A Letter From Al Fan
September 4, 2013
To Our Partners and Partner Schools,
Welcome to a new school year! This year marks a major milestone for Charter School Partners as we are proud to see three of our CSP Fellows successfully lead the startup of their new charter schools: ARCH Academy, Hiawatha Leadership Academy – Northrop, and West Side Summit. These new startups represent the culmination of each Fellows’ professional drive to create educational equity and a personal vision for how to deliver these outcomes. We are truly excited to see the impact these leaders and their schools will have on the communities they serve and on the children who will benefit from these high impact schools.
As highlighted in our recent blog and at our first annual New Schools Breakfast with keynote speaker Andy Smarick this past June, there is a growing number of schools opening in Minneapolis that are showing a high level of commitment to increasing student learning and creating educational equity for all children. Many of these schools have received competitive grants through both the Federal CSP startup program and the Walton Family Foundation to open this year: Prodeo Academy, Upper Mississippi Academy, and Venture Academies. These schools in addition to the four that opened last year in Minneapolis: Adelante College Prep, Hennepin Elementary School, Mastery School, and Minneapolis College Prep, are highlighting that the charter sector is regaining the growth momentum it had before the slowdown after the 2009 legislative changes and that this new generation of high impact charter schools, Charter 2.0 schools, will continue to demonstrate that closing the achievement gap can be realized if we continue to support school models that work.
Thirty (30) CSP Partner Schools from across the Twin Cities Metro Region joined our growing Community of Excellence last year and took advantage of the Core and Select Programs we offer along with our strategic partners. The High Bar, Cambridge Education, and Slipka-Deakman continue to provide our Partner Schools with best-in-class product offerings and significant discounted rates that are only available to CSP Partner Schools in Minnesota. Last year, we were excited to work with seven of our Partner Schools to pilot Eklund Consulting’s School Workplace Satisfaction Survey. Eklund Consulting brings extensive knowledge and experience to help schools develop strong school cultures that will retain and attract new talent that is critical to the success of each school. We are happy to offer this program again this year to our Partner Schools at a discounted rate and expect to see high interest for this offering. Partner Schools also heard presentations from national experts last year during Partner Tuesday events. Marci Cornell-Feist, Jim Ford, and Darryl Cobb hosted workshops and panel presentations on board governance and replication. Rick Hess will be our keynote speaker at our first Partner Tuesday event in September.
We are encouraged by the growing emphasis on accountability in the charter community and continue to believe it is imperative for charter schools that do not deliver the promise of high academic outcomes for all children to close so that higher impact charters can take their place. The legislative changes in 2009 have had a positive impact on authorizer practices that are resulting in stronger new school startups and greater emphasis on academic outcomes. We will continue to propose legislation that supports greater accountability and encourages the expansion and replication of the highest impact schools.
I am humbled by the incredible work all of you do each day for the children in our community and I am proud of the successes our charters can already claim. The Star Tribune’s “Beating the Odds” analysis once again showed that charter schools are the highest performing of all public schools in serving children from low-income families. Ten of the Top 10 schools in Math Proficiency are charter schools and seven of the Top 10 in Reading Proficiency are charter schools. While these are successes to be celebrated, we are a long way from victory. Today, only one in seven students from low-income families have the opportunity to attend a high impact charter school in Minneapolis. In a city with over 30,000 students qualifying for FRL, this is simply unacceptable! We must continue to focus on the goal that all children deserve the same high quality education and that we cannot wait for small incremental changes to catch up with the growing need. We must also ignore the countless distractions that many people use to detract others from the simple truth…that the charter school model is the most effective and most efficient school model for delivering educational equity in our public education system!
Our team is committed to creating educational equity for all students and we look forward to working with each of you to support the attainment of your goals. Each year as more and more children are being left behind by a public school system that is failing them, the urgency for all of us to do our work intensifies. We are hopeful that as more charter schools are recognized for their successes, community stakeholders like civic leaders, legislators, and philanthropic funders will start to embrace real change in our education system. We believe the time is now to make good on our promise of high quality education for all. Our children deserve it!Al Fan
We look forward to our continued work together.