Why the types of charter schools matter

Why the types of charter schools matterThere are no doubts that charter schools are unique. In Jeffco, each charter school appears to be as different from each other as they are from their neighborhood school counterparts. The following information, as reported by Don Oatman in the “OVERLOOKED ISSUES PERTAINING TO JEFFCO CHARTER SCHOOLS” report, helps shed light on the different types of charter schools in the Jefferson County Public Schools District, and why these differences matter:

“Issue Number Two – Types of Charter Schools

As of August 2015, the Jeffco Board of Education had authorized 16 charter schools. The backgrounds and nature of these schools vary; one (the New America School-Lakewood) is an English Language Learners program associated with a Charter Management Organization (CMO), one (Rocky Mountain Deaf School) involves Deaf Education, and one (Two Roads Charter School) has a home school/traditional program. Six are identified as core knowledge schools, and seven are based on three programs originally established by private schools. The newest charter school, Golden View Classical Academy and the most recently authorized charter school, Doral Academy are both associated with national entities, one (Golden View) is a non-profit Charter Management Organization (CMO) and the second (Doral Academy) is a for-profit Education Management (EMO) Organization.

The Jeffco charter schools based on educational programs provided by private educational programs include Montessori Schools (four in Jeffco ), Waldorf Schools (one in Jeffco) and Classical Schools (two in Jeffco).

Montessori Charter Schools

A CDE report, The State of Charter Schools in Colorado indicates there were seven Montessori charter schools in Colorado at the time of the study in 2012, with four being in Jefferson County. Some Montessori schools serve students through grade 12, however, over 90 percent of Montessori schools nationwide provide programs for children ages 3 through 6. The Montessori name can be used by anyone starting a school that is based on the teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori as there is no copyright or trademark restrictions related to the use of the Montessori name. An organization entitled the American Montessori Society (AMS) provides a number of support activities for Montessori schools along with an official recognition/accreditation program. There are 11 AMS members in Colorado, Six of which are private Montessori schools serving students PK-8 with tuition rates ranging from $12,350 to $16,095 annually. Two of these six Montessori schools are located in Jefferson County. There are four Colorado non-Jeffco charter schools, all of which are members of AMS; of the four Montessori charter schools in Jeffco, only one is a member of AMS.

Waldorf Charter Schools

Waldorf schools are based on the trademarked principles of Rudolf Steiner which include a focus on “experiencing, not just reading about, music, dance, theater, writing, literature, legends and myths.” There are over 150 private Waldorf schools associated with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), an organization “founded in 1968 to assist schools and institutes in working together to strengthen and nurture Waldorf Education and to advance Waldorf principles.” There are five private Waldorf Schools in Colorado with annual tuition rates ranging from $11,300 to $17,995.

A number of charter schools identified as “Waldorf” schools have been established nationally, resulting in the creation of a national association entitled the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education (the Alliance). There have been issues regarding the use of the “Waldorf” name and AWSNA and the Alliance recently entered into an agreement establishing a requirement for charter schools to acknowledge in all printed and electronic medium that “Public Waldorf TM” is a service mark owned by AWSNA and is used pursuant to license.

The Mountain Phoenix Community School is identified as a “Jeffco charter school Guided by the Core Principles of Public Waldorf Education.” It appears the Mountain Phoenix Community School has not referenced the Waldorf name consistent with the agreement entered into between AWSNA and the Alliance.

Classical Charter Schools

There are currently two classical charter schools authorized by the Jeffco Board of Education. They are Addenbrooke Academy which has recently expanded to include two schools (Addenbrooke Classical Grammar School and Addenbrooke Classical Academy), and the recently approved Golden View Classical Academy which began enrolling students for the 2015-2016 school year. The curriculum for these schools is based on the concept of Trivium education which consists of the “first three phases of the liberating arts which involve letter, qualities, and mind.” This is an educational approach used by Classical Christian private schools with annual tuition ranging from $3,000 to $7,500 per student.

The only national organization involved with classical schools is the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS) which provides an accreditation program for Classical Christian Schools, of which there are five located in Colorado. Three other non-ACCS member Colorado Christian Classical Schools have been identified and beyond the two classical charter schools in Jeffco, there are also four additional Classical Charter Schools in Colorado. All non-charter Classical Schools in Colorado are identified as Christian Classical Schools. Colorado Revised Statutes 22-30.5-104. Charter School – requirements- authority states:

“A charter school shall be a public nonsectarian, non-religious, non-home-based school which operates within a public school district.”

Both the Addenbrooke and Golden View Classical Schools, although not formally identified as religious entities, have close relationships with religious organizations. The Addenbrooke Academy, until 2015- 2016 was located in a church facility and the board chair has been active as a pastor for many years. The Golden View Classical Academy is affiliated with the Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative. Hillsdale College materials state:

As noted in its Articles of Association, “the College undertakes its work “grateful to God for the inestimable blessings resulting from the prevalence of civil and religious liberty and intelligent piety in the land, and believing that the diffusion of sound learning is essential to the perpetuity of these blessings.”

The Golden view Classical School is seeking to develop a partnership with Colorado Christian University (CCU) to “partner with a teacher-training program considering a track in classical education would be of value to Golden View Classical as would having access to staff and facilities for the Golden View Classical music program.” CCU has a Mission Statement and Statement of Faith that emphasize religious beliefs.

National School Management Organizations

The most recent charter approvals represent national organizations; Golden View Classical Academy is associated with a non-profit Charter Management Organization (CMO) affiliated with the Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative. Doral Academy is affiliated with Doral Academy Inc. Charter School Network, a for profit Educational Management Organization (EMO) which is associated with the Academica Corporation, a for profit management company. The approval of these two schools represents a departure from past approvals where all but one of the charter schools ( New America School-Lakewood is associated with a Colorado-based CMO) approved by Jeffco were the result of local initiatives. Attachment A provides additional background pertaining to the Doral Academy application.”

More information regarding this and additional charter school issues can be found in the full report at http://goo.gl/vcXF8G

Posted in Charter Info, Colorado Charter Schools, Jeffco, Montessori Peaks Academy, Reports

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