February 24, 2021

New Study Explains How Pennsylvania's High-Performing Charter Networks Make It Happen
Researchers from George Mason University and the University of Pennsylvania partnered on a new study for the Fordham Institute to find out how high-performing charter school networks get excellent results, even when they have - as many do - less-experienced teachers. The study found that Pennsylvania charter networks are succeeding with “a fundamentally different approach to human capital” that enables their teachers to be more effective than their counterparts in traditional public schools. They determined that the charter school network model includes recruiting bright young people, making sure they start their teaching career with a strong curriculum and then helping them hone their craft by connecting them with top-notch instructional leaders—often drawn from the ranks of the organization’s own high-performing teachers—who can provide personalized feedback and guidance. Unlike Pennsylvania’s traditional public schools, charter networks in the state also promote many of their most effective teachers into such leadership roles. The full study can be found here. David Griffith and Victoria McDougald, High-Performing Charter School Networks Show Us How to Revitalize Public Education, Real Clear Education, February 19, 2021

Judge Blasts City for Withholding Pandemic-Related Services
A New York judge sharply rebuked city school officials while ruling that New York City’s public charter school students are entitled to the same weekly COVID-19 testing program employed in New York’s traditional public schools. The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed two months ago by five charter schools and 10 families contending they were wrongly excluded from the services available to the city’s 1.1 million public school students. The city Department of Education argued that mandatory COVID-19 tests in traditional public schools were not a health or welfare service, but a “form of surveillance.”
“The contention that testing for a virus, which has caused a global pandemic and claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives, is merely a surveillance tool is beyond incredulous,” said State Supreme Court Justice Frank Nervo in his pointed six-page ruling. Nevro ordered the city to provide and administer COVID-19 screening tests to students and staff of public charter schools upon identical terms as testing provided to traditional public schools.” Mayor DeBlasio’s administration plans to challenge the judge’s ruling. Larry McShane, ‘Beyond Incredulous’: Manhattan Judge Green Lights COVID Testing for Charter Schools, Blasts City Officials for Barring Access, New York Daily News, February 20, 2021

California Public Charter Schools Turn to Blockchain Tech 
Some California public charter schools are using a new mobile application (“app”) called Team.Care Network by Solve.Care. It focuses on well-being and COVID-19 risk, to help ensure the safety of students and their families, teachers and support staff as they return (or continue) in-person learning. The app uses a blockchain-based solution for easy monitoring of individual health and well-being, inclusive of COVID-19 exposure risks, in a secure and transparent manner while protecting the data privacy of the individual. Blockchain is a type of data base that organizes information in chronological order, links it together and prevents it from being altered once it’s in the system. Organizers say this cutting edge technology will allow California’s charter schools to make data-driven safety decisions based on analytics. California Charter Schools Roll Out Blockchain Protection Measures for COVID-19 Response, Security Magazine, February 18, 2021


Eight Months In, California's New Charter School Law Already Impacting Minority, Low-Income Students
A new, tougher California charter school law went into effect in July, and already one school district is using it to try to shut down a rigorous charter school. Epiphany Prep (EP) serves 750 K-8 students in Escondido, just north of San Diego. At least 91 percent of its students are low-income, 98 percent are Hispanic and most speak English as their second language. Since EP opened in 2016, it has offered an 8-hour extended day with additional before and after school programs. As a result, it's seeing tremendous academic growth. While students statewide improved 3 points in math and 3.5 points in English language arts from 2018 to 2019, EP students improved 11 points in math and 23 points in English over the same period. During that same period when EP’s low-income, Hispanic and English language learners were improving, students statewide in the same demographic fell further behind their whiter, wealthier peers. However, this did not dissuade the Escondido School Board from voting unanimously to reject EP’s charter renewal application, citing the school’s failure to meet state academic performance standards. Fortunately, the new law, “AB 1505,” has an appeal process, which the California Charter Schools Association fought hard to insert into the legislation. EP plans to appeal the school board’s decision, but the San Diego County Office of Education won’t hear the case until April or May. Deborah Sullivan Brennan, Escondido Union School Board Vetoes Renewal for Epiphany Prep Charter School, San Diego Union Tribune, February 19, 2021; AB 1505


Charter School Transportation Bill on a Roll in Arizona
Arizona’s Senate Education Committee has approved  Senate Bill 1683, which would establish a $10 million fund to provide grants to public schools and municipalities to provide safe and reliable transportation for charter school and open enrollment students. Parents also could receive monthly stipends for driving and mass transit costs. The bill's supporters say that while Arizona has a robust set of options for families, parents don't really have choice unless they can get their students to their desired school. The bill also includes a component for schools and cities to receive grants to do data analysis to find more efficient ways to transport those students who need it. Victoria Harker, Bill Would Provide New Transportation Options for Open Enrollment and Public Charter Students, Chamber Business News, February 17, 2021
Special Education Parents Outraged 
Utah’s American Preparatory Academy has been ordered to pay the state back for $3 million in special education money that was not spent on services for disabled students. Now, a state senator has introduced a bill, SB175, which would remove the current requirement that such funding from the state only be spent directly on students with disabilities. Instead, it would open up the money so it could be used for other needs and beyond just special education students. That could include expenses more loosely tied to disability programs, such as salaries for staff who work with groups that include students with and without special needs, and for services that benefit both.

“It simplifies the rules greatly,” said Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, the bill’s sponsor, during a committee hearing. “It’s a balancing act.” He acknowledged that the legislation was spurred by the ongoing dispute between American Preparatory Academy and the state, but says the new rule won’t retroactively get the school off the hook for repayment. Parents and special needs advocates vow to fight the bill, which they believe will dilute the pool of money for special needs students. Courtney Tanner, Bill would let Utah Schools Spend Special Education Funds on Students Without Special Needs, The Salt Lake Tribune, February 17, 2021
Goal is K-16 Education Experience
Construction is expected to begin this year on Pinecrest Lakes Academy (PLA), which is projected to open at Lake Sumter State College in Clermont in August 2022. Sixty-seven ninth-grade PLA students already are attending classes in temporary space on the college campus. PLA will add a grade each year and graduate its first senior class in 2024. The feeder school for the new high school is Pinecrest Lakes public charter school, which has 750 K-8 students. The partners hope that when PLA is fully populated, the partnership with the college will create a seamless K-16 education program for students. Stephen Ruiz, Pinecrest Lakes Middle/High School to Open Next Year on LSSC's Clermont Campus, The Daily Commercial, January 29, 2021
Fast, Accurate and Efficient
Ever struggle with finding current information on charter schools or charter school bonds?  Searching multiple department of education websites, charter school authorizer portals, EMMA and other sources is time consuming, and much of the data is locked in PDFs or other nondigital forms. The fragmentation of data sources and limited digitization make charter school research labor intensive, while comparisons across large numbers of schools is prohibitive. This can leave institutional investors, underwriters, municipal advisors, and other market participants concerned they might not have the complete picture.  

Until now.  School Improvement Partnership has created the SIP Database, aggregating financial, operating and academic data on all charter school and charter school bonds in the country. Subscribers utilize the SIP Database for portfolio monitoring, business development, research, and fair valuation of charter school bonds.  Please email Alan Wohlstetter at for a complimentary demonstration. 
School Improvement Partnership improves transparency and accountability in the charter school bond market. As continuing disclosure agent for more than 40 schools in six states, we enhance the form and content of secondary market information for charter school bond investors. On behalf of such investors, School Improvement Partnership performs comprehensive evaluations of charter school borrowers in transition - both pre-investment and post-investment. Please view our website or call us at 215.854.6322.
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