aggressively supporting families. We are not assuming that any of our parents do not care. We are reaching out and connecting. Parents are in our hallways, and some are sitting in our classrooms for first-hand observation of teaching and learning. We are seeing incremental changes in student behavior and in parent learning of how to grow a successful student. The Shabazz Way The purpose of The Shabazz Way is to grow cultural competence through professional expectations and team building. As in any simple document, the magic is in the careful reading and understanding of it. It is the cornerstone of our professional learning community conversations and absolutely every aspect of our learning environment. It is always up to edit. In other words, it’s a dynamic document. Most importantly, for our school and in our culture, it seems to be working.

Angela Rodriguez, M.Ed. is currently the principal of Shabazz Academy. Shabazz is a small, urban school located in Lansing, Michigan. Susan Sturock, M.A. is a national literacy and curriculum consultant working alongside Rodriguez at Shabazz. It is the second K-6 charter academy in which the two have joined forces to make an authentic difference in the lives of young learners.

Language of caring.

Everyone is part of student success

Give your students what you would expect to receive as a parent.





We can hang on for the ride and resist the temptation to tame the spirit out of them.

Ask for help.

Parent availability and timely responses.

If you see it, say it to the right person.

Solution oriented and growth promoting.

Clean and orderly classrooms.

OUR Kids

Eye contact and ready smiles.


Find your funny bone.

Strong-willed children become adults who can change the world as long as

Eat right/Meditate/Pray


Be willing to jump in and help where it is needed.




If kids come to us from strong, healthy families, it makes our jobs easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job more important. Barbara Color

All Courts, All Causes!

The Shabazz Way Willing, capable It’s All About Working as a team. hands are a gift. the Kids!My Job/Your Job/Our Job

Welcoming Environment for All

Respect in our voices and body language.

There are no “those kids.” There is only “our kids.” Classroom management that is published and transparent.



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Charter Connect Winter 2017  
Charter Connect Winter 2017