State Charter Board issues guidance for charters regarding special education students

By Jamar Younger

Public Charter schools are required to admit all students, including special education pupils.

The State Board for Charter Schools has issued guidance for charters clarifying whether schools can cap or limit admission for special education students.

In short, charter schools are required to accept all special education students and offer the same services, and make the same accommodations for those students as school districts.

The Charter Board cites information from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The Arizona Department of Education, Exceptional Student Services can also provide resources for charters.

You can view the Charter Board’s guidance here.



What you need to know on A-F

By Eileen Sigmund

This week, Arizona issued its first “A-F” letter grades in three years. This is what you need to know about these grades and what the Association is doing on behalf of Arizona’s public charter schools to ensure our unique campuses are rated fairly and accurately:

  • First, keep in mind these grades remain preliminary and are subject to change. More than half of all charter schools in Arizona have yet to receive any grade whatsoever. One of the biggest problems is that the rating system assumes every school is either K-8 or 9-12 and does not account for non-traditional models. Additionally, many schools received an initial grade that they are appealing.
  • The Association believes strongly the new letter grade formula needs to be improved, and we are vigorously advocating for Arizona policymakers to immediately revisit the formula before parents are misled and schools are further harmed.
Read More

Charter supporters set the record straight on school accountability

By Jamar Younger

After a self-published and flawed report on public charter schools, Arizona’s charter community and the Arizona Republic quickly responded that charter schools are held accountable and school leaders are motivated by student success, not financial gain.

The Arizona Charter Schools Association issued the first set of responses with a statement and letter to our schools emphasizing that charter schools are academically successful, which is what matters most.

Here is a roundup of the other responses:

Read More

Student success matters most

By the Arizona Charter Schools Association

The Arizona Charter Schools Association issued the following letter to our charter schools on Sept. 22 in response the Grand Canyon Institute’s report on charter school finances and accountability:

The Grand Canyon Institute recently released a paper that attempts to malign charter school accountability. We understand this is the first in a series of three hit pieces designed to discredit the work that charters are doing to deliver strong outcomes for kids. As your Association, we stand for quality and accountability in public charter schools. We do not agree with the baseless conclusions in this document.

Lost in the self-published 90-page diatribe against public charter schools is virtually any mention of what matters most: student success. And that’s no coincidence, as students across all demographics see higher outcomes when enrolled in charter schools. For the last three years, public charter students in all racial and ethnic groups are outperforming their peers, a simple truth that this paper sets out to ignore. Despite the availability of these and other data, including the most recent NAEP results that shine a light on the strong practices of charter schools, the paper’s authors cherry pick numbers from an old 2013 report to support their insinuations.

Read More

Public charter schools held to stringent financial accountability while improving student achievement

Eileen B. Sigmund, Arizona Charter Schools Association President and CEO, released the following statement:

“Lost in the Grand Canyon Institute’s self-published 90-page diatribe against public charter schools is virtually any mention of what matters most: student performance. And that’s no coincidence, as students across all demographics see higher outcomes when enrolled in charter schools. For the last three years, public charter students in all racial and ethnic groups are outperforming their peers. The fact is that the finest public schools in Arizona are public charter schools, which have been lifting the quality of education in our state for more than a decade. The outstanding performance of Arizona’s charter sector compels better results in district schools — exactly what was intended when the charter law was enacted in 1994.

Read More

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.

Read More

Charter Students Top State Performers

For three straight years, charter students outperform state averages

Public charter school students continue to outperform their peers, as AzMERIT results show charter students scored better than the state average in virtually every grade level and subject area for the third straight year.

The AzMERIT scores, released by the Arizona Department of Education on September 6, illustrate the hard work and dedication of Arizona’s charter students, teachers and leaders.

“These results are a strong testament to the great work happening at public charter schools across Arizona, and further validation of our efforts to expand high-quality education options for a rising number of students and families statewide,” said Eileen Sigmund, President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association. “Charter schools are raising the bar and improving public education in Arizona. We’re proud of all the wonderful educators, students and families who continue to drive that success.”

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More