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Charters are successful because they are different

Re-posted from an op ed column dated April 1, 2019 in the Gainesville Sun

By Kay Abbitt

Charter schools in Florida are a hot topic these days. Most of the people who complain about charter schools have no real experience with charter schools. These detractors tend to rely on one-sided reporting to get their information, resulting in inaccurate bits of information being repeated and perpetuating stereotypes about charter schools.

I feel qualified to write on this topic as I am the director and co-founder of Boulware Springs Charter. Hopefully, this column will counter some of the misconceptions, in addition to providing data from the Florida Department of Education’s annual report on charter school performance released March 25.

One misconception is that charter schools “hand pick” their students. Charter schools by law must accept all who apply as long as space is available. If there is no space, students are selected by a lottery.

Boulware is located in northeast Gainesville close to Rawlings and Metcalfe elementary schools. Eighty-six percent of Boulware’s students are considered economically disadvantaged, similar to Rawlings and Metcalfe.

According to the FLDOE report, 54.9 percent of students in all Florida charter schools are economically disadvantaged as compared to 65 percent in traditional public schools. The difference in these numbers is small. In comparisons of achievement and learning gains, economically disadvantaged students in charter schools performed better than their counterparts in traditional schools in 93 percent of the comparisons.

Another argument against charter schools is that there is no accountability. Financially, there are overwhelming amounts of accountability by charters to both the school district and state.

Monthly, charter schools are required to submit to their district the previous month’s financial report prepared by an accountant. Annually, every district department — from human resources to curriculum to building safety — monitor each charter school to ensure that they are operating within state guidelines. Each charter school is required to pay 5 percent (approximately $53,000 for Boulware) of their state funding to the district for this monitoring.

Charter schools are also accountable to the state for their students’ scores on Florida Standards Assessment testing. Charter schools must follow the same guidelines for testing and are subject to the same penalties for low school grades. Charter schools are doing amazingly well as compared to traditional public schools with regards to educating students.

The FLDOE reported:

• Eighty-two percent of students enrolled in charter schools demonstrated higher rates of grade level performance than their peers in traditional public schools.

• When comparing learning gains, the percentage of students making learning gains was higher in charter schools in 88 of the 96 (91.7 percent) comparisons.

• Forty-seven percent of the charter schools earned an “A” school grade compared to 28 percent of traditional schools

• When comparing achievement and learning gains of African-American students, those in charter schools performed better in 89 percent of the comparisons.

• When comparing achievement and learning gains of Hispanic students, those in charter schools performed better in 93 percent of the comparisons.

In 2016-2017, Boulware Springs Charter was ranked No. 5 out of 3,239 Florida public schools (both traditional and charter) for reading gains. In math, we were ranked No. 51 out of 3,241 Florida public schools for gains.

Recently, at the Superintendent’s Math challenge at Buchholz High School, our fourth and fifth grade students did very well. Our teams won first place in two of the top four brackets beating all other traditional elementary schools. Our other team won second place in the lower bracket. The fact that we are an east Gainesville Title 1 charter school without a magnet program makes this accomplishment even more amazing.

All charter schools in Florida are 501c3 organizations, which are nonprofits. There are no “for profit” charters. If there are larger charter organizations that have charter management companies with some questionable practices, it is imperative that the state monitor these organizations closely to ensure that funding is being managed properly. No educational system is perfect, but data are showing that something has to change with the current educational system we have.

Charters are successful because they are different. Boulware has two extra hours in our school day. These two extra hours gives us time for extra reading and math instruction for struggling students. Our students also attend school year-round.

The status quo in our traditional schools isn’t working. The more knowledgeable everyone is about other educational options (such as charters) will mean better decisions can be made, and there will be a greater likelihood that children will get the education they deserve.

Kay Abbitt is director of Boulware Springs Charter.



Dear Florida Families, Your Kid’s Probably Better Off in A Charter School

Re-posted from an op ed column published March 25, 2019 in The Capitolist, Tallahassee

by Lane Wright

Are you a parent with kids in school? If so, you should know that charter schools in Florida outperform traditional schools in just about everything you can measure.

Each year, our state’s education department is required by law to look at how charter school students perform compared to similar students in traditional schools. They look at a ton of data: How do black students in charters compare to black students in traditional schools in English. What about Hispanic students? Low-income students? Students with disabilities? English language learners? Okay, what about all those groups of students (and more) in Math? Social studies? Science?

They also look at the difference in academic performance (AKA Achievement Gap) between groups like black students and their white peers, or Hispanic students and white students, etc. Finally, they looked at how much students were learning each year.

In just about everything they measured, charter school students came out on top!

Of 77 measurements related to students performing on grade level, charter school students did better in 63 of those comparisons, or 82 percent of the time.

When it came to the achievement gap, charter schools bested traditional schools in 19 out of the 22 comparisons the department looked at. For example, the gaps between black and white students in math, reading, science and social studies would count as 4 comparisons. Traditional schools did better closing the achievement gap in three of the comparisons. They did slightly better than charter schools in closing the gap between black and white students in high school math and science for example, but not in elementary or middle school for those students in those subjects.

When they looked at how much schools helped students, and various groups of students catch up or get ahead, charter school students learned more in a year than traditional schools on 88 of the 96 measures they compared.

Overall, charter schools do a better job of helping students achieve, closing the achievement gaps between groups of students, and helping students grow, academically, more than traditional schools.

Does that mean you should abandon your traditional school as quickly as possible? Not necessarily. These comparisons are comparing all charter schools to all traditional schools. Individual results may vary, as they say. You should really look at the particulars for the schools around you.

For my family, the school we were zoned for wasn’t a good fit. I wasn’t satisfied with the results they were getting for kids. So we applied and were blessed to win the lottery for one of the charter schools we sought out.

There’s something else to consider. While charter schools won in almost every category measured, the margins by which they won range from just one percentage point to about 13 percentage points. That’s still significant but it also shows there’s still a lot of work to be done at both types of schools.

For example, one of the nearly 200 measures they looked at showed that about 54 percent of lower-income charter school kids in elementary school passed their reading test compared to 46.4 percent of the same type of students in traditional schools. 53.9 Percent is definitely better than 46.4 percent, but there are still a ton of students that need help reaching that bar.

If you’re really into charts, there’s a whole slew of them in the Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools report the department put out today.

In a press release, Richard Corcoran, Florida’s chief educator, praised the results and signaled the impact the report may have in current legislative battles:

“There is simply no denying that choice works, particularly for minority and low-income students. These results represent hundreds of thousands of Florida families who were empowered to make the best education decisions for their children and are reaping the benefits. Governor DeSantis has made bold choice-related proposals leading into the 2019 Legislative Session, and this report provides further evidence that they are right for Florida.”

Regardless of the choice you make, it’s clear that charter schools give a lot of families, especially those stuck in low-performing schools, a better alternative than they had available. And ultimately, it’s the state’s job to give as many families access to a great education as possible.



Victoriano Rodriguez of International Studies Charter School Receives Principal Leadership Award from Florida TaxWatch

Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools congratulates Rodriguez on his achievement

MIAMI, Fla., (March 26, 2019) – International Studies Charter School Principal Victoriano Rodriguez has received the prestigious Principal Leadership Award from Florida TaxWatch, an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit research institute and government watchdog organization.

The Principal Leadership Awards recognize Florida’s most effective principals in high-risk K-12 public schools.  Rodriguez was one of three Florida high school principals to receive the Florida TaxWatch award.  The award program was established in 2014 and is driven by student performance data, which is analyzed over consecutive years.

“Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools congratulates Rodriguez for this well-deserved recognition,” said FCPCS President Robert Haag.  “International Studies Charter School is one of many FCPCS member schools where innovative education is improving student lives and reshaping their futures.”

About the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools

The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) is the leading charter school membership association in the state, with a membership of nearly 75 percent of all operating charter schools.  Since its inception in 1999, FCPCS has been dedicated to creating a national model of high quality, accredited public charter schools that are student-centered and performance-driven.  FCPCS provides a wide array of technical support, mentoring, training, networking, and purchasing services to its membership, as well as serving as an advocate for all Florida public charter schools.


Florida Report Shows Strong Performance of Public Charter School Students in Comparison to Performance of Students at State’s Traditional Public Schools

Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) Salutes Continued Success of Florida’s Public Charter School Students

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., (March 26, 2019) – A Florida Department of Education (FDOE) report released Monday shows students enrolled in the state’s public charter schools are continuing to outperform students in traditional public schools in overall achievement and learning gains.   The report also found that achievement gaps continue to be lower among charter school students when gaps are studied between white students and African-American students and between white students and Hispanic students.

State law requires FDOE to prepare an annual report on achievement of Florida students in public charter schools versus students in traditional public schools.  The report covers the 2017-2018 school year and includes only students enrolled in a school for a full year.  It compares student performance on Florida assessment tests in math, science, social studies and English language arts.

The report is divided into three sections to study overall achievement, learning gains and achievement gaps between student groups.  In overall achievement, FDOE looked at 77 separate comparisons of overall rates of grade level performance, based on the percentage of students who scored level three or above on Florida assessment tests.  In 63 of the 77 comparisons, charter school students showed higher rates of grade level performance.

Comparisons are also included in the report based on the percentage of charter school students making learning gains and the percentage of traditional public school students making learning gains.  Comparisons were made based on subject, grade level and subgroup and showed in 88 of 96 comparisons, the percentage of charter school students making learning gains was higher than the percentage of traditional public school students making learning gains.

A third area of assessment in the report is a comparison of achievement gaps, specifically the gap between white students and African-American students and the gap between white students and Hispanic students in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.  In 19 of 22 comparisons, the achievement gap was actually lower – and better – for charter school students than for students in traditional public schools.

“The student achievement report clearly shows Florida’s public charter schools are making a meaningful difference in the education of our state’s students,” said Robert Haag, President of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools.  “We congratulate charter school students, teachers and administrators for their continued success.”

The FDOE report is a cooperative project of the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice and the Bureau of Evaluation and Reporting in the Division of Accountability.

The full 2017-2018 Student Achievement Report can be viewed or downloaded at:

About the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools

The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) is the leading charter school membership association in the state, with a membership of nearly 75 percent of all operating charter schools.  Since its inception in 1999, FCPCS has been dedicated to creating a national model of high quality, accredited public charter schools that are student-centered and performance-driven.  FCPCS provides a wide array of technical support, mentoring, training, networking, and purchasing services to its membership, as well as serving as an advocate for all Florida public charter schools.


Feeding Florida Provides Food, and Hope, to Those Affected by Hurricane Michael

Alert from Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools

On October 10, 2019, Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle as a catastrophic Category 4 storm. In its wake Michael left a trail of destruction across an 80-mile swath from Panama City to Apalachicola and inland, leveling homes, schools and businesses, ripping apart roads, and destroying the region’s agriculture. It was the most devastating storm to ever hit the area.

Twelve Florida counties were the hardest hit by Hurricane Michael, including Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla, and Washington. Many area schools were badly damaged or destroyed. Students’ education was significantly disrupted, some for more than a month. In Bay County, an estimated 50 percent of the students lost everything. Twenty-five percent of the elementary age students did not return when school resumed, forcing the school board to consolidate facilities and close three elementary schools.

Once the storm passed, organizations such as Feeding America and Feeding Florida’s network of partners and food banks arrived within twenty-four hours to provide meals, food, water, and supplies for hurricane survivors.

Florida’s Charter Schools Can Support Feeding Florida

Feeding Florida and its partners across the state and around the country are committed to supporting the Panhandle’s hurricane-ravaged communities. Florida’s charter schools can help. Through your support and donations, Feeding Florida and its partners can continue to provide meals and healthy food to the hurricane victims, giving hope to those who need it most.

Consider conducting a Food & Fund drive. Just register with your local food bank. A list of food banks is provided below. Then contact them to get started. You’ll receive a kit to help launch the event. Or hold a fundraiser to make a monetary donation. For every $10 donation, Feeding Florida can provide 62 healthy meals. For more information, click here:

To learn more about how your charter school can make a difference for the families, children, and seniors impacted by Hurricane Michael, contact the Feeding Florida food bank in your area.

Please don’t let the survivors of Hurricane Michael be forgotten.

Feeding Florida unites 12 Feeding America member food banks who work with more than 2,300 community-based partner agencies to provide food directly to individuals and families in need.

Feeding the Gulf Coast (Panhandle Area)
5709 Industrial Blvd.
Milton, FL 32583
(850) 626-1332
Contact: Cathy Pope
Serving: Bay, Escambia, Holmes, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Washington counties

America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend
4446 Entrepot Blvd.
Tallahassee, FL 32310
(850) 562-3033
Contact: Rick Minor
Serving: Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, and Wakulla counties\

Florida Gateway Food Bank
553 Northwest Railroad St.
Lake City, FL 32055
(386) 755-5683
Contact: Suzanne Edwards
Serving: Columbia, Hamilton, Suwannee, and Union counties

Bread for the Mighty Food Bank
325 Northwest 10th Avenue
Gainesville, FL 32601
(352) 336-0839
Contact: Marcia Conwell
Serving: Alachua, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, and Levy counties

First Step Food Bank
4045 NE 36th Ave.
Ocala, FL 34479
(352) 732-5500
Serving: Marion County

Feeding Northeast Florida
1116 Edgewood Avenue
North Jacksonville, FL 32254
(904) 513-1333
Contact: Frank D. Castillo
Serving: Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, and St. Johns counties

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
411 Mercy Drive
Orlando, FL 32805
(407) 295-1066
Contact: Dave Krepcho
Serving: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia counties

Treasure Island Food Bank
401 Angle Road
Fort Pierce, FL 34947
(772) 489-3034
Contact: Judy Cruz
Serving: Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties

Feeding Tampa Bay
4702 Transport Drive
Tampa, FL 33605
Contact: Thomas Mantz
Serving: Citrus, Hardee, Hernando, Highland, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sumter counties

Ending Hunger - All Faiths Food Bank
8171 Blaikie Court
Sarasota, FL 34240
Contact: Sandra Frank
Serving: Desoto and Sarasota counties

Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida
3760 Fowler Street
Fort Myers, FL 33901
(239) 334-7007
Contact: Richard LeBer
Serving: Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties

Feeding South Florida Main Warehouse
2501 SW 32nd Terrace
Pembroke Park, FL 33023
(954) 518-1818
Contact: Paco Velez
Serving: Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach counties
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