The Education Innovator #35
Volume II
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The Education Innovator
 September 20, 2004 • Number 35
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What's inside...
Renaissance Elementary Charter School, Miami, Florida
What's New
Secretary Paige delivers the annual Back to School Address; Department of Education awards a grant to the first federally funded center on school choice; OECD issues its report on international education; RIF promotes early childhood literacy among Latino families; the next Education News Parents Can Use television program is on reading; evaluators who would like to be included on the What Works Clearinghouse list of evaluators can now register; Department of Education will participate in the Partnership for Public Service's "Extreme Hiring Makeover"; District of Columbia launches its first "Early College High School Program"; new website contains links to resources about charter schools and education in Virginia; new "Writing Successful Grants Knowledge Base" online resource is now available; and 250 public and private schools named No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools.
Innovations in the News
OII awards grants to Transition to Teaching programs, plus information on arts education, charter schools, and supplemental services.

From Ryder to "Renaissance": Driving Quality Education
While most schools in America are associated with bright yellow buses, one charter school in Florida is more closely associated with a bright yellow truck. Renaissance Elementary Charter School (formerly known as Ryder Elementary School) was created in August 1999 as a charter school for the children of Ryder employees in Miami. Ryder, the truck leasing and rental company, invested $3.75 million to create the 30,000 square foot school where the children of Ryder employees were given an enrollment preference. Florida was the first state to pass legislation allowing businesses to open charter schools that target employees' children. Ryder Elementary Charter School (RECS) was also the first charter school in the American workplace.

Some of the goals of Florida's charter school law are to increase business partnerships in education, reduce school and classroom overcrowding, and help offset the high cost for education facility construction. And the early evidence indicates that these goals are being met.

Now that the school is established, it is no longer affiliated with Ryder, but continues in the tradition of providing quality education in a workplace environment. Its downtown, industrial location attracts children whose parents work for other companies in the area. Employees of the U.S. Southern Command, Carnival Cruise Lines, Air Jamaica, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, as well as Ryder, commute with their children from as far away as 40 miles. Close proximity during the day makes it possible for parents to join their children for lunch, volunteer at the school, or quickly check on their children if they become sick.

Renaissance strives to create a sense of ownership by the parents through its workplace location, its contractual agreements for parent involvement, and its intense educational program that focuses on modeling responsible behavior. All parents are required to complete 20 hours of volunteer service for the school, such as attending PTA meetings, supervising recess, or helping in study centers.

The school's curriculum is aligned with Florida's Core Curriculum Model. The school emphasizes the acquisition of basic skills, and it measures performance through standardized tests, as well as portfolios of student work.

While attracting an economically, socially, and racially diverse enrollment of 500 students, Renaissance was ranked as an "A" school by the state of Florida in the 2003-2004 school year and is one of the highest performing elementary schools in Dade County.

In 2004, 80 percent of Renaissance students scored at level 3 or above in math on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), compared to the state average of 56 percent. (On a five-point scale, a student scoring level 3 answers many of the test questions correctly, but has only some success with the most challenging ones, while students scoring level 5 answer most questions correctly, including the most challenging.) Scores on the math FCAT have risen steadily from 56 percent of students scoring 3 or above in 2002 to 74 percent in 2003 to the 80 percent in 2004. In 2004, 80 percent of the school's students also scored at or above level 3 in reading, compared to 71 percent for the state as a whole. And, 94 percent scored at or above level 3 in writing, compared to 84 percent in the state.

Student achievement is developed by a highly motivated teaching staff. Renaissance is currently in its fourth year of the Florida Mentor Teacher School Pilot Program (FMTSPP). The FMTSPP is based on the Teacher Advancement Program, supported by the Milken Family Foundation. The program was established to foster excellence in teaching, promote collaboration, attract and retain high quality individuals into the teaching profession, and improve student performance.

In this program at Renaissance, teachers mentor other teachers; there is constant communication and sharing among the staff; and there is peer evaluation. The entire staff is committed to teacher improvement and support, and teacher performance evaluations are tied to student achievement. For the second year, through FMTSPP, outstanding teachers will receive a bonus check based on student performance results.

Renaissance is managed by Charter Schools USA (CSUSA), which supports the school through the "academic focus calendar." This tool allows schools to monitor the state standards being taught or emphasized in the classroom. The calendar is supplemented by the eGrade Book"!, which is an electronic grade book aligned to the standards for teachers to register and calculate grades. The eGrade Book also enables the principal to view the standards a teacher has covered or taught at any time during the term or semester.

Another feature of CSUSA's data collection system is an analysis of student performance in reading, mathematics, and writing as delineated in mini assessments or benchmark tests. Looking at the results of these tests gives the school the ability to shift emphases, change instructional approaches, or address gaps in student learning. It also helps the school identify students in need of further support and those who can benefit from acceleration.

Attention to particular content skills can reveal, for instance, that a student may have mastered the "main idea" in reading but has considerable gaps in understanding "cause and effect." This alerts the student, teacher, and parent that more emphasis needs to be put on developing this understanding. With CSUSA's special feature called "Skills Connection," the teacher can design several customized lessons addressing a student's skill needs with a touch of a computer button.

CSUSA also manages the school's payroll, legal services, employee benefits, and information technology. Having CSUSA conduct the financial and support services for the school enables the school's principal to concentrate on the curriculum, the students, and relations with parents and the community, instead of spending precious time on the day-to-day administrative details.

Not only has the Ryder School evolved into the Renaissance School, but the idea of the workplace charter school has also progressed. In 2000 another workplace school was started in Florida, and in 2001 the JFK Medical Center in Palm Beach opened its charter school as a way to recruit and retain good nurses, pharmacists, and other health care providers. As of this April, five states—Connecticut, Florida, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire—allow workplace charter schools.

Resources: Note: The featured program is an example of one school's educational approach and is provided to help schools implement the provisions of No Child Left Behind. The program described is innovative, but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the program may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.


What's New
Secretary Paige's Annual Back to School Address
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige will deliver the annual Back to School Address at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24. The speech will be broadcast live as a video webcast.

Vanderbilt University Awarded Grant to Conduct Research on School Choice
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $10 million grant to Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education and Human Development to be the home of the first federally funded national center to study school choice. (Sept. 13)

OECD Report on International Education
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has issued its latest report on international education. The report shows that U.S. fourth graders perform above the international average in reading literacy but, the older they get, the less competitive they become. The goals of No Child Left Behind are helping to close both the achievement gap and the "aspiration gap," according to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. (Sept. 14)

Reading Is Fundamental Outreach to the Hispanic Community
Reading Is Fundamental, which receives a grant from OII, has launched a new initiative to promote early childhood literacy among Latino families. "Un futuro brilliante empieza en un libro" includes a website and a 30-minute educational parent video in Spanish. (Sept. 16)

Education News Parents Can Use: "Back to School: Ready to Read, Ready to Succeed"
The next Education News Parents Can Use television program from the U.S. Department of Education will cover "Back to School: Ready to Read, Ready to Succeed." The program will air September 21 at 8:00 P.M. ET. (Sept. 16)

Evaluators for What Works Clearing House Registry
Registration forms are currently available for evaluators who would like to be included on the What Works Clearinghouse Registry of Outcome Evaluators, an online database of individuals and organizations who conduct research on the effects of educational interventions. (Sept. 14)

Education Department's "Extreme Hiring Makeover"
The U.S. Department of Education will participate in the Partnership for Public Service's "Extreme Hiring Makeover" designed to improve how the federal government recruits and hires talented workers. (Sept. 14)

Friendship Edison Charter School Launched as the First "Early College High School Program" in D.C.
A press conference was held on September 9 to launch the Friendship Edison Charter School as the District of Columbia's first "Early College High School Program" in partnership with the University of the District of Columbia. The project is being supported by the Woodrow Wilson Early College High School grant initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The school also recently received an OII Transition to Teaching grant to support the recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers. (Sept. 7)

Virginia Charter School Resource Center
A new website, the "Virginia Charter School Resource Center," contains links to information, organizations, and resources about charter schools and education in Virginia. (Sept. 15)

New Online Resource for Writing Successful Grants
The new "Writing Successful Grants Knowledge Base" online resource is designed to guide educators through the process of seeking public and private grants to support programs in their schools and communities. This is a project of the Region VII Comprehensive Center, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. (Sept. 1)

NCLB Blue Ribbon Schools 2004
Two hundred and fifty schools have been named the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools of 2004. These schools are recognized for making significant progress in closing the achievement gap or for having students who achieve at very high levels. The awardees include public as well as private schools. (Sept. 17)


Innovations in the News

Arts Education
The University of Southern Mississippi's Children's Musical Theatre is designed to educate and entertain students in grades two-six. With a variety of programming and scheduling options, the program wants to give teachers and school administrators more access to the arts. [More-Clarion-Ledger] (Sept. 9)

Kurt Wooton, an English teacher in Rhode Island, devised and now directs ArtsLit to teach literacy to children in some of the state's most troubled schools. The approach includes dramatic performance of literary texts, many of which are Western classics. ArtsLit puts a professional actor or director, a teacher, and two assistants into a classroom with 15 students. [More-NY Times] (Aug. 18)

Charter Schools
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is giving $300,000 to the charter school proponents' campaign on Referendum 55 in Washington State. This referendum, which will be on the November 2 general election ballot, asks voters to decide whether the state should allow charter schools. [More-Seattle Post-Intelligencer] (Sept. 9)

Edison's 20 Philadelphia partnership schools posted an average annual gain of approximately 10.2 percentage points in fifth and eighth grade students scoring at "proficient" or above on the 2004 Pennsylvania System of Schools Assessment (PSSA) in reading, and approximately 9.6 percentage points in math, according to data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. [More-Biz Yahoo] (Aug. 24)

Supplemental Services
Students at five Nashville Sylvan Learning Centers recently donated nearly 800 new and gently used books to Book 'Em. With more than 20 years of experience and more than 900 centers located throughout North America, Sylvan Learning Center is the largest tutoring organization in the country. [More-Review Appeal] (Sept. 14)

The federal government got involved in tutoring in a big way with No Child Left Behind's supplemental services provisions. Educators in Indiana say that all students, in addition to those in certain Title I schools, can take advantage of tutoring opportunities. [More-Northwest Indiana Times] (Sept. 10)

Transition to Teaching
The University of Texas at San Antonio, the Education Service Center-Region 20, and Intercultural Development Research Associates will share an OII $5.5 million Transition to Teaching grant. The money will be used to recruit and retain qualified teachers under the No Child Left Behind initiative. [More-San Antonio Business Journal] (Sept. 7)

Thanks to an alternative program that helps mid-career professionals, soldiers, and others become classroom teachers, more than 100 people are pursuing teaching careers through Montana State University's Northern Plains Transition to Teaching program. The program received a $4.3 million, five-year grant under the OII-administered Transition to Teaching grant program. [More-Bozeman Daily Chronicle] (Sept. 7)

OII has awarded a $2 million grant to the University of Hawaii's College of Education Transition to Teaching program to increase the number of qualified and licensed secondary math and science teachers in Hawaii. [More-KPUA] (Aug. 30)


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Last Modified: 10/31/2007