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3 finalists named for 2016 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools

Craig Clough | May 18, 2016

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(Photo: IDEA Public Schools)

Three charter management organizations (CMOs) were named as finalists for the 2016 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced today.

The finalists are Success Academy Charter Schools in New York, IDEA Public Schools and YES Prep Public Schools. IDEA and YES Prep are in Texas, but IDEA announced recently that it is expanding for the first time beyond Texas and is eyeing numerous other states for new schools, including Washington, Idaho and Nevada.

• Read more: Big IDEAS: High-Achieving South Texas Charter Network Reveals National Expansion Plan

The winner of the $250,000 prize, which is given to the best-performing CMO serving significant numbers of low-income students and students of color, will be announced June 27 at the National Charter Schools Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

The Broad Foundation is based in Los Angeles, which has the most charter students of any district in the nation, but none of the finalists operate schools in LA, although eight that operate in LA were eligible this year. In 2014, KIPP Public Charter Schools, which operates 13 schools in Los Angeles as part of a national network, won the award.

The finalists are determined by a seven-member review board of national education experts who review “publicly available student performance and college-readiness data from the 2014-15 school year for 30 of the country’s largest public charter management organizations, compiled and analyzed by American Institutes for Research,” according to the Broad Foundation.

“The Broad Prize is an opportunity to celebrate the success of charter schools that are improving academic performance while reducing achievement gaps,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in a statement. “These three school systems are doing a phenomenal job of teaching all students and preparing them for a strong path ahead, and we really hope that public schools across the country can learn from their success.”

Priscilla Wohlstetter is a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Education and has been on the review panel since the charter award was first given out five years ago. She explained that among the criteria the review panel looks at, larger CMOs tend to be favored because evidence of having a replicable model is ranked high. Since many large CMOs in LA are focused solely on LA, this hurt their chances of winning the Broad prize.

“Many of the CMOs in LA tend to be very limited into certain geographic areas. And many people on the board — although there are no formal guidelines — come to the conclusion that if a charter management organization can succeed in different districts and different states with different authorizers, they are more replicable,” Wohlstetter said in an interview.

“Los Angeles’s public charter management organizations have always had a strong showing in the CMOs eligible for The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools,” said Gregory McGinity, executive director of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, in an email. “Networks like Green Dot Public Schools, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Partnerships to Uplift Communities and others provide a great education to their students, especially those from low-income families and communities of color. In 2014, KIPP Schools, which operates KIPP LA, won The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. With each year of the prize, we see a growing number of charter networks with impressive student achievement. We expect charter management organizations across the country to continue to raise the bar for what’s possible when it comes to providing great educational opportunities for all students.”

For more than a decade the foundation also awarded an annual $1 million prize to a top school district in the nation, but paused the prize in 2015 after saying a worthy district could not be found.

Eli and Edythe Broad

Eli and Edythe Broad

“In this fifth year of The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, we had the highest number of eligible charter management organizations, which demonstrates that these systems are growing and serving more low-income families and communities of color,” McGinity said in a statement. “These three charter organizations are proving that all students can achieve at high levels, and we’re pleased to recognize their continuing progress.”

The Broad Foundation and National Alliance for Public Charter Schools provided the following descriptions of the finalists:

  • IDEA Public Schools is a network of 44 elementary, middle and high schools in Texas that serves more than 24,000 students in San Antonio, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley. IDEA’s student population is 87 percent low-income and 95 percent Hispanic. In 2014-2015, all of IDEA’s schools were in the top 30 percent of Texas schools for advanced proficiency for low-income and Hispanic students in elementary, middle and high school English, math and science. That same year, 97 percent of their Hispanic students took the ACT, while the high school graduation rate for IDEA’s Hispanic students was 99 percent.
  • Success Academy Charter Schools is the largest public charter school network in New York City, with 34 elementary, middle and high schools serving 11,000 students in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Success Academy’s student population is 76 percent low-income and 93 percent black or Hispanic. In the analysis of assessment data for the 2014-2015 school year, Success Academy’s low-income, black and Hispanic middle school students outperformed their non-low-income and white peers statewide in English, math and science at both the proficient level and the advanced level.
  • YES Prep is a network of 15 elementary, middle and high schools that serves more than 10,000 students in Houston. YES Prep’s student population is 87 percent low-income and 85 percent Hispanic. In 2014-2015, YES Prep’s Hispanic high school students scored in the top 20 percent of all high schools in Texas at both the proficient and advanced levels. Nearly 60 percent of YES Prep’s Hispanic students took an Advanced Placement (AP) course that year, with nearly half of those students achieving a passing score of 3 or higher. Ninety-six percent of YES Prep’s Hispanic students took the SAT, and 88 percent graduated.

The blue stars represent current IDEA schools; the yellow dots represent schools expected to open in 2018. The blue dots represent regions of interest for future growth where IDEA has connected with local leaders, while the red dots are regions that IDEA is interested in exploring but hasn’t communicated with. (Photo credit: IDEA Public Schools)

While none of the finalists were CMOs that operate schools in Los Angeles, the Broad Foundation is heavily involved in the city and is funding a non-profit, Great Public Schools Now, that seeks to expand access to high-quality public schools in Los Angeles, including charter schools. The plan has been denounced by opponents on the school board and the LA teachers union, UTLA, as one that threatens the financial solvency of the district due to the potential enrollment loss.

While an early plan that was reported last summer called for enrolling half of all LA Unified students in charters, Great Public Schools Now has since said the plan is being retooled and will also include financing for high-performing district schools and models, although the full details have yet to be released.

Disclosure: LA School Report partners with The 74, whose co-founder and editor-in-chief, Campbell Brown, sits on the board of Success Academy.

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