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November 26, 2014

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Leaders say charter schools key to education reform

Dwight Jones

Dwight Jones

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

Nevada’s state and local leaders say the key to education reform is in charter schools.

The Nevada Legislature, urged by Gov. Brian Sandoval, recently passed a law creating a charter school authority to oversee the formation of charter schools. In a report, Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones said recently he wants to expand charter schools in Southern Nevada to “harness breakthrough innovation.”

Nevada has 28 charter schools, the fewest of any southwestern state, according to 2010 data compiled by Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform. Looking at nearby states, California has 860 charter schools, Arizona has 566, Utah has 76 and New Mexico has 72.

(Population-wise, New Mexico has the fewest residents, followed by Nevada, then Utah. Arizona and California have the largest populations, with California being the most populous state in the U.S., according to census data.)

The Clark County School District oversees eight charter schools, which follow the School District’s curriculum guidelines and conduct the same standardized tests as traditional public schools.

Because charter schools are taxpayer-funded public schools, enrollment is open to any student in the School District. By the same token, charter schools cannot charge tuition; however, like traditional public schools, they may charge book and technology fees.

If there are more applicants than seats — such is the case often at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy — charter schools may conduct a lottery, or some other nondiscriminatory selection process, to ensure equal opportunity for all students to attend.

Charter school teachers in core subjects — English, math, science and social studies — and in elementary classrooms must be licensed public school teachers. Charter school teachers are not considered School District employees. However, as public employees, they participate in Nevada’s Public Employees Retirement System.

Charter schools are responsible for fire, safety, health occupancy permits and maintenance of their facilities.

That’s why one of the hardest things for charter schools is finding a permanent facility, said School Board member Lorraine Alderman, who until a year ago oversaw charter schools for the School District.

“The vision is there, the parents and kids will come, but where do they go?” Alderman said. “That’s why it’s so thrilling to see what’s happening at (Explore Knowledge Academy.) They’re not in a storefront; they’re not sharing space with somebody else. They get to have their own space.”

All eight School District charter schools have a facility they own or lease out. Two charter schools — Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy and Rainbow Dreams Academy — own their buildings. The rest lease them out, some sharing facilities with other groups.

Charter schools have a mixed record when it comes to making annual yearly progress goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

For example, 100 Academy of Excellence, a Las Vegas charter school for elementary and middle school students, did not make AYP in the past two school years: 2008-09 and 2009-10, the latest data available online. On the other hand, Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy made adequate yearly progress in the elementary and middle school grades and high achieving growth in the high school grades during the same time period.

At Explore Knowledge Academy, students made adequate yearly progress in all grade levels during the 2008-09 school year; however, it did not make AYP at the elementary school level during the 2009-10 school year.

For more information on the School District’s charter program, click here.

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  1. I could tell you how wrong this is...

    But, find out for yourself.
    Google:
    charter school failure

    There are THOUSANDS of very good articles & information available on the ABJECT FOLLY of hanging your hat on the Charter School model.

    Good Lord.
    We ARE doomed.

  2. Charter schools, charter schools, charter schools!

    They will save us all right? They seem so much better than public schools and are all the rage.

    My contention is that they are a Republican way of removing money and strangling the public schools. Follow this logic:

    1. Person has a private school "innovative idea"
    2. Person develops a private school but -- schools are expensive
    3. Person develops a charter school -- and takes taxpayer money for their charter (aka private) school
    4. Person prohibits "some" students from attending
    5. Person can kick "some" students out
    6. Person can improve test scores easily -- by removing students who are failing, sending them back to their zoned school.

    Meanwhile, public schools are left to deal with all the messes charter schools create. Students that don't make it -- return to public schools. Often they don't have the basic skills required to achieve academically in the rigorous testing taking curriculum currently running in the Clark County School District. And to put it frankly, often they are kicked out due to parent or student behavior. I have experienced this scenario many times -- from all charter schools mentioned in the article. Charter schools are focused on the achieving students and have curriculum that is not required to "satisfactorily" provide a fair and equitable education for every student in the zone -- even hard to educate students.

    Public schools take ALL students. Students with multiple disabilities. Students with behavior problems. BUT where is the public school money going . . . drained away by the selective charter schools.

    I'm left to believe. Charter schools are ways for Republicans to drain away and privatize taxpayer money. Would people be so happy to know that their taxes are going to a few selected students? Seems like a great way to fund a private school idea. But should taxpayers be paying for someone's private school education? Or do we believe in fair and equitable education for EVERYONE.

  3. The solution to our education problem is not more charter schools. The solution is to actually fund the schools. Millions of dollars are poured into the Agassi school that aren't poured into any other school.

    IT'S SIMPLE, PROPERLY FUND THE SCHOOLS.

    Being dead last in the U.S. for funding schools will never get us good schools.

  4. So the only benefit I can find for a charter school is that more of a burden is placed on the parent to pay for books and technology? We are already paying for a school system through our taxes that never seem to 'trickle down to the schools'. Why would we endorse something that will cost more and likely fail like most small business's? Actually spending money focused on the main basic education system seems like the better way to go. The public school system at the very least has the backing of the powers that be. If only we would just learn how to do things better. Actually we know how to do thing better but people wont give up their precious dollars to achieve it. As soon as there is a cost involved the Reps want it stopped and the Dems want to raise taxes for it. Just more wasteful bickering while our nation suffers as one of the least well educated in the free world.

  5. Nevada's magnet schools have received high scores, won awards, & many have no drugs, violence, or harm to others.They are safe schools. Can you imagine a high school that does not employ security guards? Awarded "blue ribbon school", year after year, in Vegas?Yes, it is true. Reforms should follow the magnet model.Let all kids go to "theme" schools.My daughter attended a charter for 1 day-they had the whole summer to fix the air conditioning, but they didn't fix it.Kids can't attend school in renovated buildings without air in NV.Magnets are the way to go-I assure you.9 combined years of safe schooling-AHHH!

  6. I think it's fine to use charter schools, empowerment schools, magnet schools, etc. But the goal should be to use the data they receive to improve the quality of all public schools. I think we have an obligation to closely monitor whether or not a school is successful (track test score improvements, and other objective data), and closely analyze so that we can see WHY it's successful/unsuccessful. It might be the stricter disciplinary policies, and removing the students that are a distraction. It might be that they pay the teachers more, or don't work them to death. It might be the other strategies (technology, etc.) that are used.

    I just don't feel like we do the follow up required when these ideas are implemented. They really need to collect and analyze data. There's so much information that simply isn't being used.

  7. Charter, empowerment, magnet and academies operated by or in partnership with public school districts are but a few of the means we use to track students. When I was a mere lad many years ago I lived in England and took the 11+ exams at which point the parental units were told that not only was I not on the university track but that I wasn't even on the skilled trades track....shades of Charles Dickens poor house!

    The aforementioned entities attract some of the best and brightest, but overwhelmingly the talented and curious middle whose population is the heart of your regular neighborhood high school. When West Tech opened it pulled the heart out of PaloVerde, same as happened to Eldorado when East opened. I teach Auto Technology at Legacy in the NE and I'm pleased to say that I have some motivated and inquisitive students who would likely not be there if the District had opened a NE Career and Tech Academy.

    I'm actually in favor of tracking students. The relentless push towards 4 year college is ill-advised give that our economy has far more need for skilled technical workers than it has for grads in humanities, political science [my degree] and [gaaack!] educational leadership. Nine of my graduating seniors are going to private vocational schools and only two to CSN.....why?, CSN mirrors academic education and these guys and a couple of girls are ready for the real world....learn and earn!