AzMERIT results show that charters educate all students

By Jamar Younger

Arizona’s public charter students have outperformed their peers for the past three years, topping state and national indicators of academic success.

This year, charter students once again scored higher than the state average in virtually every grade level and subject area on the state’s AzMERIT test for the third straight year, according to results released by the Arizona Department of Education on Sept. 6.

Despite these accomplishments, Arizona’s charter performance is usually met with the skepticism of those who believe charters don’t cater to all students, notably minority and underserved youth.

It’s time to retire that stereotype.

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More families choosing Arizona public charter schools

By Megan Gilbertson

We live in a personalized age, and there’s nothing more individual than, well, the individual.

Here in Arizona, families are not relegated to their zoned neighborhood school, and instead are provided the right to find and select a school that best fits their child.

And what choice is outpacing the rest? Public charter schools.

Newly-released data from the Arizona Department of Education show that public charter schools now serve 185,900 students or 17 percent of Arizona’s public school students, a 6 percent increase over FY16. These figures are consistent with the trend that has continued for over a decade: families are demanding quality schools and Arizona’s charter sector is responding. Arizona charter school performance is also on the rise, as our students outperformed their peers on state and national assessments.

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Statement on DACA and resources for schools

Today the Arizona Charter Schools Association issued the follow statement in response to the rescission of the the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program:

We believe that every Arizona school should be a safe, inspiring place for all children, regardless of their immigration status. National policy is changing, but we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring supportive schools where all students feel safe to pursue their dreams and contribute to the evolving Arizona that we all call home. We stand with all students – every aspiring architect, lawyer, doctor, and teacher – and we remain unwavering in helping them realize their dreams. We understand that many of our school community members have questions and fears about the recent rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and its serious implications for the DREAMers in our state. As a support organization for Arizona’s 556 public charter schools, we’ve compiled resources to support for our schools.

Access the Resources

Charter leaders sacrifice to see dreams become reality

By Jamar Younger

When Nick Schuerman reflects on the fact that he’s responsible for the education of the 225 children who attend his school, he is nearly moved to tears.

Schuerman opened Victory Collegiate Academy, a K-6 public charter school, this month in Phoenix’s Maryvale neighborhood, fulfilling his dream of providing a quality education to underserved students.

“I’m seeing the fruits of my labor. It’s here now. I have to sit back and pinch myself,” he said.

Lori Weiss and Melissa McKinsey experienced a similar feeling when they welcomed almost 300 students to Synergy Public School, their brand new central Phoenix campus, which also opened this month.

These schools started as a kernel of an idea just three years ago, but have grown into the manifestation of their founders’ dreams.

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Data shows 1 in 5 eighth-graders not counted in AzMERIT math results

The Center for Student Achievement, a division of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, released data showing that, in 2016, one out of every five eighth-grade students took a high-school level math course, such as Algebra I, Geometry, or Algebra II.

However, the results for these students are not reflected in the state’s reported 2016 AzMERIT scores. That means the number of eighth-grade students who passed AzMERIT is actually higher than what’s reported in the test results.

The Association’s Chief Academic Officer Ildi Laczko-Kerr and Director of Research Kelly Powell break down the numbers and provide observations about accelerated student performance on the Center for Student Achievement’s blog.

In an Arizona Capitol Times op-ed, Laczko-Kerr and Association President and CEO Eileen Sigmund explain why the lack of transparent data on accelerated eighth-grade math students creates big hurdles for policy makers who look to advance policies that will drive academic excellence.

Here is the op-ed in its entirety:

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Quality matters

By Yvonne Watterson

What do we look for in a quality school? Test scores? Funding? Class size? The principal’s resume?  Do we know why some schools do a better job than others in helping students learn? At a time when Arizona is facing challenges that include improving literacy, the high school graduation rate, the recruitment and retention of effective teachers and leaders, and ensuring equitable funding for its schools, these are critical questions.

As parents, educators, community members, and business leaders, we want to feel confident that Arizona’s children will emerge from our schools ready for the demands of college or the work-place. We should demand nothing less. In order to achieve it, however, we must share a common understanding of what quality looks like.

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Arizona’s “wild west”approach allowed charters to blossom

By Jamar Younger

Arizona’s “wild west” reputation seems to inject itself into numerous topics, including education.

In the charter school realm, Arizona is known for its massive growth of public charter schools in the early days of charters, leading to the movement’s association with the “wild west” moniker.

Two recent blogs pointed out that Arizona’s somewhat freewheeling attitude towards charters at the time might not have been a bad thing.

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ASU Prep, Tempe Union High School District team up to help students advance

By Jamar Younger

A public charter high school with a college preparatory focus is entering into a unique and potentially groundbreaking partnership with a union high school district to provide more options for students in Tempe.

ASU Prep, a K-12 public charter school network with nine campuses spread across Phoenix and Casa Grande, has joined with the Tempe Union High School District’s Compadre Academy to open a joint school that will integrate ASU Prep’s rigorous college preparatory focus with Compadre’s flexible, self-paced, non-traditional program.

The schools will merge to form ASU Prep Compadre High School in Tempe.

This initiative is designed to provide disadvantaged students equal access to higher level college preparatory classes, regardless of their personal circumstances.

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New York Times publishes Northland Prep student essay

By Jamar Younger

Each year, the New York Times solicits college application essays from thousands of high school seniors around the country who choose to address money, work or social class as their topics.

The newspaper published five essays this year, including a piece authored by Tillena Trebon, an Arizona public charter student who is set to graduate this month from Northland Preparatory Academy in Flagstaff.

In this poetic essay, Trebon describes the intersection of urban and rural existence in her life, how she balances these contradictions and how she’ll continue to “crave experiences only found at the edge” as she enters adulthood.

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Phoenix Collegiate Academy student uses father’s memory as motivation to succeed

By Jamar Younger

Adam Jackson has always been a top-notch student who excelled academically and socially.

However, after Jackson’s father and biggest supporter died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest while being hospitalized for pneumonia, the high school junior lost his motivation.

Normally active and enthusiastic, Jackson descended into a depressive state, which affected his academic performance and caused his grades to temporarily drop.

Jackson grew up without his mother, who wasn’t involved in his life after he moved from the Los Angeles area to Phoenix as a young child, and was now fatherless. His grandparents provided his only familial support.

To make matters worse, his grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time, although she was able to conquer the disease and make a full recovery.

“I couldn’t find the motivation to continue in school. I lost a part of me,” said Jackson, 18, now a senior who will graduate from the school on May 23. “I just didn’t feel like doing anything.”

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