Funding & Policy | News

5 Grants Aim To Get Charter Schools, District Schools Working Together

Public charter schools and district schools in five cities have committed to working together to promote student success in their communities. These are the latest in a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded program to sign "District-Charter Collaboration Compacts." Since the program's launch in 2010, schools and districts in 15 other cities have also signed the agreements.

The compacts are an attempt to address the tensions that can exist between charter and district schools and prevent them from working together. Areas of ongoing contention include access to equitable funding and facilities and the opening up of charter schools to all students, including English language learners and those with special needs. Each city's compact is typically signed by the district superintendent and charter school leaders, with support from others, such as the city's mayor, teachers' unions and school board members. To help with the ongoing collaboration efforts, each city will receive $100,000 from the foundation.

The latest additions encompass Aldine, TX; Lawrence, MA; San Jose, CA; Spokane, WA; and Tulsa, OK.

School leaders in these communities will participate in a number of endeavors, including:

  • Joint professional development for teachers in charter and district schools;
  • Implementing the Common Core standards with aligned instructional tools and supports for teachers;
  • Creating personalized learning experiences for students;
  • Developing a common approach to school enrollment; and
  • Coming up with common metrics to help families evaluate all schools on consistent criteria.

In Lawrence, the compact will focus on narrowing the district's achievement gap in graduation rates and English language arts and math proficiency, an area where the city has seen some successes due to partnerships with charter schools and third-party school operators.

Spokane Public Schools will work with public charter schools on developing a framework for measuring school performance and Common Core implementation and to share professional development opportunities for staff across participating schools.

The Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose will put effort into Common Core implementation; practices for identifying, retaining and supporting effective teachers; and structuring learning models that meet the needs of individual students.

The compact in in Tulsa pulls together schools to share lessons learned about measuring and improving effective teaching and student performance and continuing to improve support to teachers.

The Aldine compact brings together the Aldine Independent School District and YES Prep to work on increasing college readiness and graduation rates through sharing information, best practices and educator supports to develop leadership skills.

"We are excited about formalizing our collaboration with YES Prep," said Wanda Bamberg, superintendent of the Aldine district. "I firmly believe that working together, we will collectively have a better chance of improving the educational opportunities and outcomes for all children."

"These cities and their leaders understand the importance of collaboration and the benefits of sharing best practices to support student success," added Don Shalvey, deputy director of U.S. programs at the foundation. "They have taken the initiative to go beyond the traditional comparison of charters versus district schools and are working together to benefit all students in their communities. We commend these cities and their local leaders for their commitment to providing a quality education for every student and expanded public school options in the spirit of collaboration."

To date, the foundation has invested more than $25 million in compact cities.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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