Friday, October 23, 2009

Do Charter Schools Really Work?

California Charter Schools have a great way to channel taxpayers' money into educational projects that actually work! There are 750 charter schools serving over 276,000 students in California today. They are open to the public, tuition free, participate in state testing and have credentialed teachers. Not only this, they also provide funding for distance learning options including curriculum for preschool to 8th grade such as Time4Learning and online writing courses for kids provided by Time4Writing (full disclosure, I work for Time4Learning). These classes are provided not only to students physically attending these schools but they also provide resources to homeschooling families.

But who cares exactly what products are offered, the important thing is the results. Research has shown in the past that California charter schools are better at increasing student achievement than traditional public schools.* Another study found that 12 of the 15 top performing public schools in California serving children in poverty are charter schools.** And finally, a 2007 field study reported that charter school parents cited "challenging curriculum and individualized student attention as key reasons for their high level of satisfaction."

*Research based on the California Department of Education’s Academic Performance Index from 2004 – 2007 indicates that 11% more charters than traditional public schools show substantially higher student achievement by the end of the school year. **A November 2008 analysis conducted by the California Charter Schools Association examined 2008 Academic Performance Index (API) Growth Scores of California public schools with 70% or more Free and Reduced Price Lunch participants and found that 12 of the 15 top performing schools were charter schools.

Okay already with the research and the statistics, I'm convinced. So why aren't charter schools more prevelant? California is growing at a rate of 50 new charter schools every year, but this concept has only barely escaped the state borders or major cities. A few big cities are notable, Boston, Chicago and actually about 40 states have charter school experiements although most are restricted to these large cities.

According to a comprehensive study of charter schools conducted in June of this year by CREDO and Stanford University these states/cities had significantly higher learning gains for charter school students than would have occurred in traditional schools:
o Arkansas
o Colorado (Denver)
o Illinois (Chicago)
o Louisiana
o Missouri

As of 2009, more than 4,700 charter schools enrolled over 1.4 million children in 40 states. This is nearly identical to the number of homeschoolers in the US today. The ranks of charters grow by thousands each year. Even so, more than 350,000 names linger on waiting lists. Why isn't the federal government jumping on programs in the over performing states and cities to bring these best practices to all 50 states? Why aren't we clamoring for more out of the box thinking to solve our nations' educational crisis? How long will it take for us to adopt new approaches that may threaten traditional face-to-face teaching jobs (gasp)? As our test scores continue their slow decline, maybe the time is now.

For more information about state-by-state homeschooling options and standardized test preparation, see the list below for your state:

Standardized Tests by State –
Alabama: Alabama Reading and Mathematics Tests - ARMT
Alaska: Terra Nova - SBA HSGQE
Arizona: Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards - AIMS
Arkansas: Arkansas’ Augmented Benchmark Exam - AABE
California: Standardized Testing and Reporting - STAR
Colorado: Colorado Student Assessment Program - CSAP
Connecticut: Connecticut Mastery TestConnecticut Academic Performance Test - CMTCAPT
Delaware: Delaware Student Testing Program - DSTP
District of Columbia Information Found Here
Florida: Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test - FCAT
Georgia: Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests - CRCT
Hawaii: Hawaii State Assessment - HSA
Idaho: Idaho State Achievement Tests - ISAT
Illinois: Illinois Standards Achievement Test - ISAT
Indiana: Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress - ISTEP+
Iowa: Iowa Test of Basic SkillsIowa Tests of Educational Development - ITBS ITED
Kansas: Kansas State Assessment - KSA
Kentucky: Kentucky Core Content Tests - KCCT
Louisiana: LEAP Alternate Assessment - iLEAP
Maine: New England Common Assessment ProgramMaine Educational Assessment Maine High School Assessment - NECAP MEA MHSA
Maryland: Maryland School Assessment - MSA
Massachusetts: Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System - MCAS
Michigan: Michigan Educational Assessment Program - MEAP
Minnesota: Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments Series II - MCA II
Mississippi: Mississippi Curriculum TestSubject Area Testing Program - MCTSATP
Missouri: Missouri Assessment Program - MAP
Montana: Montana Comprehensive Assessment System - MontCAS
Nebraska: Nebraska State Accountability Assessments - NeSA
Nevada: Nevada Proficiency Examination Program - NPEP
New Hampshire: New England Common Assessment Program - NECAP
New Jersey: New Jersey’s Core Curriculum Content Standards - ASK
New Mexico: New Mexico Statewide Articulated Assessment Program - NMSBA
New York: New York State Testing Program - NYSTP
North Carolina: North Carolina Standardized Test - EOG
North Dakota: North Dakota’s State Assessment - NDSA
Ohio: Ohio Achievement Test - OAT
Oklahoma: Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests - OCCT
Oregon: Oregon Statewide Assessment System - OAKS
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania System of School Assessment - PSSA
Rhode Island: New England Common Assessment Program - NECAP
South Carolina: South Carolina Statewide Assessment Program - SC PASS
South Dakota: Dakota State Test of Educational Progress - STEP
Tennessee: Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program - TCAP
Texas: Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills - TAKS
Utah: Utah Performance Assessment System for Students - U-PASS
Vermont: New England Common Assessment Program - NECAP
Virginia: Virginia Standards of Learning - SOL
Washington: Washington Comprehensive Assessment Program - WCAP
West Virginia: West Virginia Educational Standards Test - WESTEST
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Knowledge and Concept Evaluation - WKCE
Wyoming: Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students - PAWS

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Facebook vs. Twitter - who do you think will win?

Social media has arrived and the fallout has already started. What used to be the darling, MySpace, has now turned into the ghetto of social media and the newest darling is Twitter. In between these two is Facebook but really Facebook is winning hands down. Twitter has amazing growth but still has less unique visitors than say Classmates or The hard part of measuring Twitter is the huge audience that doesn't visit the site but instead uses Seesmic or TweetDeck or Twitterberry to keep up to date with all of their tweets.

So these new media arrivals show incredible promise for delivering instant news, highly targeted to an interested and engaged audience. When I can watch a burglary in real time using someone's webcam while they call 911 and watch the police make the arrest in their home (actually happened in Palm Beach County this year), now that's breaking news. Twitter and Facebook have turned every citizen into an instant news machine, going an being in places that CNN could only dream of being (think of the jet landing in the Hudson or the hostages in the hotel in Mumbai this time last year).

So who will win the social media audience game? My vote is for Facebook, only because I love it and use it so much and I find the total web based interface to be more user-friendly than being required to download something to manage Twitter. A colleague of mine wrote a blog post to the executives of Facebook with some "free" advice on how they can win and dominate social media. I thought you might enjoy the read.

Bottomline, some type of social media is here to stay. It is replacing phone calls, email and holiday letters across the nation, keeping families and friends connected in real time using multi-media updates. Before I tie up all of my time loading photos, videos and personal journals onto a site, I want to make sure it will be around say 6 months from now so I don't have to do it all over again. I think John Edelson, the author of the free advice article, is on to something when he recommends that Facebook allow someone to have different faces for their different relationships (one for family, one for friends, one for professional). Once they do this, then look out LinkedIn, "Faces"book will rule the social media world!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Join the Blog Community!

Here's a class that is almost too good to be true, Blog Writing 101, starting 10/12/09. For the low price of $59, you get 8 weeks of information about how to set up a blog, what to write about, inspiration to find your voice and tips on how to promote that blog. The class is taught by an experienced homeschool mom and blog writer of many years. Not to mention that it is offered by a reputable company,, an expert at distance learning that also offers online writing classes for grades 2 through 12.

Yes, parents too can take courses. Learn something new and be a role model for the value of education for your kids. This blog writing class is being offered especially for parents. Sessions are conducted entirely online and this class comes highly recommended by past participants.

The Blog Writing 101 course is designed primarily for an adult audience but is also open to high school students that either have or want to start a blog. This course is a great product at a great value. If you have ever thought about starting a blog, here's the push you just might need to make it happen.