charter schools

Families and staff at Rainier Prep sand old paint off railings in the school's adopted building at a recent work party.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld / KUOW

On a recent sunny afternoon, a work party was underway at a low-slung building just south of Seattle that will soon become Rainier Prep, a charter middle school.

School leader Maggie O’Sullivan bounced from room to room, directing traffic. As one large family planted brightly colored dahlias and lobelias beneath what would soon become the school's sign, a father who had just shown up balancing a case of bottled water on one shoulder was directed to the basement, where a potluck would begin in a couple hours.

Virginia Savage lives in a part of north St. Louis, Mo., that's filled with vacant buildings, including Marshall Elementary. It has been closed for years now, and vines crawl into the building's smashed-out windows. The playground is littered with empty liquor bottles.

Savage went to school at Marshall as a young girl, and now she sees bigger problems beyond all those blemishes: "Drug dealers, drug users, eyesore. That's what I see."

In St. Louis, the student enrollment is one-fourth the size it was in the 1960s. That drop has led the district to close 30 or so schools.

School desk
Flickr Photo/ccarlstead (CC BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Steve Sundquist, chair of the Washington State Charter School Commission, about the probation of Washington's first charter school and what it means for the many schools set to open next year.

It's Saturday in East Nashville, Tenn., and LaTonya White finds herself knocking on a stranger's door. It's awkward. Someone peers out at her through the window. White looks away, pretending not to notice. After an uncomfortable few seconds, the door finally cracks open. White seizes her chance:

"My name is LaTonya White. I'm the principal at Rosebank Elementary School. How are you doing?" she asks, glancing at the clipboard in her hands. On it: a list of families in the area with soon-to-be kindergartners. "Yes, you should have a child ready to come to school soon."

Flickr Photo/Nick Amoscato (CC BY-NC-ND)

The Washington State Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday regarding the constitutionality of the voter-approved charter school law.

Many people are intensely interested in how publicly funded charter schools affect children, and that includes not just their academic achievement but their health.

Researchers from UCLA and the Rand Corp. wanted to know whether attending a high-performing charter school reduced the rates of risky health behaviors among low-income minority teenagers.

Seven organizations have filed to open charter schools in Washington in the state’s second-ever round of applications.

The proposed schools include California-based charter chains… a bilingual school… and a school that would teach partly in sign language.

Three of the schools would be in Spokane, with the rest in Seattle, Sunnyside, and Pierce and Clark Counties.

Three of the groups had applied unsuccessfully to open schools last year.

The state’s charter school authorizers will decide which applications to approve, if any, by mid-October.

About 30 high school freshmen and sophomores who attended Odyssey Charter School in Idaho Falls, Idaho, may have to repeat classes -- or even an entire grade -- next year after the Idaho Public Charter School Commission found their fledgling school failed to measure up.

Diane Ravitch's book "Reign of Error."

The popular narrative around public schools is that they’re failing and that teachers and administrators are to blame. Reformers argue for charter schools. They call for evaluating teachers based on the test scores of their students. They urge abolition of policies that reward seniority among teachers.

Diane Ravitch thinks they’re wrong. She thinks what passes for reform is a hoax. Ravitch is a historian of education and a research professor at New York University. She was an Assistant Secretary of Education in the first Bush administration. Her latest book is "Reign of Error: The Hoax Of The Privatization Movement And The Danger To American Schools."

Flickr Photo/ Sharon Drummond

Marcie Sillman talks with Dan Seydel, board president and charter development chair for First Place School. Starting fall 2014, Seattle's first private charter school will be serving children who have experienced significant trauma.

Flickr Photo/www.audio-luci-store.it

The Washington State Charter School Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on the 19 charter applications it received.

The commission hired outside evaluators, who advised that only six out of the 19 applications be approved.

Ann Dornfeld / KUOW

The Washington State Charter School Commission is wrapping up three weeks of public hearings for 19 proposed schools.

The Washington State Charter School Commission will host nine public forums around the state this month regarding the 19 charter school proposals it is considering. The first one is  Monday afternoon in Spokane.

Each forum will focus on up to three proposals, and begin with a presentation from the charter applicants.

Washington Irving High used to be a large school of 4,000 students. But today, the elegant, century-old building, its walls painted with murals depicting scenes from New York history, is home to seven separate schools.

The changes at this school, near the hustle and bustle of Manhattan's Union Square, offer a window into the imprint outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made on the city's public school system.

Flickr Photo/everyday Zoid

A King County Superior Court ruling Thursday will allow the introduction of charter schools in Washington, but struck down part of the law as unconstitutional.    

In her ruling, Judge Jean Rietschel upheld much of the charter school law, and the state attorney general said the state will continue to implement it.

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