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The Education Innovator #28
Volume II
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The Education Innovator
 July 26, 2004 • Number 28
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Feature
Oglethorpe Charter School, Savannah, GA
What's New
The U.S. Department of Education has three new releases: "Early Implementation of Supplemental Educational Services Under the No Child Left Behind Act: Year One Report" and two documents on non-regulatory guidance for charter schools; The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History will sponsor an exhibit on Alexander Hamilton; the National Endowment for Financial Education provides grants to teach personal finance management; Nestlé and Reading is Fundamental honor 30 young people who have made literacy a personal and community goal; the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PACYBER) offers students the opportunity to accumulate free college credit online; and Rupert Murdoch gives the first annual lecture of the Leadership Academy of New York City, a program established to train outstanding principals for New York City schools.
Innovations in the News
The Central Educational Center charter school is named a 2004 National Model High School, plus information on charter schools, magnet schools, parental involvement, and Teaching American History grantees.

Oglethorpe Charter School Is Built on a Triad of Teacher, Student, and Parent Involvement
When Martha Nesbit, a Savannah parent, decided to search for an alternative to under-performing public middle schools in her city, she enlisted the help of church friends and a variety of community members to lobby for legislation that would allow for a start-up charter school. At the time, the state only allowed charters that were district conversions of existing schools. After an extensive letter writing campaign and hundreds of calls, state legislators passed the needed legislation, and Oglethorpe Charter School in Savannah, GA, was on its way to becoming a reality.

Nesbit's activist group secured a small building that could accommodate 330 students and set out to hire administrators who would govern the new charter school with the same sense of individual commitment upon which the school was conceived.

School instructors and parents, working together, opted to make Oglethorpe an official Core Knowledge School where students learn classic history and literature and are held to high academic standards. Students work from a Personal Education Plan (PEP), developed with the teacher, so that each child is aware of his or her specific learning goals and general progress. In addition, parents partner with the school to help students accomplish the goals outlined in their PEP. Teachers stay in touch with parents every week, when they send students home with folders that contain classroom updates, weekly newsletters, and mid-quarter and quarter-end progress reports.

Teachers at Oglethorpe work hard to meet individual pupils' needs. Teachers are required to provide regular tutorials both during lunch and after school. In 2002, when one-third of Oglethorpe's student body was reading below grade level—including the 5 percent of Oglethorpe's students who are designated as having special needs—teachers took the lead to implement a Direct Instruction Corrective Reading Program. As a part of this initiative, many community parents agreed to come to school and assist in vocabulary building and interactive reading.

Students who display exemplary achievement also receive attention. Some students are enrolled in an Advanced Instruction with Motivation (AIM) reading class, where they receive high school credit for passing assessments at the end of the instruction period.

In addition to the intensive formal instruction, teachers use Fridays to reinforce positive behavior and personal accountability. For students, classes are shortened to run a program called "Titans Love Character" (TLC). At TLC meetings, a different virtue, such as integrity or responsibility, is emphasized and discussed. For teachers, Fridays are also sometimes used for peer-research study groups for professional development. As with students, teachers' personal accountability is an integral part of the Oglethorpe experience.

Finally, parents are part of the school's involvement triad. A parent-led board is responsible for determining school policy, and parents at Oglethorpe are required to sign a contract that binds them to providing 10 hours of service activities per year to the school in exchange for their child's enrollment. Actually, parents usually volunteer an average of 44 hours of their time to ensure their children's success, far exceeding the 10-hour obligation.

As a result of an extensive commitment to comprehensive involvement, Oglethorpe has forged a positive relationship with the local community. The Oglethorpe school reinforces this partnership by participating in local service activities. In the past, students, parents, and teachers have volunteered at an annual beach cleanup, a diabetes walk, and a local homeless shelter. Reaching out into the community means that Oglethorpe attracts a student body that largely reflects Savannah's demographics. At the school, 38 percent of students are African-American, 51 percent are white, 4 percent are Asian-American, 3 percent are Hispanic, and 4 percent are multiracial.

The parents, teachers, and students of Oglethorpe Charter School are proud to be part of a school community that reflects diversity, both academically and demographically, and addresses individual needs, both character-related and academic. Such programs have made a difference at the school: Of the 94 students who entered the middle school below reading level, 69 percent of sixth graders, 78 percent of seventh graders, and 79 percent of eighth graders now read on their level. Furthermore, 98 percent of Oglethorpe students met or exceeded state standards on writing tests.

Oglethorpe Charter School is featured in OII's new publication entitled Innovations in Education: Successful Charter Schools. OII provides funding for charter schools under the Charter Schools Grant Program.

Resources:
  • Oglethorpe Charter School
Note: The program described is a case study in the OII book, Innovations in Education: Successful Charter Schools. While the program is innovative, it does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. However, the school has improved student academic achievement over time, and has met No Child Left Behind's "Adequate Yearly Progress" standards.

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What's New
Implementation of Supplemental Educational Services Under the No Child Left Behind Act: Year One Report
The U.S. Department of Education has released "Early Implementation of Supplemental Educational Services Under the No Child Left Behind Act: Year One Report" download files MS Word (912K). The publication studies nine districts in six states to document how successfully states, schools, and providers implemented supplemental educational services in school year 2002-03. (July 16)


Updated Non-Regulatory Guidance on Charter Schools
The U.S. Department of Education has issued two sets of updated non-regulatory guidance on charter schools. One updates the guidance for the Department's Charter Schools Program download files PDF (1K) and answers questions about student admissions, the involvement of for-profit organizations, and other implementation-related issues. The other provides guidance on "The Impact of the New Title I Requirements on Charter Schools" download files PDF (1K). (July 20)


Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History Exhibit on Alexander Hamilton
The Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History has collaborated with the New York Historical Society on an exhibit titled, Alexander Hamilton: the Man Who Made Modern America. The exhibit will run Sept. 10, 2004-Feb. 28, 2005, at the New York Historical Society in New York City. The Gilder Lehrman Institute is a partner of the Academy of American Studies, a Teaching American History grantee, which was featured in the June 16, 2003, Innovator (copy available on request) (July 21)


National Endowment for Financial Education Grant Opportunity
The National Endowment for Financial Education offers grants to support programs that educate young people and members of low-income groups on how to better manage personal finances. U.S. nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply. The next application deadline is Aug. 3, 2004. (July 20)


Nestlé and Reading Is Fundamental "Very Best in Youth" Program
Nestlé and Reading Is Fundamental are sponsoring the Nestlé Very Best in Youth honoring 30 people who have made reading a priority and have made quality of life contributions to their communities. Nominations must be submitted by November 1, 2004. (July 12)


College Honors Academic Mastery Program (CHAMPS)
CHAMPS, the College Honors Academic Mastery Program, is now available from the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PACYBER). In conjunction with the University of Phoenix, PACYBER will give exemplary students the opportunity to accumulate free college credit by participating in six-week online sessions. (July 3)


Rupert Murdoch Delivers Lecture on Leadership to NYC Leadership Academy
News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch gave the first annual lecture at the Leadership Academy to train New York City principals. The Academy will graduate its first class of 75 principals this summer. The Academy was established to recruit and train outstanding principals to lead New York City's public schools, and has support from OII's School Leadership Program. (June 29)


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Innovations in the News

Charter Schools
The Central Educational Center, a charter school in Newnan, GA, was named a 2004 National Model High School by a consortium that includes the International Center for Leadership in Education, High Schools That Work, and others. The Model High School program is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Bringing Best Practices to Scale initiative. The school is noted for its technical education program. [More-Times-Herald] (Jan. 22) (presented June 25)

A charter school network started by Yale Law School graduates has been invited to open five new charter schools in New York City. The nonprofit network evaluates its currently operating schools every six weeks, boasts a 9.5-hour school day, and runs a discipline-centered school environment. [More-Daily News] (July 21)

For the first time, charter schools in Pennsylvania will have the opportunity to borrow money for construction projects. This privilege, granted as an amendment to the charter school laws of Pennsylvania, surfaced in response to rising enrollments in more than 100 charter schools that serve about 35,000 students in the state. [More-Centre Daily] (July 20)

Magnet Schools
After four years of working toward International Baccalaureate certification, Galileo Magnet High School in Danville, VA, has been authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate Program. The school has demonstrated how motivated and hard-working its students are. Galileo High School has received support through OII's magnet schools program and was featured in the June 30, 2003, issue of the Innovator (copy available on request). [More-Register & Bee] (July 17)

Parental Involvement
Alabama's Special Education Action Committee's Parents Assistance Center (SEAC) will hold workshops aimed at empowering parents to help children thrive in their schools. The workshops will focus on outlining No Child Left Behind, instructing parents on how to help students with homework, working with parents to make sure their children have adequate supplies at school and at home, and working with teachers to monitor lesson plans. [More-AL.com] (July 21)

At Lunenberg High School in Massachusetts, involved parents, teachers, and members of the school committee have held three public forums in the past year to discuss NCLB mandates, parent involvement, and standardized testing. All parties agree that the best way to improve area schools is to stress Massachusetts' state testing and No Child Left Behind requirements by getting more information out to students and parents. [More-Sentinel & Enterprise]

Teaching American History
The Yolo County Office of Education in California has been awarded an OII Teaching American History grant. The goal of the project is to improve the preparation of U.S. history teachers and to improve the literacy and achievement rates among both native English speakers and English language learners in U.S. history classes. [More-Daily Democrat] (July 22)

Chillicothe R-2 Schools in Missouri received a Teaching American History (TAH) grant to establish a network of master history teachers as they work with a number of partners, including the Truman Presidential Museum and Library. This is the second time the district has applied for a TAH grant; the social studies department chair said the district learned from the reviewers' notes on the first application, so they were able to write a more focused proposal. [More-Chillicothe News] (July 21)

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Last Modified: 02/17/2009