The Education Innovator #23
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The Education Innovator
 August 4, 2003 • Number 23
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What's inside...
Aspire Public Schools, California
What's New
President Bush to name Gene Hickok as Acting Deputy Secretary of Education; technical assistance on how to become a supplemental service provider is available; and conference on university assisted schools will be held at the University of Pennsylvania.
Innovations in the News
A triple-play of stories about virtual schools; plus information on charter schools and teacher quality.

Aspire Public Schools Focuses on Reshaping Schools in Urban Areas in California
Founded in 1998, in low- and middle-income communities, Aspire Public Schools is a nonprofit organization with the goal of enriching students' lives and reshaping local public school systems. Aspire opens and operates public charter schools in California. These schools focus on providing quality education for students in urban areas. Aspire aims to provide a personalized learning experience for a diverse student population. Also, Aspire seeks to develop outstanding educators while sharing best practices with other forward thinking educational institutions.

Aspire's goal is to provide students with access to opportunities for success in all their future endeavors—in higher education, work and citizenship. Aspire schools are small and have multi-aged classrooms. Each student has a Personalized Learning Plan (PLP), developed in collaboration with his or her teacher and parents. This plan outlines the student's specific learning goals for each semester. Through personalized learning experiences students work to master.

  • Basic Skills at least at grade level competency in the four core subjects: mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts;
  • Thinking Skills to be able to apply classroom learning to real world experiences using critical thinking, creativity and problem solving; and
  • Life Skills to develop personal qualities of responsibility, intellectual curiosity and integrity.
School standards are based on the California State Content Standards, Newman's Standards for Authentic Instruction and Assessment, and the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS). Aspire's secondary school courses also conform to the University of California system's A-G requirements. Passing some of these courses enables students to earn extra honors credit when computing grade average for admission to University of California schools.

Aspire schools are dedicated to assessing their effectiveness by looking at a number of factors. They use a Balanced Scorecard, developed by McKinsey & Company, that measures student academic performance, parent satisfaction, teacher satisfaction, and impact on the community—the important factors, according to McKinsey, that contribute to success. Regarding student academic performance, for example, an independent evaluation by Research Policy Practice International compared student scores on the SAT-9 exam. In 2001, students at University Public School, one of the Aspire schools, outscored their Lodi Unified School District peers in every SAT-9 subject test at every grade level.

Aspire Public Schools also looks at data from the American Performance Index (API), California's tool for monitoring public school performance. University Public School performance went up 115 points on the API from 2000 to 2002. Monarch Academy, an Aspire elementary school, went up 80 points from 2001 to 2002. Monarch was in the top 1% of all schools in California in terms of single year growth.

Aspire operates both elementary (grades K-5) and secondary (grades 6-12) schools. All California students are eligible to enroll in Aspire Public Schools. There are no admission requirements and no tuition. When the number of interested students exceeds capacity, Aspire holds an open public lottery to determine enrollment. Currently, Aspire operates seven schools in Stockton/Lodi, Modesto, Oakland and East Palo Alto. Charter approval has been received to open a school in the Sacramento area, and Aspire schools are scheduled to open in Los Angeles, starting around 2005.

Aspire Public Schools receive charter school start-up and implementation funds from the Office of Innovation and Improvement through California's State Department of Education. For more information about Aspire Public Schools; go to: For more information on the Charter School Program; go to:

Note: The featured innovation answers the question, "What is it?" not "What works?" The program or innovation is interesting and innovative but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the project described may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.


What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced that President Bush intends to name Under Secretary Gene Hickok to be Acting Deputy Secretary of Education. He will serve as a principal policy advisor to the Secretary on all major program and management issues. A press release about this appointment is available at

The Department's Center on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives will be conducting a regional workshop on "Becoming Supplemental Service Providers," August 12 in St. Louis, MO. This workshop is designed to assist faith-based and community organizations in applying to be providers of tutoring and other out-of-school academic services for disadvantaged students. For information on this workshop, see

From OII

OII helped the Department's Center on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives deliver a webcast on how to become a supplemental service provider. The webcast can be viewed a

Education Management Organizations

The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education will hold a conference about universities that create or manage K-12 public schools, including charter schools, on October 30-31, 2003 in Philadelphia.


Innovations in the News

Virtual Schools
A pilot program based in the Pocahontas Community School District in Iowa will make it easier for all students to get the education and assistance they need - right in their own home. [More- The Messenger] (July 25)

Students in Massachusetts have turned to Virtual High School, when classes they were interested in were unavailable. Virtual High School, a trademarked name, is a Massachusetts-based consortium involving about 2,000 students in 162 schools in 21 states and eight foreign countries. It offers about 200 courses each year, all taught entirely over the Internet. [More-The Cape Cod Register] (July 24)

A new elementary school is coming to Yuma, Arizona just in time for the upcoming school year, but its students won't attend a classroom made out of bricks and mortar. [More-The Yuma Sun] (July 22)

Charter Schools
KIPP Bridge College Preparatory was the first KIPP school to open in California last year, and this month KIPP schools are opening in San Francisco's Western Addition and Bayview-Hunters Point, and in San Lorenzo, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego. [More-The San Francisco Chronicle] (July 29)

Summit Preparatory High School, a charter school with the goal of preparing students for college, opened its doors last week in a Redwood City, California office building. [More-The San Mateo County Times] (July 22)

The Academy of Careers & Technology (ACT) launched a marketing campaign, including television ads, to increase awareness of its presence on the San Antonio, Texas's South Side. [More-San Antonio Business Journal] (July 21)

Teacher Quality
The Philadelphia school district has hired Teach for America to help it fill an estimated 800 vacant teaching positions. [More-The Philadelphia Inquirer] (July 31)

The Guardian looks at Teach First, a program similar to Teach for America that recruits talented young people to work in London city schools. [More- The Guardian (London)] (July 29)


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Last Modified: 04/26/2011